Detroit sings, dances to honor the ‘Queen of Soul’


DETROIT (WOOD) — The people of Detroit are celebrating the life of Aretha Franklin.

After the legendary soul singer died Thursday morning at the age of 76, a sign on the marquee of the Fox Theatre showed Franklin’s photo and read “R-E-S-P-E-C-T: Forever our queen.”

“We miss the best lady there was. That’s the queen, the ‘Queen of Soul,’ Aretha Franklin,” one fan said.

Fans brought flowers and balloons to lay outside of New Bethel Baptist Church, where Franklin’s father preached and she began her singing career.

Robert Tyson, who grew up down the street from Franklin and played drums for her years ago, was among those who gathered at the church. He remembered her as “very powerful” and “very controlling” when she was working.

“All you had to do was do what she needed done and there would not be a problem,” he said. “She let you feel the music, and it was a spiritual thing.”

He last saw her last year in the midst of her battle with pancreatic cancer.

“Her music, that’s her life. So she’s singing now, if you listen,” he said.

In front of the church, Franklin’s songs played on a boombox. Heedless of the intermittent rain, people danced and sang along.

“We can identify with her music,” one fan said.

“If there is something going on in your life and you have a favorite song that reflects what’s going on in your life, you listen to it and it probably lifts you up,” another fan, Terry Tarant, said.

Fans cherished her lifelong devotion to the city of Detroit, remembering her charity and civil rights work.

“I think Aretha was the perfect embodiment of that saying, ‘Walk with kings, but have a common touch.’ I think she demonstrated that so well. Yes, she was the queen of soul. Yes, she has been to the White House, sang for many, many presidents. I’m sure she’s encountered kings and queens. However, this was her church, this was her neighborhood,” Joe Johnson, who worked at a Detroit radio station, said at New Bethel.

There is speculation about whether Franklin’s funeral will be held at her family church or a large venue like the Cobo Center. The Franklin family has not yet released any information about funeral arraignments.

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