At Aretha Franklin’s star-studded funeral, there were performances from chart-toppers that raised the roof, speeches from luminaries that brought the audience to their feet, and a parade of celebrities lining up to pay their respects to the Queen of Soul.
But the words that were perhaps most memorable from the ceremony came from the opening remarks of Crisette Ellis, the wife of the funeral’s officiator, Bishop Charles H. Ellis.
The first lady of the Greater Grace Temple in Detroit, an author and entrepreneur, praised the soul icon for being the soundtrack to people’s lives, “the celebrated and uncelebrated” who have “danced to the queen’s music, cleaned house to the queen’s music, laughed, cried, made corn bread and greens to her music.”
Ellis was also responsible for organizing the salute of 100 pink Cadillacs before the funeral—many of them from the direct-sales cosmetics company Mary Kay, where she is herself a national sales director—as a reference to Franklin’s song “Freeway of Love.”
Here’s an excerpt from Ellis’s speech:
People have come to pay tribute to a once in a lifetime talent whose voice was the soundtrack of our lives. The celebrated and the uncelebrated danced to the queen’s music, cleaned house to the queen’s music, laughed, cried, made corn bread and greens to her music. Break up, make up, dream dreams, to her music.
The Queen of Soul sang to our soul, one beat, one sound. There was something she made us feel. Aretha was real. The motor in this city, the queen of soul blasting on the radio, traveling the highways and byways of life, we found the freeway of love.
Later, the activist, TV commentator, and Baptist minister Al Sharpton said that Franklin’s music was also “the soundtrack of the civil rights movement.”