Return to Transcripts main page

THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER

The Funeral of Aretha Franklin, Queen of Soul. Aired 4-4:30p ET

Aired August 31, 2018 - 16:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


(MUSIC)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Tell that neighbor you've got a friend. At this time coming to give remarks and reflections, the one and only Tyler Perry. He will be followed by matriarch of Hollywood, in that industry, African-Americans, the one and only Cicely Tyson. Then we followed by Mr. Clive Davis, chief executive officer of Sony Music. Let's see these three and then we will have Bishop Paul Morton and Yolanda Adams coming back with the choir.

TYLER PERRY, FILMMAKER, TV PRODUCER: God bless you everybody. To the family, I just want to say, my prayer -- my prayer for you is that God will allow you to grieve in waves, not that it would come crashing on you all at once in like a tsunami, but in waves gently touching your soul. That's the only thing that got me through my mother's death. You know, becoming wave so that I could focus and move on and get through.

And then my prayer for you is it comes in waves, because it's going to come. You can't work it away, I tried that. You can't drink it away, I tried that. You got to let it come the way it comes. And my prayer is that it comes in gentle waves to your soul. So that's what I've been praying for you.

My mother died in 2009. And it was her who introduced me to the voice of Aretha Franklin. We would be driving up to the country and she would have the music blasting. And I could tell what my father had done by the music she was playing. If she was playing "Respect" or "Think," I knew he had done something wrong. But if she was playing "Dr. Feelgood," he might have done something right.

So you can imagine my shocks. And 30 years later, I get a phone call from this lady on the phone, she says hi, this is Aretha Franklin. I said who? She said I love my Madia (ph). And I said, well, you know, she's not real, right? She said I don't care. I want to talk to her. She said hello.

She loved to laugh. She would invite me to things over the years and we would sit and talk. She wants me to come back in the dressing room but I couldn't stay in there too long because in the dressing room she would have the heat somewhere between 85 and double hell. She loved it warm in there.

But we talked over the years. When I found out she was ill, I called her up and I was talking like Madia (ph) and making her laugh a little bit. And the last time that I saw her performance was at the Kennedy Center, I'm going to say everybody is talking about, I was there. I was sitting on the box with President Obama. She comes out and she starts singing. And all of these upright stiff politicians are all over the place and -- but when she sang, all of that went away, all that pomp and circumstance and pretension went away. She brought them all to their feet so they can bow to the queen of soul. It was a wonderful moment.

And as I'm standing there and I'm applauding, President Obama is in front of me, he turns to me he said that's why she's the Queen of Soul. And I started thinking about that when I found out she was ill, the Queen of Soul, the soul, the soul, the Queen of Soul. What is that mean?

Well, the soul is the spirit created by God which dwells in our flesh. So if she is the Queen of Soul every -- what happened was -- we know that she was the Queen of Soul, what happened was every time she sang she sang from her soul. She sang from this special place that was in her soul, be it gospel, be it jazz, be it blues, be it R&B, it was always from her soul.

[16:05:03] Whatever the music genre was. But when Aretha sang gospel, uh-huh, something happened. Something would shake the room. When Aretha sang amazing grace how sweet the sound, it never sound any sweeter than it did coming from Aretha. When Aretha sang a gospel, when she said "Oh Mary, don't you weep, oh mother, don't you moan," I believe that Mary went somewhere and dried her own eyes and Martha went over and stopped moaning in the corner because when Aretha sang gospel, what happened was she connected with the creator with the created.

So there she was calling on the name of Jesus. When Aretha sang gospel something shifted, something happened in the atmosphere. And what I'm glad about is that I had an opportunity to know this woman, to know that she had this power to stand in between all these different genres and touch us in all these different ways. I am grateful to her.

Family, my prayer for you, I want to be very brief because I know we've been here for a while. My prayer for you is that you -- the grief comes in waves and you can make your way through it. And I'm so grateful to God that Aretha walked this earth. I'm grateful to God that we had the fortune to be on this planet at the same time as Aretha Franklin. So God bless you. Thank you for asking me to be here. Thank you for this moment. I love you all so much. Take care.

(APPLAUSE)

(MUSIC)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why don't we all stand. Mother Cicely Tyson is, I believe, 91 years young.

(APPLAUSE)

CICELY TYSON, ACTRESS: God knows we have been blessed. I thought I would start by saying good day. But I don't think that that is necessary. We all know what a great day this has been, and how blessed we are to be here on this day. I want to offer my condolences to the family. What a triumphant gift you have given the world, that they have been able to experience, no matter how, this moment in time with us. Sabrina, you are and will always be in my heart. God bless you.

