STEVIE Wonder was among a host of Motown legends paying a soulful tribute to Aretha Franklin.
The Queen of Soul was transported to her final farewell in Rosa Parks’ hearse wearing a gold dress inside a gold casket to the Greater Grace Temple where family, celebrity friends and fans gathered.
Before the golden casket was closed at the top of a service, Franklin’s body could be seen dressed in gold sequins.
More than eight music-filled hours later, Stevie Wonder took to the stage.
He wowed with his harmonica skills and then brought the remaining mourners at Franklin’s lengthy funeral to their feet with a moving version of “As”.
The choir, Aretha’s family, preachers and remaining guests swayed as Wonder played the classic tune in honour of his old friend.
Stevie dedicated his song, “I’ll Be Loving You Aways”, to his departed friend and musical kindred spirit whom he’d known since he was a boy.
“God bless, Aretha,” Wonder said at the end of his song.
“The joy is in knowing that she will have an eternal life of bliss.”
Before he performed, Gladys Knight sang “You’ll Never Walk Alone” and “Bridge Over Troubled Water”.
As Franklin’s coffin left the church, Jennifer Holliday sang “Climbing Higher Mountains”.
Others who performed over the eight-hour ceremony included Faith Hill, Fantasia Barrino, Jennifer Hudson, Ariana Grande and Chaka Khan.
Smokey Robinson, the Motown singer and a long-time friend, crooned a few lines of his song “Really Gonna Miss You”.
Grande belted out “Natural Woman” while Gladys Knight soulfully sang “You’ll Never Walk Alone”.
Highlights of Aretha’s included:
About 100 pink Cadillacs lining up outside the Greater Grace Temple
Aretha’s body was covered in shimmering fabric and her casket was closed to shouts of “Hallelujah!” from the audience
Faith Hill honoured Aretha Franklin by singing “What a Friend We Have in Jesus”
Ariana Grande sang “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman”
Motown legend Smokey Robinson performed “Really Gonna Miss You” in honour of his lifelong friend
Chaka Khan sang “I’m Going Up Yonder”
The Rev Jesse Jackson gave an emotional tribute where he told Aretha to “sleep on” and telling her “I’ll see you in the morning”
Jennifer Hudson delivered a moving rendition of “Amazing Grace”
Stevie Wonder sung “I’ll Be Loving You Aways”and signed off with “God bless you, God Bless Aretha”
Rev Jesse Jackson, who worked alongside Martin Luther King during the 1960s, urged attendees to honour her memory and register to vote.
Franklin, who was herself heavily involved in campaigning against racial prejudice, died on August 16 aged 76.
Her body arrived to the star-studded memorial in a 1940 Cadillac LaSalle hearse.
She wore a shimmering gold dress, with sequined heels the fourth outfit Franklin was clothed in during a week of events leading up to her funeral.
Jackson and his fellow human rights campaigner Al Sharpton were onstage to honour Franklin’s contributions to black empowerment, sharing front-row seats with Louis Farrakhan, the black nationalist and Nation of Islam leader.
Source: THE SUN OF LONDON