Stars celebrate Queen Aretha at marathon funeral

Former presidents, stars and musical royalty paid joyous tribute to Aretha Franklin at her marathon funeral on Friday, leading her family and members of the public in bidding goodbye to America’s “Queen of Soul.”

The formal part of the service stretching nearly eight hours, the celebration of the life and legacy of the US icon was packed with gospel, eulogies, music and sermons.

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The 76-year-old singer, beloved by millions around the world, died of cancer on August 16, closing the curtain on a glittering six-decade career that spanned gospel, R&B, jazz, blues and even classical music.

Former US president Bill Clinton extolled her gifts, courage and compassion, sharing his memory of her final public performance, in November 2017, when she was already ill but performed with gusto.

“I hope God will forgive me but I was so glad when I got here, and I hope you will forgive me, when the casket was still open because I said I wonder what my friend’s got on today,” he said to laughter.

Franklin, loved not only for her powerful voice but her civil rights work, was dressed in a different outfit for each of three days of public viewings, visited by thousands in her Michigan hometown. For the funeral, she was clothed in a sparkling golden dress.

“She worked her can off to get where she was. She took the gift God gave her and she kept getting a little bigger every day,” said Clinton, playing a snatch of her singing “Think” on his cell phone.

“It’s the key to freedom. God bless you, Aretha, we love you.”

Letters from George W. Bush and Barack Obama were read out, praising her contribution to America. Gospel music and opera filled the rafters, congregants danced and one of her sons sang “Mercy Mercy Me.”

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