Stars pay tribute at funeral of Aretha Franklin as hundreds of fans line the streets of Detroit to say goodbye

  • Video report by ITV News Washington Correspondent Robert Moore

The Queen of Soul Aretha Franklin's life was celebrated during a powerful memorial service which saw tributes from three former US presidents and some of the biggest names in music.

Thousands of fans lined the streets to say goodbye to the 'Detroit's daughter', who was dressed in a sparkling full-length gold dress with sequined heels for her final outfit, to greet the 1940 Cadillac LaSalle as it arrived three hours before the service at the Greater Grace Temple.

Celebrities and dignitaries including Smokey Robinson, Whoopi Goldberg and Stevie Wonder packed into Detroit's Greater Grace Temple on Friday for the funeral of Franklin, who died aged 76 earlier this month.

Friends and family filed past Franklin's open gold casket to pay their last respects before it was closed for one final time.

Bill Clinton, who was president from 1993 until 2001, led the tributes to "the voice of a generation, maybe the voice of a century".

The singer performed at his inauguration in 1993 and he described himself and his wife, the former US secretary of state and presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, as groupies of Franklin.

He said Franklin lived "not without fear, but overcoming her fears. She lived with faith, not without failure, but overcoming her failures. She lived with power, not without weaknesses but overcoming her weaknesses.

Former US president Bill Clinton spoke at the funeral. Credit: AP

"The secret of her greatness was she took this massive talent and this perfect culture that raised her and decided to be the composer of her own life song. What a song it turned out to be."

Mr Clinton recalled the last time he saw Franklin perform, at the Elton John Aids Foundation Gala in New York in November, praising her for hiding her illness from the audience.

The mayor of Detroit, Mike Duggan, announced during his address that the city's Waterfront amphitheatre, Chene Park, will be renamed Aretha Franklin park.

Though she was born in Memphis, Tennessee, the Queen of Soul started her music career in Detroit, singing in a church choir.

Al Sharpton speaking at Aretha Frankin's funeral. Credit: AP

Franklin was also honoured for her commitment to civil rights by friend, Rev Al Sharpton.

He said: "Aretha Franklin was not only an unparallelled artist, she was a civil rights activist and freedom fighter.

"It is easy to celebrate the gifts that god gives. It is more difficult when someone uses those gifts in ways that enhances humanity.

Ariana Grande performing. Credit: AP

"Aretha Franklin was given special gifts. But she used them in a special way. And she would not want us to celebrate her without talking about (the fact) she stood for something."

Faith Hill was the first of the solo singers to perform followed by Ariana Grande who sang '(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman'.

A large gospel choir brought the congregation to their feet on several occasions.

The invitation-only funeral ends a week of events that included high-profile public viewings and tribute concerts.

On Thursday a star-studded concert was held in Detroit with over 40 artists, including Johnny Gill, Patti LaBelle and the Four Top, honouring the legendary singer with musical tributes, including covers of some of Franklin's biggest hits.

The show ended with all performers taking to the stage to sing Franklin's anthem, 'Respect'.

Free tickets for 'A People’s Tribute to the Queen' were snapped up shortly after being released on Monday.

On this side of the Atlantic, there was a tribute from one Queen to another when the Queen's Guard played a version of Aretha's anthem 'Respect' during Friday's Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace.

Franklin's coffin has been carried this week by a 1940 Cadillac LaSalle hearse that also took her father, revered minister C.L. Franklin, and civil rights pioneer Rosa Parks, to their final resting places at Woodlawn Cemetery, where the singer will also be laid to rest.