Aretha was the sum total of her life's experience. And she shares that with us through the soul songs she sung. She spoke to us through her soul. And everything she experienced. And that's why, no matter what she was singing she moved every single person.

And so with apologies, Paul Laurence Dunbar has said, G'way an' quit dat noise, Miss Lucy. Put dat music book away. What's de use to keep on tryin'? Ef you practise twell you're gray, you cain't sta't no notes a-flyin' lak de ones dat rants and rings f'om de kitchen to be big woods when Aretha sings.

You ain't got de nachel o'gans fu' to make de soun' come right. You ain't got de tu'ns an' twistin's fu' to make it sweet an' light.

[16:10:94] Tell you one thing now, Miss Lucy, an' I'm tellin' you fu' true, when hit comes to raal right singin' ain't no easy thing to do. Easy 'nough fu' folks to hollah, lookin' at de lines an' dots, when dey ain't no one kin sence it, an' de chune comes in, in spots, but fu' real melojous music, dat jes' strikes yo' hea't and clings, jes' you stan' an' listen wif me when Aretha sings.

Ain't you nevah hyeahd Aretha? Blessed soul, tek up de cross. Look hyeah, ain't you jokin', honey? Well, you don't know whut you los'. Y'ought to hyeah dat gal a-wa'blin', Robins, la'ks, an' all dem things, heish dey moufs an' hides dey faces when Aretha sings.

Fiddlin' man jes' stop his fiddlin', lay his fiddle on de she'f, mockin' bird stop tryin' to whistle, 'cause he jes' so shamed hisse'f. Folks are playin' on de banjo, draps dey fingahs on de string. Bless yo' soul, fu'gits to move em, when Aretha sings.

She jes' spreads huh mouf and hollahs. "Come to Jesus," twell you hyeah sinnahs' tremblin' steps and voices, timid-lak a-drawin' neah and den she tu'ns to "Rock of Ages," simply to de cross she clings, an' you fin' yo' teahs a-drappin' when Aretha sings.

grand, stop that noise, Miss Lucy. Put that music book away. What do you should keep on trying if you practice until you can, you can't stop, no notes are flying like the ones that rants and rang from the kitchen to the big woods when Aretha sings.

Who dat says dat humble praises wif de Master nevah counts? Heish yo' mouf, I hyeah dat music, ez hit rises up an' mounts floatin' by de hills an' valleys, way above dis buryin' sod, ez hit makes its way in glory to de very gates of God.

Oh, hit's sweetah dan de music of an edicated band, an' hit's dearah dan de battle's song o' triumph in de lan'. It seems holier dan evenin' when de solemn chu'ch bell rings, ez I sit and calmly listen while Aretha sings.

Towsah, stop dat ba'kin', hyeah me. Mandy, mek dat chile keep still, don't you hyeah de music from the valley to the hill? Oh let me listen, I can hear it, th'oo de bresh of angels' wings, soft and sweet, "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot" when Aretha sings. Thank you.

(APPLAUSE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Our final speaker before we go into Bishop Paul Morton and Yolanda Adams is the collaborator and guardian of Aretha's music for the last 40 years. Need I say more, the legendary Clive Davis.

(APPLAUSE)

CLIVE DAVIS, CHIEF CREATIVE OFFICER, SONY MUSIC: What a truly memorable day. What an incredible celebration of an incredible life. Aretha loved Detroit. She loved the life in Detroit. She loved her family.

[16:15:03] And Detroit, you led the world in loving Aretha.

(APPLAUSE)

DAVIS: When I sat down in her kitchen, when I had dinner with Aretha in 1979, she already was of course the Queen of Soul. She had given the world "Respect," "Natural Woman," "Chain of Fools," "I Never Loved a Man the Way I Loved You," "Rock Steady," "Amazing grace," "Think" and so much more.

We talked into the night about the next five years, five years of recording, when Aretha would be over 40 years old. Much of music had changed. Could she still compete? Well, there was no doubt in Aretha's mind and frankly there was no doubt in my mind. I signed her to Arista Records and five years turned into more than three decades.

(APPLAUSE)

DAVIS: We were committed to show all the budding musicians how long a career can last. For Aretha was indeed a true genius of American music. Every time I was with her, whether professionally or personally, I was conscious that she was and would always be a significant part of history.

And over the course of my life I've been blessed with the opportunity to spend time with presidents of countries, president of successful trend setting companies, spent time with many successful artists, writers and movie makers. Most of these individuals have affected the world in some way. But Aretha is in her own very special category. Aretha's voice will be heard, Aretha's voice will be impacting, Aretha's voice will be influencing others literally for centuries to come.

