76 Thoughts I Had While Watching Aretha Franklin’s Funeral

#6. I know Barack and Michelle are salty AF at John McCain for making them miss this.

The funeral of Aretha Franklin was a once-in-a-lifetime event. And that’s probably for the best. I don’t know if my lifetime can take another funeral like that. It was emotionally draining and emotionally uplifting, and most of all, it was long. For hours, friends, family, legends, and dignitaries passed across the stage at Detroit’s Greater Grace Temple today to pay respects to the Queen of Soul. There were eloquent speeches, earth-shattering performances and so many great looks. It was the most over-the-top funeral, or rather, homegoing ceremony, I have ever seen. But if you missed it, don’t worry. I watched all seven-plus hours so you didn’t have to. Below, my thoughts on the homegoing of Aretha Louise Franklin, may she rest.

1. I’m most excited for all the gorgeous black lady church hats, of which I’ve already seen several.

2. I guess a diamond casket was a little too ostentatious?

Angela Weiss / Getty

3. Oh, look, Bill and Hill — not the POTUS and FLOTUS I wanted, but okay.

Angela Weiss / Getty

4. State police WILL ask you to leave if you have your phone out. It’s called R-E-S-P-E-C-T.

5. Wait, Oprah IS here, right?

6. I know Barack and Michelle are salty AF at John McCain for making them miss this.

7. Black folks sure do love them some Tyler Perry…I am not one of them. But he’s flanked by legends so what are you gonna do?

8. I wonder what Patti LaBelle is doing right now?

9. God, J Hud has had to sing at EVERYBODY’s funeral and she must be WEARY.

10. Clear the floor! The mother of black Hollywood has arrived.

Jeff Kowalsky / Getty

11. The family is allegedly five minutes away. We’ll see how close to on time this funeral starts.

12. Louis Farrakhan, Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson…Bill Clinton—it’s like a convention of problematic black men I grew up with.

Angela Weiss / Getty

13. Ariana Grande-Davidson, piled her high pony extra high, presumably to be closer to heaven and Aretha.

Angela Weiss / Getty
Meanwhile, this photo unsettles me. Just saying.

14. The choir is singing “Say a Little Prayer” and I’m already feeling the spirit.

15. Watching Jesse Jackson struggling to get out of his chair, with a little help from Bill Clinton, is both sad and adorable.

16. Pretty sure that 5-minute mark passed a while ago. But hey, you can’t rush royalty and Aretha will go home when she gets there.

17. The camera pans to Hillary, sitting next to a woman singing along with the choir—Hill doesn’t know this song and she’s not even going to pretend to “watermelon, watermelon, watermelon” through it.

18. Bill, however, clearly without knowing a single lyric, is trying to phone it in.

19. THIS CHOIR. We’re going to CHURCH today. Where’s my fan? … Oh, and people are already standing in praise. Not Jesse.

20. These state troopers are marching in baby steps up in through here.

21. A man in the choir is OPENLY weeping and if they show him again, I might have to join in.

22. It IS a funeral, so mostly everyone is in black, but I do appreciate the pops of fuchsia and chartreuse littered throughout the crowd.

23. Am I crazy or can Eric Holder still catch it?

Angela Weiss / Getty
Speaking of which, I see you in the audience Big Sean. Howyoudoin’?

24. Leave it to Cicely Tyson to overshadow literally everyone, using only the brim of her couture chapeau.

Also, thank you, USA Today, for dedicating an entire video clip to this hat.

25. This funeral will be like going to actual black church on Sunday, meaning we’ll be getting out when it’s dark.

26. Honestly, all these stately black women is just so inspiring.

27. Did anyone ask Mary J. Blige to perform? If not, why? Lest we forget this duet:

28. Speaking of famous Aretha duets, where’s Mariah?

29. Between Luther, Michael, Prince, Whitney, and now Aretha, the Heavenly Choir is LIT.

30. Seriously, where the fuck is Oprah? And why wasn’t Aretha at her Legends Ball? Is there a feud I missed?

31. This is the blackest thing most people will see all day, nay, month. Not year, though, since we already had Black Panther and Beychella. #2018BlackAsHell

32. The wig game here is ON POINT and absolutely STUNNING.

33. Just caught a glimpse of the program which features this cover image:


34. Meanwhile, thought this was starting at 10, and we’re 90 minutes in and just getting going. Blessed.

35. Why are you going to force the Bishop Charles Ellis, who is officiating this FUNERAL, to shush you? Because that just happened.

36. Aww, seeing the kids in Aretha’s family crying is just heartbreaking.

37. Hmm, Ms. Faith Hill is the first singer up. Interesting choice.

38. Jesse Jackson looks SO unimpressed with Faith. But then again, that’s always his face.

Angela Weiss / Getty

39. Props to Faith Hill, doe—taking the stage in front of all these black mourners and paying homage to the Queen of Soul. It do take nerve.

40. TIL: Dr. King delivered his first “I Have a Dream” speech in Detroit, after marching with Aretha’s dad, Rev. C.L. Franklin. #TheMoreYouKnow

41. SAME:

42. All right, Ms. Franklin is getting a park named after her in her beloved Detroit, as announced by the city’s mayor, Mike Duggan. As Bishop Ellis quipped, “And the mayor just got re-elected.”

43. Oh, and she’s also getting her own street. Can we just rename Detroit “Aretha”?

44. Aretha supported many movements, from civil rights to women’s rights to reparations, according to a friend: “Whenever I went to a reparations meeting she would tell me, ’Bring me back a check.'” Snaps, all around.

