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Coverage Of The Funeral Of Legendary Singer, Aretha Franklin. Aired 3-3:30p ET

Aired August 31, 2018 - 15:00   ET


[15:00:00] BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: Senator John McCain is lying in state at the nation's capital. And people in Washington, we are told, are lining up for blocks and blocks now to salute his 60 years of service to this country.

And on the right side of your screen, in Detroit, born in Memphis, moved to Detroit, an extraordinary celebration for the queen of soul, musical tributes from stars like the first lady of gospel, pastor Shirley Caesar, who we were just watching a bit ago, legendary Clark sisters had everyone on their feet, Ariana Grande earlier today, Faith Hill and poignant reflections from Franklin's family, also Smokey Robinson and former president, Bill Clinton.

So let's begin in Detroit. Fredricka Whitfield has been there all day for us.

And you know, listening - listening, I know we are all waiting for Chaka Khan. And Shirley Caesar, man, she had the spirit within her from that first word.


BALDWIN: But listening to the former president, you know, talking --.

WHITFIELD: Everyone is in on their feet.

BALDWIN: Yes. Listening to former president Bill Clinton, though, you know, saying he was first a groupie and making note, she has sung for America. Indeed she has.

WHITFIELD: Oh, yes, she is an American sweetheart. She is a national treasure.

You know what? There is a lot of love in this house, as they say. You know, the great temple. And you can feel it. You can feel just how Aretha Franklin has touched so many people, let alone Detroit. I mean, they claim her, you know, as their, you know, native daughter. She was born in Memphis, but then she and the family, of course, eventually moved here to Detroit. This would be home.

And what we have seen today is a real tribute, a serious home going for the queen of soul. As you mention, you know, Faith Hill was among those right out of the gate who brought the house down. It was Faith Hill who was invited, you know, personally by Aretha Franklin to join her on her album that she co-produced. And she spoke so kindly of Faith Hill after the fact saying, you know, she is fabulous, simply fabulous and really nice. So, it was a beautiful tribute that she would be invited here by the family to be part of the tribute.

You mentioned, you know, Shirley Caesar, she brought it home. I talked to Shirley Caesar earlier who said she was like her sister. I mean, they performed together as teenage girls here in Detroit. And while it very saddened her, she said her heart was very heavy. You could see it in her eyes when I was talking to her, how difficult this day would be. At the same time, she said she owed it to her friendship, to Aretha Franklin to be here and to be part of this tribute.

I spoke earlier with former Detroit Pistons NBA star, Isaiah Thomas. Many people wonder, huh? How in the world did they become friends? And he told a beautiful story of how Aretha Franklin reached out to him when he moved here. He was in his early 20s. And she said, you know what, you know, she just took him under her arm and said, you know, she invited him over to dinner. Everyone talks about how she loved to cook and how she really invited him into her world. And they became wonderful, great friends. He would actually end up escorting her to the Kennedy center honors, you know, in Washington years ago. And he would travel abroad with her. When I talked with him last year in Florida, he told me he was about to embark on a European trip, you know, with Aretha Franklin and Clyde Davis. So that's how tight they became.

And then, of course, you heard from former president, Bill Clinton, who said, as you put it, you know, I was a groupie. So much so that by the time he became, you know, elected as president, he reached out to her. She was part of his inauguration. Over 30 years span, Aretha Franklin was part of three presidential inaugurations celebrations and invited back again, many times over to the White House.

It was beautiful how Mr. Clinton talked about how he described what embodied here. He said she lived with courage, not without fears, but overcoming her fears. She lived with faith, overcoming her failures. And then he also talked about her generosity, how she would take the time to express care for other people, people who others may not think are that important. But even in her autobiography, she would write about gospel and soul singers that most people wouldn't even know of and how she made other people feel.

That really was a calling card for her. I spoke with a ghost writer of her first biography, Dave Ritz. And he said, you know, she was a very guarded person, actually. And it spoke to her independence from a very early age. So that song "Respect" says so much about her.

"Natural woman," even though it was written by Carol King, it says so much about Aretha Franklin. The impressions and the imprints that she made not just on gospel music, all genres of music, civil rights movement, women's rights. I mean, she just did it all. And they are celebrating her in that kind of tapestry today, in this church. The varied audience, the varied lineup of those we have heard from on the spoken word.

Her best friend, Smokey Robinson, telling a beautiful story about how he was eight years old going to, you know, the La Salle (ph) street house of Aretha Franklin to see the pastor, father Franklin, CL Franklin, and he heard this music and a little voice. To open the door to find out it was a 4-year-old Aretha Franklin who sang like an angel. And from that point on, they would have this beautiful, decades long, life-long relationship, sometimes even collaborating on music.

So this is a tribute, indeed. It is a home going unlike most that people have seen. This also happens to be a place, you know, of worship for so many. There is spirituality here. You see it throughout the city of Detroit - Brooke.

[15:05:06] BALDWIN: Here she is. Fred, thank you so much. The Chaka Khan.

CHAKA KHAN, SINGER: Good evening. Afternoon.


[15:14:04] BALDWIN: Chaka Khan, ladies and gentlemen.

Let's talk about what we just saw, whose coming up honoring the life, the extraordinary woman, Aretha Franklin, the queen of soul Alicia Quarles. They have been sitting next to me as we watch that performance.

