Fans mourn Aretha Franklin at gospel-infused public viewing

Motorcade of pink Cadillacs coming to Aretha Franklin’s homegoing celebration

Aretha Franklin: Queen of Soul to lie in state in Detroit

Fans queued en masse Tuesday to pay their respects to legendary United States singer Aretha Franklin at her open casket viewing in Detroit, ushering in a four-day celebration of her life.

Franklin's body will lie in repose at the Charles H. Wright Museum for African American History.

To Owens, the dress - with its ornamental elements and sheer netting fabric - looks like something Franklin would wear onstage and "something she would have selected for herself".

Mourners poured into the museum to pay their final respects to Franklin, who died August 16 of pancreatic cancer at the age of 76. Franklin's albums "I Never Loved a Man the Way I Love You" (1967) and "Aretha: Lady Soul" (1968) are the only albums to reach the No. 2 spot twice.

Inside the museum, Franklin lay in an open, gold casket, dressed in a red lace dress, red satin high heels and her hair perfectly coiffed in waves and pin curls.

"I wanted to be a part of the homegoing for Ms. Franklin", she said. "It's handsome. She's lovely".

She said Franklin grew up with her older family members and was beloved in the Detroit community. The shoes, in particular, show "The Queen of Soul is diva to the end", Green said. The casket is surrounded by roses of varying colors.

Tammy Gibson of Chicago says she lined up outside about 5:30 a.m. She came alone but made fast friends with others who sang and reminisced.

"Her music changed the lives of many and it's an honour to be here", said another who journeyed from Toledo, Ohio. She was at the hotel and she knows all my people and I knew all her people.

Stuart Popp, who drove from Plymouth, Michigan in his pink 1956 Cadillac Grand Seville, was greeted by the crowd singing Franklin's hit, "Freeway of Love". "I was a fan of her music".

Owens said she began planning for this week's festivities earlier this year. "She loved the city of Detroit and the city of Detroit loved her".

"I got chills", said Pat Turner, 56, of Alexandria Virginia, when she saw the auto pull up with the gold casket inside.

Following the public viewing, Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. will hold a final rites ceremony, called an Omega Omega Service.

The setting for the two days of public viewings could not be more fitting, according to Paula Marie Seniors, an associate professor of Africana studies at Virginia Tech.

Aretha Franklin had admirers the world over, but there's no doubt the flame burned brightest in Detroit — the place she was raised and remained for most of her life.

The "Queen of Soul", has been described by almost every superlative, including "America's truest voice", "as immortal as can be" and the "greatest American singer of the 20th century". Yet she added that Franklin also was "so unapologetically black - she was so proud of being a black woman".

The museum, which had been the largest black museum in the USA until the National Museum of African American History and Culture opened in Washington, D.C., in 2016, also hosted similar viewings for civil rights icon Rosa Parks after her 2005 death.

For all the formality, however, Owens said the viewings are meant to be welcoming and accessible for her legions of fans.

"[Older family members] would listen to her music", he said.

The museum also plans to stage an exhibition honouring Franklin.

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