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HALA GORANI TONIGHT
CNN Honors The Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin; An Emotional And Joyous Funeral of Aretha Franklin. Aired 3-4p ET
Aired August 31, 2018 - 15:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[15:00:00] HALA GORANI, CNN INTERNATIONAL HOST: Hello and welcome to our continuing special coverage on CNN honoring the queen of soul, Aretha
Franklin. Thanks for joining us. I'm Hala Gorani. It's been what can only be described as a celebration of her life and her hometown of Detroit,
Some incredible musical tributes from stars like Faith Hill, Ariana Grande, the legendary Clark Sisters and also poignant reflections from Franklin's
own family from music legend Smokey Robinson, political heavyweights including former U.S. President Bill Clinton. We're listening to more
tributes and seeing more tributes now in Detroit. Aretha Franklin's funeral has become an emotional and joyous celebration of the queen of
soul. If you're just joining us on CNN here are some of today's highlights. Take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BISHOP CHARLES ELLIS, GREATER GRACE TEMPLE, DETROIT: Walk in the light, walk in the light.
Come on this is a church service. Lift your voices.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: People have come to pay tribute to a once-in-a- lifetime talent whose voice was the soundtrack of our lives. When we have
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Played that song by herself has touched the world, each of us in our own way. Amazing individual, classy beyond comparison, and
yet an earthiness that is undeniable.
BRENDA JONES, DETROIT CITY COUNCIL: She was the world's queen, invaluable musical treasure, a daddy's girl filled with amazing grace but more than
anything else she was the epitome of the authenticity of the city of Detroit.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Really going to miss you it's really going to be different without you.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She had to sing with a broken heart. She had to work when she didn't get paid. She was a black woman in a white man's world.
She bared her cross. She fought a good fight. Now it's time to crown the queen.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There has never been, there will never be another voice melded to the consummate artistry that was miss Aretha Franklin.
BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You should remember in this time about this magnificent woman, she worked her can off to get
where she was. She took the gifts god gave her and she kept getting a little bigger every day. Think about what you're trying to do, thank you,
Jesus, thank you lord, I made it, thank you. Thank you
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GORANI: What a sendoff for the queen of soul. Ryan Young has been watching the ceremony unfold and it's not over yet. It is not over yet.
We're still waiting for big name Chaka Khan and others. Ryan is live in Detroit. I mean, just unbelievable this celebration of the life of Aretha
Franklin. Obviously, people are in mourning, we're all going to miss her, but it is so inspiring also to hear all these tributes, Ryan.
RYAN YOUNG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, absolutely. I think we had this conversation earlier and I told you this would not go as planned. This was
going to be longer, this happens a lot especially when you have a gospel type service, especially in the black community, when you think about how
big she's been, especially when you consider civil rights and started her career in the church, and that means so much.
If you think about the large civil rights leaders we've had in this country they've been centered around the biblical stance the fact that god meant
something and you can feel that in terms of this church service listening to that highlight you just played was unreal because it gets you swaying
just a little bit. Look, we've been with the crowds all week long. Thousands of people showing up, standing in line. A lot of people show up
with walkers, showed up with canes and wheel chairs and wanted to pay their respects to the queen of soul.
When you talk to the people one of the things that was interesting they would start singing spirituals in line and so touching to see that
reflection going on and on. When you talk about the power of this woman, the idea she never stopped fighting for equality when it came to people of
color it's just amazing. The songs have been adapted especially for the women's rights movement.
[15:05:00] We were talking to Reverend Jesse Jackson and he was telling me a story when they would travel on the road she would make sure she would
find restaurants that catered to soul food and would bring it in and serve everybody or she would cook herself go to the grocery store and do it on
her own. One of the reverends talked she could fry chicken and she could make potato salad. You have this authenticity that everybody cannot deny.
