Katherine Pecora, Staff Writer
Beloved soul singer, Aretha Franklin, died at the age of 76, on Aug. 16, after a long battle with pancreatic cancer. Franklin was born in Memphis, Tenn. in 1942. Shortly after, she moved to Detroit at the age of four when her father became the pastor at New Bethel Baptist Church. Her father was a nationally-known gospel singer and Civil Rights activist, described as, “the lead organizer of the 1963 Detroit Walk to Freedom. This march was the largest civil-rights demonstration in U.S. history, occurring shortly before the historic March on Washington occurred two months later.” Franklin grew up singing gospel music with her father then signed her first record deal in 1960. But, it was not until 1976 when she released a range of hits including “Respect,” Baby I Love You,” and “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman.”
Franklin was the true queen of soul; her music appealed to the masses, and through this she used her platform to advocate for social change on the national level. Franklin’s broader social impact was arguably just as important as her music. “From 1946 until 1979, as pastor of New Bethel Baptist Church, [her father] was one of the biggest and most influential preachers in America, with his church serving as a civil rights hub.…When Dr. King came to Detroit, many of the black bourgeoisie did not exactly embrace him. But people like her father, who was a grassroots minister, did,” notes Greg Dunmore—identified by Suggs and Poole as a “longtime friend, journalist, and neighbor” of Franklin.
Franklin’s body was laid to rest in style on Aug. 31. More than a hundred pink Cadillacs lined Seven Mile Road in Detroit to pay homage to Franklin. She was dressed in a red suit and crimson pumps lying in a gold-plated casket. Franklin’s casket arrived in a white 1940’s Cadillac LaSalle Herse. This historic vehicle had also carried the bodies of Franklin’s father Rev. C.L. Franklin in 1984, Singer David Ruffin in 1991, and Rosa Parks in 2005.
Many celebrities and politicians attended her funeral including former President Bill Clinton, Smokey Robinson, Rev. Jesse Jackson, Cicely Tyson, former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, Clive Davis, Stevie Wonder, Jennifer Hudson, Fantasia, Faith Hill and Chaka Khan. Through speeches and song, they honored the late soul singer. “In one of the darkest moments of our lives, we are not able to find the appropriate words to express the pain in our heart. We have lost the matriarch and rock of our family. The love she had for her children, grandchildren, nieces, nephews, and cousins knew no bounds,” according to Franklin’s family.