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The Nation Honors Two American Icons. Aired 10-10:30a ET

Aired August 31, 2018 - 10:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[10:00:19] ANA CABRERA, CNN ANCHOR: Hello to our viewers in the U.S. and around the world. Thank you for being with us on this Friday. I'm Ana Cabrera in New York.

And you're seeing pictures from moments ago inside the nation's capitol, in the rotunda where Senator John McCain will soon take his place to be laid before all the public, before his fellow colleagues in Congress, before those who love him here in America, to pay their respect for the late senator. That ceremony set to get underway within the next hour. We will take you there live momentarily.

But we're also monitoring another great in America, the life and legacy of Aretha Franklin and her ceremony. A five-hour long ceremony is getting under way in Detroit. That's where we have our colleague, Fredricka Whitfield.

FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Hi, Ana. Well, you can hear the activity overhead and you can see the sea of people filing into the Greater Grace Temple Church where the funeral service for Aretha Franklin, the world's beloved Queen of Soul, will begin in just moments from now.

And what we've been able to see is besides the motorcade of pink Cadillacs who have, you know, pulled up, a number of dignitaries and celebrities from the world of music, from sports, from the church, they have all been lining up to go inside, inside the sanctuary there. 4,000-seat sanctuary.

You can see it right now filling up. It will be a day of amazing speeches, eulogies and, of course, song, Chaka Khan, Stevie Wonder, all good friends. Smokey Robinson, the former president, Bill Clinton, and Ariana Grande all to take to the stage there -- to the podium there and deliver their eulogies in celebration of this amazing life of Aretha Franklin there in the sanctuary.

Earlier, Aretha's 24 karat gold plated casket arrived at this church just over an hour ago. You see right there. And we've learned that her final outfit change is a gold dress and gold shoes.

Our Ryan Young is amongst the crowd outside of the church.

Ryan, good to see you. So folks are filing in, but, you know, people started lining up very early, not just today but yesterday. Tell us about that.

RYAN YOUNG, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, they did start lining up yesterday. In fact, we've moved out a little bit because finally they got the ticket they've been waiting for. They were able to walk in. Some of the women have been here since yesterday. So you understand there was a small rumor that they might be able to get in. The fans are going to get a chance to be inside this funeral.

It really means so much to them. And when you think about this, one woman was kind of talking to me about this, this is probably the greatest generation for them because when you think about the Civil Rights Movement, a lot of people who put Aretha Franklin right there, she was the sound track for it. There's a lot of people here who are over the age of 70, and they love Aretha Franklin and what she stood for, and the fact that she never gave up.

The idea that Jesse Jackson has been talking about, there were days that Martin Luther King needed money. And he recalled C. L. Franklin, her father, and Aretha would go on 11-sea tours and raise go on tours and raise money for the Civil Rights Movement. And that's something that's really stood out especially here in Detroit.

Look, Detroit has had some tough times. Aretha never left. And the two are now intertwined like unbelievably. We've seen the thousands of people over the last three days line up, sing, cry and actually endure because it's been very hot here. And a lot of the people who were showing up are on walkers. They needed respirators. And the idea that this city has shown out for her in such a way and the world is talking about Aretha Franklin, it's been something very special.

You talk about the pink Cadillac, where we're standing right now, we can see the hundreds of pink Cadillacs going down this direction. I'm actually going to walk you back this way for a quick second just to show you all the pink Cadillacs. They're all this direction. So they're all lined up for that procession.

People have been wanting to come here just to get a piece of this. They're taking pictures. They're talking to people. The Reverend Jesse Jackson rolled down his window and waved at the crowd. They wanted to be a part of this. You understand that connection because so much of this is a conversation. She was there for Dr. King when he died. And now people feel like they want to be here for her. So you understand this generation's changing and its connection to so much history in this country.

WHITFIELD: Ryan Young, thanks so much. We'll check back with you. Appreciate it.

Let's talk more about the funeral that is about to get under way. And an incredible tribute for the Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin.

Joining me right now three people who knew her, activist and Sirius XM radio host Joe Madison, a cultural critic and writer Michaela Angela Davis, and Aretha Franklin's biographer, David Ritz.

[10:05:10] Glad you could all be with me.

David, let me begin with you here outside of the temple. And just seeing this beautiful outpouring of love. This tribute to Aretha Franklin. But it's not just here. It really is city wide.

DAVID RITZ, FRIEND OF ARETHA FRANKLIN: Right.

WHITFIELD: You can feel it in Detroit.

RITZ: Yes.

WHITFIELD: That she is top of mind. She is in everyone's hearts here.

RITZ: Well, you know, I've been coming to Detroit a long time doing a whole bunch of different books on different Detroit artists. And this is different. You know --

WHITFIELD: And why is it different?