Even the fact that sometimes when she would perform, she would make sure that her purse with the cash from the performance was on the stage under
the piano. That you don't hear. You talk to other people who go to the grocery store and say, is that Aretha? And they would have that
international interaction with her that is unbelievable. What star do you know about today that would have that sort of going back and forth with the
And then last night we find out sort of her last gift to people she said 1,000 folks can come into her service and that's what the family decided to
do and you saw all these people lining up and we saw them, some in terrible shape, bad health but they wanted to be here to pay their respects to a
woman they absolutely adored.
GORANI: It's understandable, she's been an inspiration for so many over the years and I'm seeing Chaka Khan walking up. We will cross over to
Detroit and listen in.
CHAKA KHAN, SINGER: Oh, I'll tell you now anybody asks you where I'm going where I'm going if you want to know where I'm going where I'm going real
soon I'm going up yonder going up yonder going up yonder
I'm going up yonder to be with my lord, I'm going up yonder, I'm going up yonder, I'm going up yonder to be with my lord, I can take the pain, I can
take the pain, the heartache they bring, the heartache they bring, comfort of knowing I'll be soon gone. god gives you grace, god gives you grace,
from this place, until I see my savior face to face, I'm going up yonder, I'm going up yonder, going up yonder, going up yonder to be with my lord.
Did you hear me? I'm going up yonder, going up yonder, going up yonder, going up yonder to be with my lord. If you want to know, if you want to
know here I'm going, where I'm going, where I'm going?
[15:10:00] Yes, god gives me grace, god gives me grace. I'm with his x- rays until I see my savior face to face, I'm going up yonder, going up yonde, going up yonder to be with my lord. I'm going up yonder, going up
yonder, going up yonder, going up yonder to be with my lord. I'm going up yonder, going up yonder, going up yonder to be with my lord. I'm going up
yonder. I'm going up yonder, going up yonder. I'm going up yonder, going up yonder
Did you hear me when I said I'm going up? Going up yonder, did you hear me say I'm going up yonder. In a moment I'm going on to yonder, I'm going up
yonder, yonder going up, yonder going up yonder, yonder going up. Going up yonder. I'm going up, if you're walking I'm walking I can't stay. I'm
going up yonder, going up yonder, I'm going up yonder, going up yonder, going up yonder, going up.
Yes, I'm going up yonder, I'm going up yonder, I'm going up yonder, I'm going up yonder to be with, to be with, to be with, to be with my Jesus, be
with my lord. Yes, yes, yes, yes, I am, I'm going, hallelujah, going up yonder, going up, going up yonder. Walk with me now. Yes, yes, yes, yes,
yes, going up, going up, well, you're going. Where do you think you're going now, where are you going? Are you going up yonder? I'm going up
yonder. Yes, yes, yes, yonder, yes, yes, yes.
GORANI: Wow. Chaka khan and her musical tribute, bringing the house down. "Going Up Yonder" a gospel song, going up yonder to the lord, Chaka Khan
one of the anticipated stars, one of the legends, musical legends in the United States and around the world they're adding her voice to the many,
many emotional tributes to Aretha Franklin today. Another highlight was Smokey Robinson earlier.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BISHOP ELLIS: Aretha has been on top for decades with the same name.
SMOKEY ROBINSON, SINGER: Really going to miss you, it's really going to be different without you for the rest of my life going to be thinking about
you. I'll miss you my buddy, I'll miss you my friend, I know that my love for you will never end, will never end .
I'm going to love you forever.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GORANI: Ron Isley is adding his voice to the tributes. Let's go back to the Greater Grace Temple in Detroit.
RON ISLEY, SINGER: All right. She would always talk about Shirley Caesar, all the time, 60 years, 60 years. Loved you. She would talk about Karen
so much. I don't think Karen knows this. She would say, we're going to do a record together. We're going to do the next record together. I would
try to suggest songs. Let me go on and sing.
[15:20:00] Oh why should I feel discouraged and why, why does a shadow come oh, why does my heart feel so lonely, so lonely, lonely, lonely,
oh, my, when Jesus is my, oh, constant friend, constant friend is he oh, yes, is on the sparrow , Sparrow and I know he watches me and I sing, I
sing because you know I'm happy, I'm happy and I sing, sing because of I'm free, free, free, his eyes on the sparrow, oh, sparrow and I know, I know,
I know, he watches me, he watches me, his eyes on the sparrow I know, I know, I know, I know he watches me, he watches, oh, yes.