(APPLAUSE)

And so we got to work, year after year, well into her 40s, yes well into her 50s and beyond. And we had hits like "Jump to It," Get It Right," "Who is Zoomin' Who," "Freeway of Love," "I Knew You Were Waiting For Me," "Sisters are Doin' It For Themselves," "A Rose Is Still A Rose."

(APPLAUSE)

Aretha would once again have number within records, gold albums, platinum albums and several new Grammy Awards. She relished -- she really relished and cherished every moment of it. And I was so privileged, so privileged to be there and personally witness the magnitude of talent of this singer's singer, this musician's musician.

And let me add for you, that behind her God-given natural talent was the drive of a total perfectionist. After we decided on the material for an ensuing album she would go into Aretha mode. And she would privately rehearsed. She would practice, she prepared and by the time she came into the studio, she literally owned the song. Everyone in the studio would be in awe of her mastery when she stepped up to the microphone. It was a real rarity if she ever were to be doing -- if she were ever to do more than two takes.

She was in control. And she was to nail it. Plus, Aretha was electrifyingly intuitive.

[16:20:02] We were about to go to Washington, D.C. for her to perform at President Clinton's inauguration. We brain stormed the song and chose "I Dreamed a Dream" from Les Mis. Aretha, if you would took command of that song in her mind. Flash forward to the performance. And she was really totally in command right from the beginning, hitting those soaring notes as only she could.

Everyone, everyone in the audience was transfixed as the performance kept building. And then the one and only Aretha on her own spontaneously change the lyric from "I Dreamed a Dream" to I have a dream. And that instinctive switch to the Martin Luther King mantra made the climax chillingly unforgettable to this day. Aretha was being Aretha in a class by herself.

So today, on this very special day, permit me to talk of Aretha, the person. Yes, as you've heard, indeed, Aretha was indeed kind and thoughtful. When she loved you, she really loved you. She was genuinely funny, occasionally with on-the-money topical sarcasm, but she definitely had a keen wit. She had great sense of humor. But what stood out, personally to me, was that she really defined loyalty. If I were to ask her to perform at a special event, she was there. Yes, she traveled the country by bus and, in the winter, roads are not very friendly, but she would be there.

One year I was getting a Lifetime Achievement Award at New York's Waldorf Astoria Hotel and she was telling me that she had begun seriously studying something totally new that she had never before tried. She was studying ballet. She refused to tell me anything about the performance that was to come, other than "Clive, it's going to knock your socks off, and everybody in the audience's as well." Frankly, I couldn't at all imagine what it would be. And no one there will ever forget it, least of all me. The night came, the curtain went up, the orchestra started playing, and then Aretha came on, straight-faced, in a tutu. Yes, a tutu. There was the Queen of Soul, accompanied by members of the City Center Ballet Company, she doing well-rehearsed pirouettes and dancing with most impressive agility and dignity. It was wonderful. My friend, Aretha, was going to extraordinary lengths to make sure the night would be a night always to be remembered.

And hopefully, this reveals to you the incredible wide-ranging quest for knowledge that Aretha had. She studied classical music at Juilliard. She loved opera and, of course, her performance, without notice, of "Nessun Dorma" at the 1998 Grammys, you all remember that, you never forget it, that truly will always show that there was nothing that Aretha could not inimitably master.

And, of course, her commitment, as you've heard all afternoon, to political activism is well-known as is her famous quote, "I have the money. I get it from black people and I want to use it in ways that will always help our people."

(APPLAUSE)

[16:25:05] JIM SCIUTTO, CNN HOST: You're listening there to Clive Davis, longtime collaborator with Aretha Franklin. We're going to have more coverage of the funeral service for Franklin coming up. Jennifer Hudson, Stevie Wonder, they're going to perform. Please stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCIUTTO: Welcome back. Right now family friends, stars honoring Aretha Franklin in a funeral service fit for the Queen of Soul. Really just been a moving afternoon watching this. Coming up Jennifer Hudson and Stevie Wonder will perform tributes. We will bring you that when it happens shortly.

But I want to turn now to our breaking news in the politics lead. President Trump's attorney Rudy Giuliani telling CNN that he is already preparing a rebuttal to the potential findings of the special counsel Robert Mueller. Giuliani says the document will focus on suspected collusion by members of the Trump campaign with Russia, the firing of national security adviser Michael Flynn as well as obstruction of justice allegations.

Trump's legal team maintains and it still considering a presidential interview with Mueller but say --