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AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana, File
Entertainment

Bishop hopes for 'spiritual awakening' at Aretha Franklin's funeral

by Tola Mbakwe

The invitation-only funeral at Detroit's Greater Grace Temple, which could last five hours, ends a week of events that included high-profile public viewings and tribute concerts.

Bishop Charles Ellis III will lead the service in front of a star-studded congregation.

"It is my goal and my aim to ensure that people leave here with some kind of spiritual awakening," Bishop Charles said.

"This is not a concert, this is not a show, this is not an awards production. This is a real life that has been lived, that a person regardless of how famous she became no matter how many people she touched around the world, she still could not escape death.

"And hopefully, a lot of people here with money and fame and influence and friends and notoriety and wealth, hopefully they will think of their mortality and say there is something bigger than fame, there is something bigger than Hollywood, something bigger than being a recording artist and selling gold albums or what have you."

Gospel artist Marvin Sapp, who is among the scheduled performers, said he wanted to celebrate the life of Franklin in front of a global audience.

"I really believe that this ... is going to be an eye-opening experience for everybody in the world watching," he said.

"We really celebrate because we really recognise that those we call the dearly departed, they wouldn't want for us to cry and be sad and sorrowful. But they would want us to celebrate their lives because they transitioned from this life to a better one."

Performers will include Stevie Wonder, Ariana Grande, Jennifer Hudson, Fantasia, Faith Hill, Shirley Caesar, Chaka Khan and Smokey Robinson. 

Former president Bill Clinton and politician Jesse Jackson is also expected to attend. 

The street outside Greater Grace will be lined with pink Cadillacs - a nod to Franklin's '80s tune Freeway of Love which featured the car in the lyrics and video.

Her coffin has been carried this week by a 1940 Cadillac LaSalle hearse that also took Franklin's father, legendary minister CL Franklin, and civil rights pioneer Rosa Parks to their final resting places at Woodlawn Cemetery, where the singer will join them.

Robinson has decided to not to reveal what he will share during the service. 

"I do not plan anything (with) someone I love like that," Robinson, a Motown great who grew up with Franklin, said. "I love her. She was my longest friend."

Robinson said he will just make it "personal," since he remained close with Franklin until the end. He said they "talked all the time," the last time just a couple weeks before she became too ill to speak.

"We saw all of our other close friends go," Robinson said. "We used to talk about that - we saw a lot of soldiers go."

Amid the sadness of these days, Robinson believes Franklin's legacy is secure. A new generation of singers like Grande who are inspired by the late Queen of Soul is just the beginning.

"There are some girls who haven't been born yet ... who will be inspired by Aretha," he said.

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