Aretha Franklin singing at a service for her late father and brother has drawn in hundreds of visitors to the New Bethel Baptist Church.
According to the Detroit News, the church was made famous by Franklin’s father, Rev. C.L. Franklin, who would have been 100-years-old this year. Her brother, Rev. Cecil Franklin, also served as a minister there.
Rev. C.L. Franklin, who served as a civil rights activist, died in 1984, and her brother, Rev. Cecil Franklin, died in 1989, after managing Aretha’s career for many years.
Aretha took the stage, nearly two hours into the service, to pay tribute to her late father and brother by singing “The Old Ship of Zion,” which had many members of the congregation tearing up. Several members of the church also took the opportunity to share their memories of the former ministers.
“I used to listen to Aretha’s father preach on the radio when I was a teenager,” Kendretta Richards, 78, of Detroit, said. “This is such a special day to be here celebrating his legacy. I imagine Aretha can’t even put into words how she feels right now, it’s so special.”
The event included a gospel choir, noted gospel singers, and a free soul food buffet. However, it was Franklin who drew in so many people to the church. When she appeared, the entire audience took to their feet to applaud the “Queen of Soul,” and then immediately got out their cell phones to record the performance. Aretha thanked the audience before singing the song she had prepared.
“Thank you for coming to look back and reminisce with us,” she said. “I’m just gong to sing a little something that has been recorded and has been in my spirit all weekend.”
“There’s so much history in this church, it’s just an honor to be in the same room with Aretha Franklin,” said Ronald Schwartz, from Clarkston. His wife, Viola, added, “Aretha Franklin is so much a part of Detroit, I can’t imagine the city without her.”
Aretha’s son, Eddie Franklin, also paid tribute to his grandfather before singing his mother’s favorite gospel song, “His Eye is On the Sparrow.” He also received a standing ovation.
[Photo by Kevin Winter / Getty Images]