AP

Jennifer Holliday Sings 'Climbing Higher Mountains' as Aretha Franklin's Coffin Leaves Church

August 31, 2018 - 12:14 pm
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DETROIT (AP) — Stevie Wonder wowed with his harmonica skills and then brought the remaining mourners at Aretha Franklin's lengthy funeral to their feet with a moving version of "As."

The choir, Franklin's family, preachers and remaining guests swayed as Wonder played the classic tune in honor of his old friend.

"The reason we are here today is love," Wonder said in remarks.

Before Wonder performed, Gladys Knight sang "You'll Never Walk Alone" and "Bridge Over Troubled Water." As Franklin's coffin left the church, Jennifer Holliday sang "Climbing Higher Mountains." Others who performed over the eight-hour ceremony included Faith Hill, Fantasia Barrino, Jennifer Hudson, Ariana Grande and Chaka Khan.

"God bless, Aretha," Wonder said at the end of his song. "The joy is in knowing that she will have an eternal life of bliss."

Former NBA star Isaiah Thomas eulogized Aretha Franklin as someone who offered her advice and friendship and someone who "shifted the universe."

He laughed that in the week since Franklin died, her music is being sung everywhere, forcing people in restaurants to stop eating and spontaneously dance.

Thomas recalled how, as a young man, Franklin's music soothed his mother when the family faced challenges, and later smiled when the soul icon would attend his Detroit Pistons games and sit near his mom.

Said Thomas: "She found a way to inspire all of us with hope, love and dreams through her music. Her voice found a way to help this nation soothe and deal with its troubled past."

Record giant Clive Davis remembered Aretha Franklin as a woman with a thirst for knowledge, as a "true Renaissance woman" — and one with a streak of perfectionism.

Davis, who produced Franklin's music for decades, including such later hits as "Who's Zoomin' Who?" and "I Knew You Were Waiting (For Me)," said once Franklin committed to a project, she'd go into "Aretha mode," privately rehearsing and preparing so intensely that it was rare for her to need more than a few takes in the studio.

Said Davis: "Aretha's voice will be influencing others, literally, for centuries to come."

Davis recalled the time Franklin surprised him when he was getting a lifetime achievement award in New York by showing up onstage in a tutu.

"There was the Queen of Soul, accompanied by members of the City Center Ballet Company, she doing well-rehearsed pirouettes and dancing with most impressive agility and dignity. It was wonderful."

Jackson, who has Parkinson's disease and is in his late 70s, spoke slowly as he stood in front of the gathered mourners at Greater Grace Temple in Detroit on Friday.

He led them in a prayer of thanks for Aretha and her minister father, asking that God make all in the church "better, not bitter," by the time the day is over.

Jackson said, "Aretha's not lost, we know where she is."

He praised her for the funding she gave to The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and for singing through tear gas during the civil rights fight.

He said, however, that it was a shame that the lines to mourn famous people are long, but lines to vote are so short, lamenting that President Donald Trump won Michigan by so few votes.

Jackson said if anyone who leaves the funeral and isn't registered to vote "dishonors Aretha."

Bill Clinton memorialized Aretha Franklin as a woman with "breathtaking talent" who kept on charming audiences despite her illness.

The former president recalled being an "Aretha groupie" all his life and being thrilled to meet her backstage at her last public performance, a benefit in Harlem for Elton John's AIDS charity last year. She was "gaunt" but went on to perform for 45 minutes.

"How you doing, baby?" she asked him.

"I'm doing better now," Clinton replied.

The former president also asked the audience to forgive him, saying he was happy that Franklin's casket was still open when he arrived because he just had to see what she was wearing.

Clinton said, "I wonder what my friend has got on today. I wanted to see what the girl was carrying out," to a wave of laughs and claps from the crowd. Franklin was wearing a gold gown, her fourth outfit of the week.

He ended his time by playing Franklin's "Think" on his iPhone into the mic. "It's the key to freedom!" Clinton said.

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As far as one minister is concerned, it's Maxine Waters Forever!

When Bishop Charles H. Ellis III of Greater Grace Temple assured Rep. Maxine Waters at the Aretha Franklin funeral that "We got your back!" he was repaid in full with the hands fisted, arms crossed "Wakanda Forever!" salute from the California congresswoman.

The moment Friday came during a pause in the program at the Queen of Soul's homegoing, when Ellis recognized Waters in the audience and acknowledged how she has come under fire, apparently referring to President Trump's Twitter attacks on the Democrat.

"Maxine Waters, from southside L.A., South Central," Ellis said.

Waters stood and responded with the signature greeting from the blockbuster film "Black Panther," with her arms crossed in front of her chest. Many in the audience, including former President Bill Clinton, stood and applauded.

"Everybody just point over there and tell her 'We got your back,'" Ellis urged. "Come on, say it so everybody can hear you out there, 'We got your back!'"

Twitter users responded in kind, letting her know they, too, "got your back."

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1:40 p.m.

Aretha Franklin's family members have paid tribute to a woman who cooked for them, gossiped with them and passed on her gifts to them.

Victorie Franklin, a granddaughter, said at the Queen of Soul's funeral that she will always cherish being part of Franklin's legacy, recognizing parts of her grandmother in her.

"Nothing sounded better to me than my grandmother's voice," said Victorie. "Her voice brought peace."

Grandson Jordan directed his remarks directly to Aretha, frequently stopping to fight back tears. "I'm sad today, because I'm losing my friend, but I know the imprint she left on this world can never be removed. You showed the world God's love, and there's nothing more honorable."

Aretha's son, Edward, sang "Mercy Mercy Me (The Ecology)" by Marvin Gaye.

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