Thank you. I love you.
[15:25:00] BISHOP ELLIS: Brother Ron Isley. Put your hands together for him.
Miss Franklin, when she decided --
GORANI: All right, Ron Isley. Before that we heard from Chaka Khan, went right into the choir as well, continuing her song and her tribute. We've
heard many emotional tributes. We're expecting Jesse Jackson to add his own voice to this day of celebration of the life of Aretha Franklin. We
will be right back with more. Stay with CNN.
AL SHARPTON, POLITICAL ACTIVIST: We watched Aretha bear her cross down here. She had to sing with a broken heart. She had to work when she
didn't get paid. She was a black woman in a white man's world. She bared her cross, she fought a good fight, now it's time to crown the queen.
GORANI: Welcome back. We are doing something a bit unusual today. We are devoting our show to the celebration and life of Aretha Franklin. Reverend
Jesse Jackson is on statement in the middle of a prayer and then address the audience. Take you once again to the Greater Grace Temple in Detroit.
JESSE JACKSON, CIVIL RIGHTS ACTIVIST: I was asked by the families to give some personal reflections. I've known Aretha almost 60 years. A lot of
reflecting. I want Sabrina to stand again in these months of decline and going down the hill, the one that put all this stuff together has been
Sabrina. Give Sabrina a big hand, won't you, please.
I visit her at least once a month and every time I was there by the door was a bodyguard standing there. Give him a big hand. Cousin Brenda.
Stand up, Brenda. Give another big hand. No one has been more consistent than will. Give will a big hand. Will has been -- stand up will. I also
want to thank the funeral home. Aretha was very sick to the end.
This funeral home did a tremendous job. A big hand for O'Neill Swanson and his family. [applause] Lest we can't thank her too much for she's among
us, another hand for Maxine Waters. Stand again, please. [applause] Three of my children are here today, because this is a family affair. My son
Jesse Jackson, Jr. [applause] and Santita and Dr. Jackie Jackson.
It is a holy privilege to stand before you today, painful to stand before Aretha, this hour of celebration. I want to honor the family's wishes and
protocol and keep my remarks brief as I can, but it is about reflections and I want to give room for Reverend Jasper Williams, one of the most
profound preachers of our time. Reverend C.L. Franklin's funeral was conducted by Reverend Williams and he maintains that authority in the
The next phase of the phenomenal Aretha Franklin, this must be said and done built on this legacy that can't be appropriately said today, this has
caused another unplanned event or reunion. We wouldn't be here if Aretha were not dead today.
We give death too much power. We should be able to call each other and have a meeting like this and share. I was here for the Rosa Parks funeral.
I watched long lines at the museum for Rosa Parks, long lines for Aretha, long lines today. We have long lines to celebrate death and short lines
We lost Michigan by 11,000 votes. A lot of thousand Detroit unregistered. Long lines at the deaths of the icons and short lines for voting.
Something is missing.
To many of us from the deep south before the internet and before the nightly T.V. shows, before Dr. King and Rosa Parks, there was Jet Magazine,
The National Black Newspapers and WLC in Nashville, Tennessee.
Every Sunday night at 11:00, because out from Nashville would put on an hour of C.L. Franklin. He was our hero. Traditional sermons. Ego service
in this. Prodigal son in the conflict. He said, tonight, I'm not going to preach, I'm going to introduce my daughter and she can sing. It's not just
my daughter, she could really sing, so hear me. Aretha sing never wrong.
Reverend Billy Kyles from his home Dr. King was on the way to visit when he was killed. It was on the revival (INAUDIBLE) at that time. He gave the
rest to Aretha. Have heard of a land of all the strand. It's a beautiful home of the soul. Built as Jesus on the high where we never shall die, a
land that will never grow old.
