The “Celebration of Life” for the resplendent superstar soul singer Aretha Franklin will be a home-going like no other.
Voices like angels will fill the temple. Powerful and moving words of faith will echo. And reflections by family and friends describing the enormity of her powerful legacy will be shared. The funeral is expected to last some five-plus hours with music by global superstars; the soundtrack for a celebration of a life whose significance can hardly be measured especially given her participation in the Civil Rights movement. From her father’s church New Bethel Baptist, a hub for the movement, to her being a unifying voice both warrior and spiritual healer, the story of civil rights in America cannot be told without telling Aretha Franklin’s story.
And the “Celebration of Life” is designed to do just that. Excepted to draw some 4,000 invited guests, and millions more watching and listening across the world, her funeral will begin with a 20-minute prelude of music performed by the Aretha Franklin Orchestra followed by the lighting of candles by the Swanson Funeral Home, Inc. The candle-lighting ceremony is described in the final program from Greater Grace Temple: “The seven candles at the head represent the seven stars, which are the angles. The seven candle sticks at the foot represent the seven churches. We feel that we are living in the days of Revelation. Rev. 1:20.”
At 10 a.m., the funeral begins with a processional made up of Franklin’s family and clergy followed by prayers and Scripture readings of “comfort.” Until 10:40, the schedule reads, pastors will read from the Old and New Testament’s and from the Psalms.
At 10:40 a.m., the first of several musical tribute begins with the Aretha Franklin Celebration Choir followed by a song from Faith Hill.
After Hill’s performance, members of the Detroit City Council will speak for a few moments as well as Mayor Mike Duggan and Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder.
Snyder’s remarks will be followed by songs from Ariana Grande, The Clark Sisters, The Williams Brothers and Vanessa Bell Armstrong.
Just before 11:30, her family will reflect on her life with thoughts from Vaughn, Cristal, Victorie and Jordan Franklin. Her son Edward Franklin will perform.
Franklin’s obituary will be read and the music begins again, as it should, with Alice McAllister Tillman and Audrey DuBois Harris. At noon, Eric Holder, Former U.S. Attorney General will share remembrances followed by Michigan Sen. Gary Peters and then Pres. Bill Clinton will speak.
A musical interlude will follow with Shirley Caesar and Tasha Cobbs-Leonard followed by more dignitaries and clergy including
the Rev. Al Sharpton.
After Sharpton speaks, Chaka Khan will perform followed by Ron Isley and those performances will be followed by remarks from Franklin’s longtime close friend, the Rev. Jesse Jackson, Founder/President Rainbow P.U.S.H. Coalition. Moments later, Fantasia Barrino-Taylor will perform at around 1:15, actress Cicely Tyson, decades-long friend and recording partner head of Sony mMusic Clive Davis will reflect. What will likely be a poignant and tearful few minutes will be when Smokey Robinson, one of her oldest friends shares his thoughts on Aretha Franklin.
A number of others will share brief remarks from close friends in all walks of life: radio host Mildred Gaddis; Isaiah Thomas, Former NBA Player, Detroit Pistons; Ron Moten a highly successful Detroit businessman; and Michael Eric Dyson, Professor of Sociology at Georgetown University. Next, the Aretha Franklin Celebration Choir will perform with Bishop Marvin Sapp.
And just before the eulogy by the Rev. Jasper Williams, Jr., Pastor, Salem Baptist Church in Atlanta, will be a performance by Jennifer Hudson followed by a musical tribute from Stevie Wonder who will be joined by other “national artists,” who they are is not known.
Finally, the recessional is expect at around 3 pm. with Jennifer Holliday and the Aretha Franklin Celebration Choir.
And the world will “Say a Little Prayer” for Aretha Franklin.