Aretha Franklin funeral set for August 31 in Detroit

Queen of Soul Aretha Franklin.
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The funeral of legendary singer Aretha Franklin will be held in her hometown Detroit on August 31, after a two-day public viewing at a city museum to allow fans to mourn, her publicist said on Friday.

Plans for the final farewell to the “Queen of Soul”, who died on Thursday at age 76 after a battle with pancreatic cancer, started coming together as tributes poured in from around the world and fans congregated at key sites in the city, the home of Motown.

The funeral at Greater Grace Temple which seats about 4 000 people will be limited to family, friends and invited guests, expected to range from music royalty to dignitaries from around the world.

On August 28 and 29, fans will be able to say a final farewell at a public viewing staged at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History. The visitation will last 12 hours each day, according to Franklin’s publicist Gwendolyn Quinn.

Franklin is to buried with other members of her family at Woodlawn Cemetery.

The days-long celebration of Franklin’s life is also expected to include a tribute concert, but details of that event were not immediately available.

Franklin an 18-time Grammy winner with a clear, rich voice able to span musical genres influenced generations of singers with unforgettable hits including Respect (1967), Natural Woman (1968) and I Say a Little Prayer (1968).

On Friday, fans continued to pay their respects, leaving mementos outside her father’s New Bethel Baptist Church and queuing outside the Motown Museum, which will play her music on loudspeakers through the weekend and is hosting a book of condolence.

“It’s just been amazing. Of course we’re all very saddened and heartbroken with the thought of her passing, but people are flocking to the museum,” says general manager Sheila Spencer.

“She performed at our gala for our 20th anniversary and it was a phenomenal, phenomenal performance. So we’re just so honoured.”

At the Motown Museum, Fred Zilian, a university teacher from Rhode Island on a reunion with classmates from the US military academy West Point, danced with his wife to an Aretha track.

“I want to be sad because we lost Aretha Franklin, but I had to go in the street and dance,” he said, remembering how he loved her music and those of black artists who recorded at Motown in the 1960s.

“The country was riven by race relations tension and we, you can see are all white, we didn’t give a damn,” he said.

“It’s really a statement about the unifying effect that music can have.”