It was off Sunday night at South Carolina, yet it was real dark, the stars shine most clearly. That night, a star was born somewhere between
Nashville and eternity. We hear the voice from heaven, 14 years old. Aretha is our queen. She belonged -- and belongs to us.
She was blessed to have the powerful gift of singing, perhaps the most remarkable voice, unique the world has ever heard. Arturo Toscanini, the
Italian conductor said of Marian Anderson that a voice like that is heard once in a thousand years.
Aretha is in that zone of once in a thousand years. And she did not shy away from Ave Maria. From that point on she -- I want to refine that we
called Aretha. Her praises at school and she took music lessons. The warmth -- the womb of the most soulful singers of our time.
[15:35:00] New Bethel, Sam Cooke, and the Soul singers, Clara Ward and the Ward singers, Mavis and Pops Staples. She came out that new roles and
(INAUDIBLE) made the most clap. Ira Tucker and The Dixie Hummingbirds. Alex Brant (ph), too close. Cissy Houston, Whitney's mother sang in the
background. The Winans and the (INAUDIBLE) Mahalia Jackson, Diana Washington, the Captain Spirits (ph) (INAUDIBLE) Reverend James Cleveland
directed a choir at New Bethel.
Aretha came out of this womb Reverend Gaiter (ph) and Reverend (INAUDIBLE) had the gifts but she's had the environment that helped her developing.
She was baptized in singing, struggle and service. In 1942, when she was born, not in Detroit, she was born on the Mississippi river in Memphis,
Tennessee. The river that carried out people up and down for 246 years.
Aretha's soul comes from the Mississippi river. And it's cradled between Tennessee, Arkansas, and Mississippi, 233 blacks were lynched in Tennessee,
492 in Arkansas, 654 in Mississippi. She was 13 when Emmett Till -- what does our civil rights commitment coming? She had money and could not buy
ice cream. Had a car, and could not stop to buy gasoline.
Aretha came out of the bowels of our struggle. Her father led the big march in Detroit 1963. Dr. King, stayed at his home until March on
Washington. Along with Harry Belafonte, Dr. King was facing bankruptcy, we couldn't go any further. Where was the money coming from? The black banks
are too small. White banks are very hostile.
And so Aretha and Harry Belafonte said, we'll take an 11-city tour to raise money and give you the money. Dr. King was unpopulous under such attack.
We couldn't fill up an auditorium this size with Aretha Franklin and Harry Belafonte. We stepped on the stage in Houston, Texas.
On that stage, they put tear gas in the fan, we had to evacuate the building. She kept right on singing. She sang for (INAUDIBLE) Mandela,
Clinton, Obama, because after all before we had this level of technology that was -- Albertina Walker and Shirley Caesar, Cassietta George in the
same group. We called it The Caravans.
I was called last week to see Aretha. I've met with her at least a month, the last three years, she called me the night Jack was -- Aretha is on the
phone. We talked through the fire. We prayed a while and cried a while.
When it came last Wednesday, Aretha was in a coma. And had not been able to wake up or move in some days. And I was with Erlene (ph). I said, wake
up, baby. She opened her eyes. I rubbed the wounds of her hand one more time. It was a hard goodbye.
We came back that night with Sabrina and had another prayer meeting. Her father, playing in the background (INAUDIBLE) last time Shakespeare said
when she shall die, took her hand, and opens on the stars and she will make the heavens so fine that all the world will be in love this night. Aretha
had the power to make this funeral directors cry. She touched all of us in a deep and profound kind of way.
[15:40:02] When she got sicker, we were told more and more and she would call late at night. And are you coming? Yes. I'm not going to bring
Greg, don't want to bother Greg.
Inside joke. Went to four or five hospitals as she was fighting this cancer thing. And to cap off singing and service, she went to New York
knowing that she had pancreatic cancer.
She went there in a bus to help the AIDS victims. That's a signature moment in her life. All of her times have been faced seen on her own
situation. Yet, she was there. She asked me to give her our favorite testimony. Who was that?
