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Aretha Franklin's funeral sparks controversy

by Bridgette Babb - Copy Editor
Tue, Sep 11th 2018 04:35 pm
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There was not one dry eye in the overfilled Greater Grace Temple church as the whole city of Detroit came together to say their goodbyes to the “Queen of Soul.” Streaming worldwide, the funeral gave us powerful performances, heartfelt speeches and even a few controversial moments. 

Aretha Franklin lost her battle with pancreatic cancer at the age of 76 on Aug. 26. Social media flooded almost immediately with condolences and suggestions on what stars contribute tributes to the late singer. 

Power houses such as Fantasia, Jennifer Hudson and Gladys Knight were the first among mentioned. Many of the artists people expected were the ones to do dynamic presentations. Amongst these were Stevie Wonder and the legendary Clark Sisters. One artist that was on the list of greats was Ariana Grande. The public had mixed feelings. They considered Grande a great singer, but did not think she was on the same level as these soul legends. 

According to vulture.com, the Franklin family added Grande at the last minute after they watched her tribute performance on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon. She gave a beautiful rendition of Franklin’s “Natural Woman,” belting each note with passion and assurance. 

Grande’s singing was not the only thing that had people and social buzzing about her more than Franklin last week. 

A numerous amount of people criticized Grande on social media for wearing such a short outfit to a funeral. 

Tweets ranged from “....who let Ariana Grande wear the miniest mini dress she could find to Aretha’s funeral?” to “Ariana Grande came to Aretha’s funeral with a club dress on. Where are the church mothers when you need one? #ArethaFranklinFuneral.”

On the contrary, Grande had fans from all walks of life defending her when they witnessed her being groped on national television by Bishop Charles H. Ellis. 

According to the BBC, many people felt that Bishop Ellis's hand was inappropriately high on the 25-year-old's body as he spoke to her.

She definitely showed tense look the entire time, almost like if she had moved just a bit, it would have caused a scene; Grande was sexually assaulted against her own will. Bishop Ellis has since apologized, stating how he hugged all the artists performing and might have been “too friendly.”

"It would never be my intention to touch any woman's breast," he told the Associated Press. However, if you look at any image from scene, you can see where Bishop Ellis’ hand lies on Grande’s body. 

Bishop Ellis was also attacked for making a joke about Grande’s name, saying it sounded like something from Taco Bell. While people found it funny, a few individuals felt he was making jokes about the Latina community.

"I personally and sincerely apologise to Ariana and to her fans and to the whole Hispanic community," Bishop Ellis said. 

"When you're doing a program for nine hours you try to keep it lively, you try to insert some jokes here and there." 

Major celebrities were in attendance for the celebration of Franklin’s life. When Fantasia got up to sing her rendition of “Precious Lord” without her shoes on, the crowd just knew the spirit was about to be brought into the room. The supporting head nods and hands in the air from the ministers in the back said it all, the public was living for this performance. 

The magnificent things people had to say about Franklin and their experience showed how much of an impact she made not only in music, but in each of their lives. 

Tyler Perry spoke on how his mother was the one to introduce him to Franklin’s music, and that he could always tell what mood she was in by the choice of song. He recalled how humbled he was when years later, she called and told him how much she liked his character of Madea, starting a life long friendship there. 

Close friend and gospel singer, Yolanda Adams, sang “O Mary Don’t You Weep” alongside Bishop Paul Morton, in tribute to the late singers’ family. 

The words encouraged the family to be strong in this time of despair, comparing it to the death of Jesus and Mary Magdalene's strength in that moment.

The final closing of the casket brought out another wave of tears from those present and those tuning in. The standing ovation, mixed with the exquisite singing from the massive choir set the scene for a heartfelt send off. Franklin impacted the lives of many, and continues to influence numerous artists today. 

bbabb1@brockport.edu | @Bridgette