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Tributes pour in for Aretha Franklin at star-studded funeral

By Wade Sheridan and Danielle Haynes
Queen of Soul Aretha Franklin through the years
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Aug. 31 (UPI) -- Performances by Stevie Wonder, Ariana Grande and Jennifer Hudson accompanied remarks by the likes of former President Bill Clinton and the Rev. Jesse Jackson at the more than 6-hour funeral of Aretha Franklin on Friday in Detroit.

The epic church service took place at Greater Grace Temple two weeks after the Queen of Soul's death at the age of 76.

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Bill Clinton described himself and former first lady Hillary Clinton as Aretha Franklin "groupies."

"She lived with courage. Not without fear but overcoming her fears. She lived with faith, not with failure, but overcoming her failures. She lived with power, not without weakness but overcoming her weaknesses. I just loved her," he said, recalling that he last saw her at her final public performance at Elton John's AIDS benefit last year in New York City.

Clinton said she was she looked "obviously" ill amid her treatment for pancreatic cancer, but she told the audience she had just received a positive medical report.

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"I have no idea if it was true," he said, but she wanted to the crowd "to sit back and feel good and not worry about how long she was going to live."

Clinton earlier appeared to enjoy a rendition of "(You Make Me Feel Like) A National Woman" by Grande, who has worked with producer Jordan Franklin, Aretha Franklin's grandson.

Jordan Franklin was joined by his sister, Victorie Franklin, onstage where they gave a tribute to their grandmother.

"I'm sad today 'cause I'm losing my friend, but I know the imprint she left on this world can never be removed. ... I know you'll be watching me from the windows of heaven ... Long live the Queen," he said.

Also performing at the star-studded event were Faith Hill, The Clark Sisters, Chaka Khan, Fantasia, Yolanda Adams, Shirley Caesar, The Williams Brothers, Audrey DuBois Harris, Ronald Isley, Edward Franklin, Jennifer Holliday, Tasha Cobbs-Leonard, Vanessa Bell Armstrong, Alice McAllister Tillman and Bishop Marvin Sapp.

Wonder, who performed "The Lord's Prayer" and his own hit, "As," also offered some words in tribute to the soul singer.

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"Without God's goodness and greatness, we would have never known the Queen of Soul. We would have never known the joy that she brought to us, we'd have never known someone who could express in song the pain that we felt. And yes, the reason that we are here today is because of love, because of how much we love this woman," he said.

Speakers at the funeral included Tyler Perry, Cicely Tyson, Clive Davis, Smokey Robinson, Al Sharpton, former Attorney General Eric Holder, State Rep. Brenda Lawrence, Georgetown professor Michael Eric Dyson, Pastor T.D. Jakes, television judge Greg Mathis, Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan, president of the Detroit City Council Brenda Jones and Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder.

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