Soul legend Stevie Wonder had a powerful message as he closed out Aretha Franklin’s funeral in Detroit on Friday, as he not only paid tribute to an iconic performer but also took some time to call out President Donald Trump and his administration.
As recapped by the Daily Mail, Wonder was one of several acts spanning different musical generations who performed at Franklin’s eight-hour funeral ceremony, as he was preceded by singers Ariana Grande, Faith Hill, Gladys Knight, and Jennifer Holliday, among others. However, it was his closing speech that stood out, as he made references to Trump’s “Make America Great Again” slogan after he thanked God for introducing people all over the world to Aretha Franklin and her music.
“Were it not for God’s goodness and greatness we never would have known the Queen of Soul. We never would have known the joy that she brought to us. We would have never known someone who can express in song the pain we felt,” said Wonder as he addressed the people in attendance.
“So what needs to happen today, not only in this nation but throughout the world, is that we need to make love great again. Because black lives do matter. Because all lives do matter. And if we love God, then we know truly, it is our love that will make all things better.”
Stevie Wonder went on to repeat his paraphrasing of Donald Trump’s slogan, saying that Aretha Franklin helped “make love great again” despite the numerous personal and professional challenges she faced in her career. The 68-year-old singer then dedicated the song “As” to Franklin, performing the number with singers Angie Stone, Jennifer Lewis, and Martha Reeves and offering one final tribute to the late singer, who died on August 16 at the age of 76 after a battle with pancreatic cancer.
According to Page Six, Stevie Wonder was the second person at Aretha Franklin’s funeral to criticize Trump and his administration. Earlier in the event, the Rev. Al Sharpton referenced Franklin’s classic song “Respect,” as well as Trump’s Twitter tribute to the Queen of Soul, which drew controversy because of his claim that Aretha “worked for him.”
“I want y’all to help me correct President Trump, to teach him what [respect] means. No, she used to perform for you. She worked for us.”
Prior to his comments at Aretha Franklin’s funeral, Stevie Wonder also took a stand against Donald Trump in September 2017, as he reacted to the president’s demands that NFL team owners fire players who kneel during the national anthem. According to CNN, Wonder took not one, but two knees in prayer while performing at the Global Citizens Festival in New York, and addressed the audience, imploring them to do what they could to fight hatred, bigotry, and sexism. Prior to the 2016 elections, Wonder was open as early as then about his disdain for Trump, referencing his own blindness as he quipped that voting for Trump was like asking him to drive, as noted by the Huffington Post.