And as a kid grew up in South Carolina, number one she was always talking about the same never grow old, never grow old, never grow old (INAUDIBLE) a
great singer for the blind voice. Sing on choir.
Archie came in on the last trip and said I'm drinking liquor tonight. I'm not an alcoholic. But I have the fourth stage of cancer and I don't have
any insurance. The liquor is anesthesia for my pain. Forgive me for drinking, I don't mean to disrespect you. He had this dark shades on his
cap. He said, let me sing a couple of songs for you. He said, I know you're concerned that I'm drinking. I'm not a drunker, I'm just drinking
He said, but you all talk about blue skies, I was born without eyes. I've never seen the blue. I've never seen a rose. I can touch it. My wife --
I've never seen my wife's face. I know about the contour of her face. And my children, I know them by the sound of their voice and the patter of
But don't feel sorry for me because that I'm blind and have cancer. I am going to cross the river, I heard there's a man over there, who's giving
sight to the blind. He's cured cancer.
When you hit that point in your life, where the man is more over there than over here, a few months ago, Aretha was very afraid for me when I announced
that I had Parkinson's. The older you get, these are things that come out of nowhere it seems.
But let me say to you today the living, this is not for Aretha, this is for us, if you leave here today and don't register to vote, you will dishonor
You hear all this singing and don't feel something, something is wrong with you. I want to say now, we may be 15 years old, I'm now 77, 78 in a few
weeks, Parkinson's is in trouble. I have the faith. The doctor said Parkinson's will knock you down. It will. But there's a God, there's a
doctor of doctors.
Don't fear these diseases when you're getting ready to change your clothes and move into a different transition. I can say now with a level of
certainty I couldn't have years ago. I once was young.
I've traveled to China, I've traveled to Japan, I've travelled to Caribbean, all around the world. I've seen -- I met -- worked with Dr.
King, worked with Mandela. I've seen a lot and been a lot of places, but I've never seen the righteous forsaken nor the same (INAUDIBLE) just sleep
on, Aretha. See you in the morning.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All rise.
GORANI: We just heard from Reverend Jesse Jackson there. If you don't register to vote after you leave here today, you've dishonored Aretha.
Jesse Jackson was telling those in attendance.
[15:45:04] We heard musical tributes from Chaka Khan among others with a just a rousing gospel song going up yonder that got everybody on their
I want to bring in "Washington Post" Entertainment Reporter, Elahe Izadi. She joins me live.
Wow, what a sendoff today. The musical tributes, the speeches, it's just been -- it's just been very inspiring, I think.
ELAHE IZADI, REPORTER, WASHINGTON POST: Yes, that's right. I think what we've seen today is sort of a sweeping, an attempt to kind of capture the
sweeping nature of Aretha Franklin and sort of how she was a singular force in American popular culture.
I mean, you had a former president up there speaking, two other former presidents sending their remarks, but you also had sermons delivered. You
also had rousing gospel songs performed. You had people dancing in the aisles. This is not a somber funeral. This is really a celebration of her
life and really true to her gospel roots.
GORANI: Right. And it's what they've called it, in fact, on the official schedule, celebration of life at the greater grace temple.
I just wonder, this is a very complex, long event. I mean, how was it organized so quickly with so many big names?
IZADI: That's right. I mean there are a lot of really big names there, but there's also family members who have had a chance to speak and actually
Detroit for the entire week has been publicly mourning Aretha Franklin. There have been a couple days of viewings for the public to see her at the
African-American Museum in Detroit.
But there was also a big concert, the previous night with over 40 musicians there. I mean, this is in addition to today and everything that was
So, you know, Aretha Franklin, she passed away August 16th, but even before she passed away, there was already talk of tribute concerts and people kind
of thinking about how do we honor this individual? She was sick for some time before. So I'm sure she was already on people's minds as they put
together how they would remember her.
GORANI: So there are many very talented singers. There are many extremely influential artists. What -- why is it that she, Aretha Franklin, stood
apart from pretty much all of them? What made her so powerful in American culture and so unique?
