Fans Mourn Aretha Franklin at Public Viewing In Detroit
It was all love and R-E-S-P-E-C-T on Tuesday (Aug. 28) morning as a four-day celebration of the late Aretha Franklin's life and career began in her hometown of Detroit.
Hundreds of fans from around the country lined the sidewalks surrounding the Charles H. Wright African American Museum to get a glimpse of the Queen of Soul's body, lying in state in the brightly lit rotunda dressed in a ruby red gown with matching shoes and fingernail polish, her legs crossed at the ankles. Her casket was plated in 24-karat gold, with a glittery gold sash behind her. Arrangements of roses and orchids were circled behind her.
The solemn and silent atmosphere inside contrasted the celebration outside; fans, museum staffers (handing out free water) and even Detroit police officers ignored the oppressive heat and humidity to sing Franklin songs and dance along to the mix blasted by a local radio station -- hitting a particularly exuberant peak when "Rock Steady" segued into "Respect" and then "Jump To It." Merchants hawked unauthorized posters, memorial magazines, CDs and T-shirts, while a pink Cadillac Sedan de Ville sat in the museum's southwest parking lot, next to the same hearse that carried Civil Rights icon Rosa Parks for a similar honor.
"She looked so beautiful," Ouida Winston, who drove five hours from Louisville to pay her respects and plans to visit the Franklin family plot at Woodlawn Cemetery before heading home, told Billboard. "She looked well. She looked as if she was ready to perform."
After viewing Franklin's body, Canovia Sharpton, cousin of the Rev. Al Sharpton, noted that that, "It's solemn but we're happy because we're saying goodbye to a queen. It was very touching." Cathy Nava of suburban Detroit, shielding herself from the sun with an umbrella, added that, "We're all here loving every minute of it. She was somebody who crossed over to all generations, all walks of life, all people."
Tuesday's visitation brought media from around the world, which camped at the museum's southwest corner to film the proceedings. Early arrival Diego Diaz came from Florida because "I love her to death" and led fellow fans in singing a bit of her 1985 hit "Freeway of Love," changing the song's "pink Cadillac" to a black one.
Franklin will be lying at the Wright Museum through Wednesday before moving to the New Bethel Baptist Church -- where her father, the Rev. C.L. Franklin, was the pastor and where Franklin did some of her earliest singing -- for a more limited visitation on Thursday. An all-star memorial concert will be held that night at Detroit's Chene Park Amphitheatre, while Franklin's funeral will be Friday, Aug. 31, at the Greater Grace Temple in northwest Detroit, limited to friends, family and invited guests.