Thousands of friends, family, fans, celebrities and dignitaries will pay their final respects today to Aretha Franklin, the Queen of Soul, who died of pancreatic cancer on Aug. 16.
Franklin will be buried in 24-karat gold plated Promethean casket made of solid bronze. The interior is finished with champagne velvet. Franklin’s title, “Queen of Soul,” and her name “Aretha Franklin” are embroidered in the casket with gold metallic thread.
Lines formed very early Friday morning outside Greater Grace Temple in Detroit for today’s funeral, which begins at 10 a.m. ET. Most mourners came dressed in church clothes and carrying folding chairs.
People who lined up last night for an early spot in line found themselves pushed to the middle of the line after police forced the crowd to reorganize from a residential street.
“I was here since 8:30 last night. We were right here, and they pushed us to the back,” said Debra Demmings, 63, of Minneapolis.
The service is limited to family members, friends and selected guests but will be available to watch live here on usatoday.com. Several broadcast networks will also carry live video.
Funeral details: Key details, what to expect
Police officers with dogs went through the church about 7 a.m. Shortly thereafter, nurses, musicians and some VIPs entered the church.
Among them was Elaine Steele, the longtime spokesperson for Rosa Parks. She said Franklin was extremely supportive of Parks.
“She was the greatest. She didn’t belong just to us, but she was from us,” Steele said. “We held our heads high and stuck our chests out wide because of her genius and her willingness to share it.”
Network news teams from NBC, ABC, CBS and Fox News are on platforms facing the church’s side entrance along with set-ups for local news outlets.
Stevie Wonder and Ariana Grande are among the many performers lined up to sing at the funeral, with other names including Faith Hill, Ronald Isley, Chaka Khan, Fantasia and Jennifer Hudson.
Franklin will be honored by various high-profile speakers, including former President Bill Clinton, former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, Motown star Smokey Robinson, the Rev. Jesse Jackson and Detroit Pistons great Isiah Thomas.
From a hearse that carried Rosa Parks to a moving gospel remembrance, this week has been all about celebrating Franklin’s memory. The week of tribute events in Detroit, which have included several concerts and a widely attended public viewing, culminate today with Franklin’s star-studded funeral, which is expected to be a moving, all-day tribute.
After the funeral, Franklin will be buried at Woodlawn Cemetery, alongside late family members including her father, the Rev. C.L. Franklin.
National broadcasters including HLN and the Word Network plan to air the lengthy funeral in its entirety, though HLN will occasionally break in for headline updates.
For TV viewers in Detroit, the service will be broadcast live by several stations. Nationally, Fox News, MSNBC and CNN plan to air portions of the service live.
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