And you know, Chaka Khan has been through some things.


BALDWIN: And Aretha was almost what? Like an auntie?

ALICIA QUARLES, ENTERTAINMENT JOURNALIST: Like an auntie. You know, there's few people on your level where you can see the (INAUDIBLE) and make it full you back in. So those things you are referring to


QUARLES: Chaka struggled with drugs in the past. But Aretha was always there for her. In fact, get involved with that set (ph). As we were saying, Aretha was a person to go to that didn't judge you because she crossed over into so many genres, gospel music, secular music, country music and --.


QUARLES: Opera - exactly. So she refers and that was relatable, not judgmental but have paved away for women in the music industry and getting your publishing rights, making sure you get paid up front. She was the trail blazer.

[15:15:01] BALDWIN: She's still -- hold on, hold on. Let's hang on this.




BALDWIN: Michaela, what did you say?


BALDWIN: You know, we were talking about, you know, you think of Chaka Khan and you think of other women like you were making this point. This circle of women who, maybe younger women singing, who have extraordinary careers in and of themselves, the circle is shrinking.

DAVIS: Yes. The circle of -- the elders who you really respect that you can go to when things aren't so wonderful, when you are having a hard time, who can bring you home and you can listen to them. This is a very rare fight heir to get to the place of a Whitney or Mariah Carey. So who would you go to? And so there's Patty, Gladys. But there's something about Aretha Franklin that statesmen respected, that people all over the world respected in a way that is kind of unparalleled. So there's a loss, I think, in the hierarchy of Diva- dom.


DAVIS: But again, as we were talking before, there's something about being a diva and there is also something about having that motherly, auntie quality that she loves and cares about (INAUDIBLE).

BALDWIN: (INAUDIBLE) brothers. Let's listen in.

RON ISLEY, SINGER: She would ask me, what you going to sing? I said, well, I'm going to sing something soft. You know, have you ever heard the Clark sisters? Have mercy. And I -- this celebration here tonight --. I should have brought the band here. Maybe we shouting, something. All right. She would always talk about Clark, Shirley Caesar, all the time for 60 years, 60 years. She loved you.

She would talk about Karen so much. And I don't think Karen knows this. Say, we are going do a record together. And we are going to do the next record together. I would try to suggest songs. But let me sing.


[15:24:09] UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Brother Ron Isley. Put your hands together here.

Miss Franklin, when she decided to move back to Detroit, she moved back in the early '90s on the Detroit golf club course. Her home, which still stands is four doors down from my dad's house, our family home. And miss Franklin, when she was giving her holiday parties at that home in Detroit, she would invite my dad, (INAUDIBLE), to come down and to play a prayer that everything would go all right. She would give him a carry out and send him back home, up the block. Reverend Jesse Jackson got to stay for the whole party. I told him

that the other day, she said somebody had to make sure everybody to be at home. He has been a champion for civil rights down through the years. We know his health is not what it used to be. But, for all he has done through the years, sometimes working and not receiving anything for it, standing on the front line and standing on that wall, I think we should all stand and receive this giant of a warrior for the urban community, for those who cannot speak for themselves, receive the reverend Jesse Jackson Sr. He will be followed by the reverend Dr. William J. Barber II.

[15:25:59] REV. JESSE JACKSON: Pray. This is celebration, but not a party. Aretha is not lost. We know where she is. If you are in the mood of prayer and thanksgiving. God blessed us to witness a powerful expression of his goodness today. Aretha was (INAUDIBLE) here 60 years.

Bow your heads in prayer. Set that petition, dear God. Such action, you know our ways. Make us better, never bitter. Move through to the journey. Thank you for reverend CL Frankton. Thank you for Aretha, Irma, Carolyn, Cecil. Bring them out because the joy of the gifts, lessons they have learned and lessons they have shared. Somehow those leave this place today better off than when we came. We fall down, we get back up again. The ground is no place for champions. We fall down we get back up again because the ground is no place for champion and so we rise to higher heights. Amen.

CROWD: Amen.

JACKSON: I was asked by the family to give some personal reflections. I have known Aretha almost 60 years. A lot of reflecting. I want Sabrina to stand again. Months of decline and going down the hill, the one that put all this together has been Sabrina. Give her a big hand, would you please?


JACKSON: I visit her at least once a month. Every time I was there, by the door was a body guard. Stand again. Give him a big hand. Cousin Brenda - Brenda (INAUDIBLE). Give another big hand. (INAUDIBLE). Give Willie a big hand. Stand-up Will. He has been a trooper. Also, ad the pastors, I want to thank the funeral home.

Aretha was very sick toward the end. I was suspecting we should not open the body. But this funeral home, they have done a tremendous job. Big hand for O'Neil Swanson and his family. Big hand for O'Neil Swanson and his family.


JACKSON: Last, we can't thank her too much for she is among the living - live among us, and a hand for Maxine Waters. Maxine, stand again, please.


JACKSON: Three of my children are here because this is a family affair. My son, Jesse Jackson, Jr.


[15:30:01] JACKSON: And Santino.


JACKSON: And doctor Jack (ph) Jackson.


JACKSON: It is a holy privilege to stand before you today --.