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Aretha Franklin funeral August 31 in Detroit

Friday, August 17, 2018

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DETROIT, United States (AFP) — 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 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 be 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," general manager Sheila Spencer told AFP.

"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 told AFP, 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."

In 1987, Franklin became the first woman inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. In 2010, Rolling Stone magazine put her at the top of its list of the 100 greatest singers of all time, male or female.

She performed for several presidents, including at the 2009 inauguration of Barack Obama, the country's first African-American head of state.

Obama and his wife Michelle paid heartfelt tribute to the woman who they said "helped define the American experience."

"Every time she sang, we were all graced with a glimpse of the divine," the Obamas said.

US President Donald Trump said the singer "brought joy to millions of lives and her extraordinary legacy will thrive and inspire many generations to come."

"It's difficult to conceive of a world without her. Not only was she a uniquely brilliant singer, but her commitment to civil rights made an indelible impact on the world," tweeted singer Barbra Streisand.

"I'm sitting in prayer for the wonderful golden spirit Aretha Franklin," said Motown legend Diana Ross, while former Beatle Paul McCartney called her "the Queen of our souls."

Franklin — who was widely known by only her first name, in true diva style — rose from singing gospel in her father's church to regularly topping rhythm and blues and pop charts in the 1960s and 1970s.

Other than "Respect" — her powerful cover of the Otis Redding tune that became a feminist anthem and her calling card — Franklin had dozens of Top 40 singles, according to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

The singer lived in Detroit — the Motor City — most of her life.

In 2005, she was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest award for a US civilian, by then-president George W Bush.

In 2010, she suffered serious health problems, but continued to perform until last year, her last public performance in November 2017 for the Elton John AIDS Foundation in New York.

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