RITZ: Well, yesterday I stood in line for two hours to go see the viewing of the new church. And I've never seen Detroit this galvanized and filled with joy and love and exuberance. And now again, what's interesting about that, this woman has died and yet there's joy, not obviously for her death, but joy because she's been our shepherd.

WHITFIELD: What she gave.

RITZ: She has been a good shepherd. And she's given us this musical sort of nourishment that has fed us for years and years. And we are grateful for it. So the party atmosphere, the idea that she's changing outfits four times in four days, is like a glorification of her regality. And I think the only other thing I would add about Detroit is that I think the reason Detroit is so proud right now is she was born in the womb and the wounds, both the womb and the wounds of Detroit. The pain of this -- what Detroit has gone through and yet she's a child of the golden age of gospel.

WHITFIELD: And it's interesting, she was born in Memphis.

RITZ: Yes.

WHITFIELD: But then Detroit really would be home.

RITZ: Yes. Yes. Detroit --

WHITFIELD: And this is where --

RITZ: -- bred her.

WHITFIELD: Right. And this is where she really would make her mark in the gospel community, in the church. And at 14, to be recording at 14.

RITZ: Yes.

WHITFIELD: And to go from being this amazing musical prodigy to then also symbolizing the Civil Rights Movement. I mean, to be 16 and to be recruited -- you know, to be part of the movement of Dr. Martin Luther King was extraordinary.

RITZ: Yes.

WHITFIELD: And people are mindful of that. And you talk about this celebratory atmosphere, but there's been an evolution, hasn't there? Because immediately after her death, the announcement of her death, there was sorrow, there was pain.

RITZ: Yes.

WHITFIELD: People were listening to her music differently. And now it has evolved into almost an appreciation of what she has been able to bring over the years.

RITZ: I also think it's a deeply spiritual -- I mean, obviously, she was an activist. So there's a political aspect, an important one, because she was an activist at a critical time.

WHITFIELD: And just to interrupt you, you know, live pictures right now of president --

RITZ: Yes, seeing the president.

WHITFIELD: -- Clinton and Hillary Clinton arriving there. We know he is going to be speaking. Aretha Franklin's relationship with the Clintons is quite extraordinary. She performed at both of his inauguration celebrations. And he would invite her to the White House, to the Rose Garden for gospel performance there.

RITZ: Yes.

WHITFIELD: There was a very respectful relationship. He was already a huge fan of Aretha Franklin.

RITZ: Right. The music --

WHITFIELD: Before he became president. But he wanted to make sure that she was welcomed to the White House.

RITZ: Yes.

WHITFIELD: Talk to me about why you believe it's important and what you believe his message will be.

RITZ: I don't -- I don't have any idea what he will talk about. I mean, he was great in the John Coltrane documentary. He's a jazz guy. He's a music guy. He plays. And he has a deep love and respect for her. But I think one of the most interesting things as we're looking at him about her music is that she took this holy gift, she took this sacred gift that she had and here is what's important, she applied it to all music. Because she had a progressive dad who was a minister who also believed that gospel music or the spirit of gospel music was applicable to all genres. And he encouraged her to sing all genres.

[10:10:08] WHITFIELD: And Joe Madison of Sirius XM, we so appreciate what you've been bringing on Sirius XM especially since her passing, playing nonstop, you know, Aretha Franklin, interspersing it with history, beautiful anecdotes about her life.

You're a friend of Aretha Franklin. Might as well call you an historian of Aretha Franklin as well. How was it -- how was it, perhaps, to jump off, you know, David's point there about, you know, her father, you know, a man of the cloth, a man of the church, but he did have a willingness, if you will, to allow a very young Aretha Franklin to spring from music of spirituality, gospel music, into jazz and R&B.

Can you add to that level of independence that perhaps Aretha Franklin was granted at a very early age to apply her amazing versatility of music and song?

JOE MADISON, FRIEND OF ARETHA FRANKLIN: And that shouldn't be underestimated because many people know that there is this division., Oftentimes you will find gospel singers that will not sing, quote- unquote, "the devil's music." And the fact is that I think I heard Berry Gordy once say that Aretha Franklin could sing the ABCs and it would be a hit record.

WHITFIELD: All right. Joe Madison, I apologize for interrupting. I'm sorry. We're going to return to this conversation. Let me go back to Ana Cabrera in the NEWSROOM.

CABRERA: All right, Fred. I will take it from here. Thank you.

We are continuing to monitor what is happening inside the capitol rotunda in the nation's capital where guests are now arriving to honor the late Senator John McCain.

I am being told that is his mother, 106 years old. This is Roberta McCain, who is planning to participate not only in today's ceremony, but the weekend ceremonies as well. This service today being one of several for Senator McCain as he is remembered as a war hero, a six- term senator, a giant of that legislative body and also a man who many people considered a friend. Politicians on both sides of the aisle, somebody who taught a lot of life lessons to all of us, especially showing his courage during his time as a prisoner of war.

