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Thousands Gather To Pay Their Final Respects At Private Aretha Franklin Funeral

"Queen of Soul' is being laid to rest at service that will include performances from artists like Stevie Wonder and Chaka Khan and feature remarks from former President Bill Clinton and the Rev. Jesse Jackson, among many others.

By Sharon Lynn Pruitt

Two weeks after her passing, music icon Aretha Franklin is being laid to rest.

The "Queen of Soul" died on Aug. 16 at the age of 76 following a battle with pancreatic cancer. The funeral service is being held Friday at Detroit’s Greater Grace Temple, USA Today reports.

An audience of thousands — including family, friends, and some of Franklin’s most well-known peers in the entertainment industry — have gathered for the private service to say their final goodbyes, USA Today reports. A number of performers are scheduled to pay musical tribute to Franklin, including Stevie Wonder, Ariana Grande, Jennifer Hudson, and Chaka Khan, while the list of scheduled speakers includes former president Bill Clinton, Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan, and the Rev. Jesse Jackson. Former President Barack Obama, along with former First Lady Michelle Obama are reportedly unable to attend, but have sent a letter to be read at the service by the Rev. Al Sharpton. Former President George W. Bush did the same.

Prior to Friday’s private service, fans and supporters of Franklin were given the opportunity to pay their respects at a two-day public viewing that began on Tuesday at Detroit’s Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History. Franklin lay in an open casket made of solid bronze Promethean plated in 24-karat gold, with a champagne velvet interior, according to USA Today. Franklin’s name and the title “Queen of Soul” are embroidered with gold thread in the casket’s lining, according to the outlet.

A third public viewing was held at the New Bethel Baptist Church a day before Franklin’s funeral, followed by a free Aretha Franklin tribute concert at Detroit’s Chene Park that evening, USA Today reports.

During Friday’s service, Franklin will lie swathed in gold, CNN reports. Ahead of the service, the streets were lined with pink Cadillacs — a tribute to Franklin’s 1985 song “Freeway of Love,” during which she sang about “ridin' on the freeway of love in my pink Cadillac.”

During her decades-long career, Franklin made an impact not only in the music industry, but as a vocal supporter of the civil rights movement as well, having toured with Martin Luther King Jr. on his voting rights campaign.

[Photo: Aretha Franklin performs on stage at the Elton John AIDS Foundation New York Fall Gala at Cathedral of St. John the Divine on November 7, 2017 in New York City. By Nicholas Hunt/WireImage; The body of Aretha Franklin lies in repose at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History on August 28, 2018 in Detroit, Michigan. By Paul Sancya-Pool/Getty Images]

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