- By Ernie Suggs
It will be a funeral fit for a Queen.
On the program, which was released on Wednesday night, the Detroit funeral for Aretha Franklin is slated to run 5.5 hours.
Don’t count on it.
Former President Bill Clinton, civil rights leaders Jesse Jackson and William Barber, activist Al Sharpton and entertainers Smokey Robinson and Tyler Perry are among the nearly 40 speakers scheduled to speak.
Gospel greats Shirley Caesar, the Clark Sisters and Yolanda Adams, will sing. Along with at least 20 musical performances, including Chaka Khan, Jennifer Hudson, Ariana Grande, Ron Isley and Faith Hill.
Atlanta’s Jasper Williams Jr., the pastor of Salem Baptist Church, will deliver the eulogy as he did for her father, the Rev. C.L. Franklin, at his funeral in 1984.
Oh yeah, and there is also Stevie Wonder.
Franklin’s Friday funeral at the Greater Grace Temple in Detroit, will culminate four days of mourning and events to honor the singer, who died Aug. 16 after a lengthy battle with pancreatic cancer.
The 76-year-old, 18-time Grammy winner was the first woman to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987. In 2005, President George W. Bush awarded her with the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
Detroit has become accustomed to grand funerals to honor pillars of the black community.
In 2005, Rosa Parks was remembered in a star-studded and emotional funeral that lasted more than seven and a half hours and featured more than 50 dignitaries, including a former president (Clinton), five U.S. senators, two planeloads of members of Congress, several top black religious leaders and the heads of every major civil rights organization in America.
Speakers included the Rev. Joseph Lowery, Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan, Bishop T.D. Jakes and Jesse Jackson, who delivered the eulogy.
At the funeral, one senator promised to get a statue placed in the United States Capitol or Parks, whose refusal to give up her seat on a Montgomery Bus in 1955 launched the modern civil rights movement.
"When the history of this county is written, when a final accounting is done, it is this small and quiet woman whose name will be remembered," said then-Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.). "Long after the names of presidents and senators have been forgotten. She laid the foundation for a nation to live up to its creed.”
In 2013, President Obama presided over a ceremony unveiling a nine-foot statue of a sitting Parks in National Statuary Hall.
Aretha Franklin gave a special tribute in song.
Atlanta is also no stranger to grand funerals. In 1968, Martin Luther King Jr.’s funeral and burial took six hours. In 2006, more than 10,000 people crammed into New Birth Missionary Baptist Church in Lithonia to say a final farewell to Coretta Scott King.
More than 40 people sang or spoke at Coretta Scott King’s eight-hour service, including then President George W. Bush and former presidents, Bill Clinton, George H.W. Bush and Jimmy Carter; Sens. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) and Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.); Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin, former Mayor Andrew Young and poet Maya Angelou also spoke.
It was also at Coretta Scott King’s funeral where Joseph Lowery, with President Bush sitting behind him, blasted the president about the war in Iraq, telling the mourners and the world: "We know now there were no weapons of mass destruction. But Coretta knew, and we knew, there were weapons of misdirection right down here. Millions without health insurance, poverty abound. For war billions more, but no more for the poor."
Aretha Franklin did not sing at King’s funeral. But like she had done in 1968 for Martin Luther King Jr., she sang at an earlier memorial service.
Franklin’s funeral will be invitation only, but the public will be able to view it from a large screen outside Greater Grace Temple.
Otherwise, there are several options to stream the services. The Word Network, a global religious broadcasting network, will air the service beginning at 10 a.m. through the network’s website.
The Associated Press will live stream the funeral on its website.
Also, the Bounce TV network and Brown Sugar streaming service are partnering with Detroit affiliate WXYZ-TV to air and stream local coverage, including an hour-long special, “Celebrating the Queen of Soul,” at 9 a.m. Visit www.bouncetv.com for channel listings and www.brownsugar.com for more information.
Nationally, CNN, MSNBC and Fox News will air portions of the ceremony.