IZADI: You know, she did not only crossed over from gospel to soul but she really paved the way for so many other musicians, especially female singers
and R&B singers in particular and she set the standard for what is good singing, what we consider as good singing.
She was able to sustain a very long career and even when she had career slumps, she was able to -- you know, she was unafraid of toying with
different genres from pop to opera even. And I think her voice really just speaks for itself even in her advanced age, she had a very powerful voice,
2015. It was only a few years ago when she famously made then-President Barack Obama cry with her rendition, her performance of "Natural Woman."
So she is someone that, yes, throughout the years, generations --
GORANI: I was going to say. And I don't know if you heard Chaka Khan, but I have to say, her voice is the same as it was 30 years ago.
IZADI: Yes. I mean, it's incredible to see how these voices can sustain and not all singers are like that. Aretha Franklin was able to have that
voice for many years.
GORANI: Yes. Oftentimes, singers, when they grow older, their voice changes. The quality of it also changes. In the case of Aretha Franklin,
that didn't happen. Thankfully for all of us as recently as three years ago as you were saying.
Elahe Izadi of the Washington Post, thanks so much for joining us. We appreciate it.
IZADI: Thank you.
GORANI: We'll be back with a lot more after a quick break. Stay with us.
[15:50:41] GORANI: In the United States, two icons were mourned today. John McCain, the former senator from Arizona and also, of course, as we've
been covering over the last several hours here on CNN, American icon, Aretha Franklin.
A former president took to the stage today at the celebration of her life. It was Bill Clinton. And he paid tribute to the late singer this way.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BILL CLINTON, 42ND U.S. PRESIDENT: When she was making her way, she actually opened a jazz club for John Coltrane and he did a set after her.
Why am I saying that? This woman got us all here in the seats today. Right? Not because she had this breathtaking talent, which she did, not
because she grew up as -- the Attorney General Hoover (ph), said, at least a princess of soul because of her father, her mother, her relatives, but
because she lived with courage not without fear, but overcoming her fears.
She lived with faith, not without failure, but overcoming her failures. She lived with power, not without weakness, but overcoming her weaknesses.
I just loved her.
So I started off as a groupie. And then I said, oh, my God, this woman, who has sung for America, when Dr. King was killed, and all these political
conventions, including mine, at least President Obama and my inauguration ceremonies and various things, and I even talked her into coming to the
Rose Garden to sing for the emperor and empress of Japan. Or it might loosen them up a little, you know. It'd be good.
OK. So I figured out, I think, that the secret of her greatness was she took this massive talent and this perfect culture that raised her, and
decided to be the composer of her own life song.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GORANI: Bill Clinton there paying his tribute. You saw Hillary Clinton, of course, there sitting in the first row as well.
Now, everyone in the crowd and on television and anyone watching this, is looking forward very much to the tribute, the musical tribute of Stevie
Wonder that will be a few hours from now. They're running quite a bit behind there on the official schedule.
But one particular performance today was one that the crowd was waiting for, Ariana Grande singing "Natural Woman." Listen to a bit of that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
[15:55:13] Oh, I used to feel so inspired, I had to face another day Lord made me feel so tired, before the day I met you, my life was so tired,
you're the key to my peace of mind, you make me feel, you make me feel, you make me feel like a natural woman, so when my soul was lost and found, you
came along to claim it, I didn't know --
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GORANI: Well, we're going to take you back live to Detroit. Fantasia is singing. And that will do it for me. "QUEST MEANS BUSINESS" will pick up
our coverage after this. Stay with us. Thanks for watching.
FANTASIA, SINGER: Ashamed of nothing, going right, oh, all you got to do is just close your eyes, and meditate on him, and soon, soon he'll be
there, I can brighten up and he can brighten up your day, I can work, yes.
CROWD: Precious Lord, take my hand, lead me, let me stand, everybody, Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, you got a friend.
FANTASIA: You've got a friend, you've got a friend, you've got a friend, you've got a friend.