We're going to continue to monitor these images. You can see this capitol now filling with people, preparing to celebrate his life. We will hear from speakers coming up here within the next hour. We will hear from both Paul Ryan, the House leader, of course, as well as the House speaker, and then Mitch McConnell, the majority leader in the Senate who didn't always agree with the positions that John McCain took.

He was known as a maverick for many reasons. But oftentimes sticking to his conviction, whether or not that was along the party line and oftentimes going against his party, going against some of his best friends. Lindsey Graham has spoken out about how they didn't even see eye to eye.

There you see Warren Beatty. So we're seeing people from all sides of the aisle, from all walks of life who have been touched by Senator John McCain now coming to pay their respects. He will lie in state today as soon as this ceremony gets under way around 11:00, through the evening so that members of the public can also come and visit the late senator and pay their respects.

I want to go live now to our Sunlen Serfaty who is there as people are just arriving.

Sunlen, what can you tell us?

SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Ana. Certainly this will be an emotional day for many people up here on Capitol Hill. Senator McCain of course worked in this building for 35 years. First over in the House of Representatives, then over in the Senate. So certainly, a lot of people, you see them starting to filter in into Russell Rotunda there. Excuse me, the rotunda of the U.S. Capitol there.

Many people who have worked for him, his staff, members of Congress from both the House and the Senate coming out today to pay their respects. We will hear from Leader McConnell, Speaker Ryan, and remarks by Vice President Pence who will speak on behalf of the White House.

Of course, today I think we will feel the absence of President Trump's presence here at any of these memorial services. Of course, McCain let it be known to people as he was planning his funeral proceedings, the services over the course of five days, that he did not want President Trump at any of the events. So we'll hear from Vice President Mike Pence later this morning.

We did see Roberta McCain, 106-year-old mother of John McCain, be wheeled in earlier, just a few minutes ago, and certainly many past staff members, members of the president's Cabinet will come.

[10:15:07] And it's notable that Senator McCain has not been up here on Capitol Hill for the past year since he was diagnosed with brain cancer last summer. The last time he was up here on Capitol Hill was in December of last year. And of course, one of his parting memories here on the hill was that very memorable last vote that he made when he gave that thumbs down on the floor of the U.S. Senate, voting against his party, really bucking the White House, voting against the repeal of the Affordable Care Act.

So lots of memories up here today, Ana, that many people, of course, will be sharing over the course of the ceremony.

CABRERA: And we are looking at live images inside the capitol. Sunlen, thank you for that.

That is the catapult, that was the first used to hold the coffin of President Abraham Lincoln. That's what you are seeing there, that black platform. We are told it's a simple base of rough pine boards nailed together and covered with a black cloth.

And now we've been told that that was not John McCain's mother who was wheeled in. But we will continue to monitor because she is expected to be there today so our apologies for not getting that one right the first time.

But again many, many people coming in to pay their respects from around the world, from around the country and, of course, people who are very, very close to Senator John McCain.

We'll continue to monitor the developments there of the nation's capitol today as we honor the life and legacy of Senator John McCain. We're back in just a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[10:21:10] WHITFIELD: This is a celebration of life and the legendary Aretha Franklin. And inside the sanctuary here at the Greater Grace Temple Church where we are outside, inside you see former president Bill Clinton, his wife Hillary Clinton, you see Jesse Jackson. There are a host of dignitaries spanning all genres of American culture from politics to music to spirituality.

They are all here to celebrate the life of the Queen of Soul. Today we are going to hear eulogies coming from a variation of people, from the former president to Jesse Jackson there, Sicily Tyson is here, Smokey Robinson, also a good friend Stevie Wonder will also be eulogizing, former NBA Detroit Piston who I spoke with last hour, Isaiah Thomas. He is scheduled to speak and he said his heart is very full. And he is hoping he can get through it.

As will Shirley Caesar who will be performing. She performed with Aretha Franklin when they were teenagers here in Detroit and grew up together singing, even both invited to the Obama White House and performing there. She, too, says her heart is very heavy today.

We're feeling that from so many people who know her, love her. At the same time, this is a time of celebration for so much that she gifted to everyone. You see right there, Isaiah Thomas, there in that shot. So much that she gifted to the word through her music, through her philanthropy.

Let's talk about so many ways that she has touched lives. Back with me, Michaela Angela Davis, Joe Madison of Sirius XM Radio and David Ritz.

And Joe, before the break and before, of course, we are celebrating the lives of two huge American titans today. In Washington, John McCain and then here in Detroit, Aretha Franklin. So pick up from where you left off when you were talking, Joe, just about how she also symbolized a level of independence because she was able to be in the church of her dad singing gospel, but then branch out, taking her talents to so many variations of music.