45. Someone just called for the federal government to give Aretha a commemorative postage stamp. Might have to wait for an administration change for that, though.

46. Is everyone going to come up and make a “Respect” comment? I mean, I love “Respect” as much as the next kween, but mother did have literally hundreds of other songs.

47. “The music ministry of Ariana Grande.” Amen, and halleloo.

48. That’s a lot of leg for a funeral, Ari.

Angela Weiss / Getty
Bill doesn’t seem to mind, though.

49. Al Sharpton looked like he was giving Ariana a “YAS KWEEN” during that bridge to “Natural Woman.”

49. I’d just like everyone to know that Ariana Grande couldn’t be off-key with a broken lock.

50. TIL: Harry Belafonte and Aretha went on an 11-city tour to raise money for Dr. King when he couldn’t make payroll. When stars were STARS.

51. Al Sharpton just made a reference to misspelling “respect” and turned it into a Trump burn. The audience went WILD. There’s nothing I love more than black folks yelling “YAS!” out from an audience.

52. Barack had Al read a statement from him and Michelle. I mean, thanks, I guess. Shoulda been here, though. The audience shot to its feet just at the mention of his name. Sigh.

53. I know black don’t crack and all, but Smokey Robinson is fucking 78. And he will still slay an a capella performance.

Angela Weiss / Getty

54. Oh shit, The Clark Sisters are here. Hold onto your wigs.

Angela Weiss / Getty

55. Just caught a glimpse of Auntie Maxine Waters getting all her life. Reclaim that bop, Congresswoman!

56. YOU WANT TO TALK HARMONIES? YOU WANT TO TALK RUNS? God dammit, I just lost my lace-front.

57. My live feed cut out for a minute while a blond-bobbed diva was en route to taking me to church. I hate technology when I don’t love it.

58. OH SNAP. The Holy Ghost is spreading and folks are dancing in the aisle. This is how you do a homegoing, kids.

Ugh, I love black folks.

59. Wait, Aretha’s favorite show was The Haves and Have Nots?

I’ll say it again, black folks love them some Tyler Perry. Also, how allegedly “busy” is this cast’s schedule out of which they’re taking time.

60. Aretha sounds like such a great auntie and grandma.😢

61. Is there anyone else named Aretha? Can there be anyone else named Aretha?

62. I love that they took some time to lay out all of Aretha’s receipts, which are numerous and staggering.

63. Standing O for Maxine Waters! At the behest of Bishop Ellis, referencing the attacks she’s been subjected to, everyone yelled in her face, “We got your back.” Okay, I take it back—this might actually be the blackest thing any of us will see all year.

64. Mmm, I love an “Ave Maria” moment. Especially when sung in an operatic tone (no offense to Queen Bey). On that (gorgeous) note, more black opera divas please. Shout-out to Alice McAllister Tillman.

65. John McCain getting a shout-out (I mean, sure) from Michigan Senator Debbie Stabenow, who will fly out to attend McCain’s funeral after this. To which I say, what’s your excuse, Obamas?

66. Can we really stop referring to Bill Clinton as the “first black president”—especially now with an actual first black president? And also, can black folks take some time to reassess Bill’s legacy? Because I’m tired.

67.I know Bill Clinton did not just play some Aretha from his cell phone.

Angela Weiss / Getty

68. Mmm, some more opera! This time Audrey DuBois Harris. We’re getting CULTURE today, kids. And also an array of black musical excellence. Just the way Aretha would have wanted it.

69. I love that the music hasn’t even stopped, homegirl barely stepped away from the podium, but Shirley Caesar is ready. To. Go…. Uh-oh! Shirley’s doing one of my fave Aretha songs, from 1972’s Amazing Grace, “How I Got Over.”

I’m not even the slightest bit religious but I’m about to catch all this spirit.

70. Fatigue is beginning to set in. There are a lot of lovely words being spoken, which is great, but I’m just going to (figuratively) tune out until someone starts belting again.

71. Perking back up! COME ON, CHAKA!

A stunt is bringing an ostentatious fan up onstage and never using it. Then Mama left the stage and is STILL singing. With everyone ad libbing for their lives, I don’t know if this funeral will ever end.

72. “We have long lines for death and short lines for voting.” Jesse Jackson may not be as spry as he used to be but he’s still quick with a good read. Also, I love the political overtones of this homegoing. Just the way Aretha would have wanted it.

73. Fantasia did not come to fuck around. Sis took off her shoes as soon as she got onstage.

Since Patti’s not here, someone had to kick off a Louboutin. Meanwhile, Fantasia walked off while still singing and I half-expected her to run back on, barefoot, and dropkick the mic. Just cuz.

74. Has anyone in the history of the world ever looked better than Cicely Tyson right now?

Angela Weiss / Getty
And her eulogy deserves a Tony, an Emmy, an Oscar and a Nobel Peace Prize.

75. This wouldn’t be a tribute to a black diva without Yolanda Adams.

76. This homegoing was supposed to be over at 3 and as of 5:11 it’s still going strong. What can I say, you can’t give a black preacher a microphone and expect to get out on time. But it’s a Friday evening before Labor Day and the lights are turning off. Aretha, I love you, but I need a drink.

Update: Well, Jennifer Hudson came through and blew the roof off the church.

Lester Fabian Brathwaite is an LA-based writer, editor, bon vivant, and all-around sassbag. He's formerly Senior Editor of Out Magazine and is currently hungry. Insta: @lefabrat