In death, as in life, Aretha Franklin was the greatest of all divas.
For her final appearance the Queen of Soul – known simply as “The Queen” in her home city of Detroit – was dressed in a sparkling, full-length gold gown with sequined heels. She lay regally in a $40,000 casket plated with 24-karat gold, and lined with champagne velvet.
Smokey Robinson, her childhood friend, sang from the pulpit. Ariana Grande belted out Franklin’s (You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman. Gospel choirs and opera singers raised the roof with vocal pyrotechnics.
Outside the Greater Grace temple megachurch more than 100 pink Cadillacs paraded down the street in a tribute to her 1980s hit Freeway of Love.
Linda Swanson, the funeral director, and a friend of the singer, said: “Aretha was a diva extraordinaire in life. And she will be in the afterlife.”
In London the Welsh Guards Band played a cover of “Respect,” her signature song, during the Changing of the Guard ceremony at Buckingham Palace. The British Army called Franklin was a “musical icon and inspiration”.
Franklin, who died aged 76 from pancreatic cancer on August 16, was brought to the funeral service in a 1940 Cadillac LaSalle hearse, the same one that carried civil rights icon Rosa Parks on her final journey. And it was her record as an activist, as much as her music, that dominated proceedings.
“Now, I want you all to correct President Trump, to tell him what it (Respect) means,” Rev Al Sharpton said from the pulpit, to cheers. “Trump said she used to work for him. No, she used to perform for you. She worked for us. Aretha never took orders from nobody but God. Aretha, it’s time to collect your crown.”
Rev Sharpton then read out a letter from Barack and Michelle Obama.
The Obamas did not mention Mr Trump. Instead, they praised Franklin for representing the “very best of the American story” and “embodying forgiveness and reconciliation”.