MADISON: And that was part of the daring. You know, Aretha Franklin once said to me, you know, what really makes an individual great is you have to be authentic, original and daring. And she was all of that.

And, you know, it's interesting sitting here going between McCain and Franklin, between Aretha and John, the -- there are so many parallels. And the one parallel that you can see, Fredricka, is look at the diversity of people that the two of them have brought together. That is what it should be remembered as we celebrate these two lives.

These individuals had a sense of humanity. Aretha Franklin didn't just stop with Martin Luther King Junior. Aretha Franklin would help Angela Davis when she was in jail. When we were doing voter registration and get out the vote efforts with the NAACP, she would send contributions to make sure that the work got done. We were marching across the country. Her diversity in music also reflected her diversity, Fredricka, in life. And that's what you're actually seeing.

WHITFIELD: Oh my goodness.

MADISON: A greater greats.

WHITFIELD: And Joe, that's a beautiful point because as you are speaking to that, we are also seeing pictures of people that symbolize everything that you just said. We saw Faith Hill who will be performing on the program today. It was Faith Hill who was invited to be on Aretha Franklin's album that she co-produced, right? And that was called "Aretha, A Woman Falling Out of Love."

[10:25:12] And Aretha Franklin spoke so highly of Faith Hill saying she was fabulous, just simply fabulous. And we see the back of Ariana Grande who is going to be performing today. So many folks were taken by surprise from her rendition of "Natural Woman" when she appeared on Jimmy Fallon's show shortly after Aretha Franklin's death. And of course we also saw (INAUDIBLE).

Michaela Angela Davis also with us. Michaela, you know, talk to us about, you know, what compelled Aretha Franklin to be so involved in the Civil Rights Movement and to have a grasp of that at such an early age, to be 16, to be engaged in the movement. And for her song "Respect" to symbolize, you know, kind of the mantra of the Civil Rights Movement, too.

MICHAELA ANGELA DAVIS, FRIEND OF ARETHA FRANKLIN: Yes, I think a lot is the house and the city in which she was raised, right? Like there were civil rights leaders in her house. There was God in her house. And you know, I'm struck, Fredricka, by how much of this is a great American spectacle of royalty. Meaning, the pink Cadillacs, the style, the intersection of political leaders and musical leaders and only in America could this kind of home going be shown.

And I think that's also what is so significant about Aretha Franklin is that she was a great American treasure. And that she held the complexities of what it was to be a great American artist and what it was to be a black woman. And what it was to be someone that was both in secular and in spiritual life, what it was to be someone who -- she literally said black people gave her money so she used her money to help black people be free. And so when you are that -- speaking to the boldness, it wasn't just the boldness of her art. Like we got to hear something come out of her mouth that no one else had heard and stirred us in that way. There is no equivalent to Aretha Franklin.

WHITFIELD: An amazing, amazing trailblazer.

DAVIS: But also the soul. Yes. The soul.

WHITFIELD: Michaela Angela Davis, I know you're going to stick with us, as is David Ritz and Joe Madison. Thank you so much.

We've got so much going on today because America is celebrating two incredible American titans, here in Detroit and there in Washington, D.C. with John McCain. We'll be right back from Detroit in a moment.

CABRERA: And I will take over from here, Fred, as we see the live images of the motorcade arriving at the nation's capitol. And we expect to see the casket with John McCain in it lie in the nation's capitol in that rotunda where there will be a ceremony to honor his life of service to our nation. And there he'll lie on top of the catapult that was first created after the death of Abraham Lincoln. He will receive the lying in state honor that has only been provided to 31 people before him. 32 times has that catapult been used including today.

Again you see folks now starting to arrive to be ready to listen to the speakers today who include Mitch McConnell, House Speaker Paul Ryan, the Vice President Mike Pence will also be there to deliver remarks. And there will be a wreath laying as well by the Minority Leader Chuck Schumer as well as minority leader in the House, Nancy Pelosi.

This is CNN's special coverage which begins right now in D.C. with our Wolf Blitzer and Dana Bash. Take it away, guys.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington. We want to welcome our viewers here in the United States and around the world to our special coverage of the Capitol Hill ceremony honoring the late U.S. senator and war hero, John McCain.

The rotunda is already filling up with people who worked with the self-described maverick. Today he returns to the capitol that he so loved. Right at the top of the hour he will lie in state in the capitol. This is a rare honor given to only 30 people before him. One of the first was Abraham Lincoln.

And Senator McCain's casket will rest atop the same wooden platform built for the slain American president.

Also next hour, some of the most powerful men and women here in Washington will bow in praise. Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell will deliver remarks followed by the House Speaker Paul Ryan and the vice president of the United States, Mike Pence.

Then a bipartisan wreath laying. Democrats Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi will join their Republican counterparts to present wreaths --