Aretha Franklin's farewell and funeral

By Chloe Melas, Veronica Rocha and Brian Ries, CNN

Updated 7:22 p.m. ET, August 31, 2018
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2:33 p.m. ET, August 31, 2018

Bill Clinton ends Aretha Franklin tribute with his smartphone and a microphone

President Bill Clinton ended his remarks at Aretha Franklin's funeral by letting the singer speak for herself.

Clinton first praised the values and virtues Franklin lived by and said, "She cared about broken people."

He continued: "She cared about people who were disappointed. She cared about people who didn't succeed as much as she did."

Clinton then put his phone to the microphone and played Franklin's 1968 hit "Think," which features Franklin singing about freedom.


2:12 p.m. ET, August 31, 2018

Bill Clinton: Hillary and I "started out as like Aretha groupies"

President Bill Clinton spoke about how, before he and Hillary Clinton were president and first lady, before she was a senator, a secretary of state, "we started out as like Aretha groupies or something."

"When we are getting out of college is when she finally got her big breakthroughs. It's one thing I want to say to the people in the audience. She had the voice of generation, maybe the voice of a century," he said.

Clinton added that she lived with courage, with faith, and with power. "I just loved her," he said.

2:06 p.m. ET, August 31, 2018

Eric Holder: "Aretha Franklin has always been a part of my life"

Former US Attorney General Eric Holder, speaking at Aretha Franklin's funeral, described the music icon as that "rare queen who never lost the common touch."

Franklin, he said, never forgot where she came from and who she was reaching to.

"In her voice was shared the joys, sadness, pain and faith of a people," Holder said. "Through the power of her artistry, her voice became universal for all people. You felt that in her music."

For those reasons, Holder said Franklin was always a part of his life.

"Aretha Franklin has always been a part of my life," Holder said. "I think all of us can truly, truly can say that."

2:05 p.m. ET, August 31, 2018

Funeral-goers shout "we got your back" to Rep. Maxine Waters at Aretha Franklin's funeral

Rep. Maxine Waters was asked to stand up at Aretha Franklin’s funeral.

Bishop Charles H. Ellis III said she has been “attacked like never before” and called her a strong black woman.

Waters stood up and blew the crowd a kiss as they shouted, “We got your back!”

1:30 p.m. ET, August 31, 2018

Read President George W. Bush’s letter to Franklin's family

From CNN's Deborah Doft

Barbara Sampson read a letter from President George W. Bush during today's funeral service.

"I am proud to have met Aretha and am grateful that her music will continue to bring joy to millions for generations to come," he wrote.

Bush presented the Presidential Medal of Freedom — the nation's highest civilian award — to Franklin on Nov. 9, 2005.

Here's his full letter:

To the family of Aretha L. Franklin, 
Laura and I are deeply saddened by the loss of the Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin. Our hearts ache for you and our prayers are with you. Aretha was a woman of achievement with a deep character and loving heart. She made important and lasting contributions to American music with her gospel-inspired style and distinctive voice. Her remarkable talent helped shape our nation's artistic and cultural heritage and in 2005, it was my privilege to honor her with our country’s highest civilian award, the Presidential Medal of Freedom. I am proud to have met Aretha and am grateful that her music will continue to bring joy to millions for generations to come. As you remember and honor Aretha’s life, may the Almighty comfort you in your grief and sustain you during this difficult time. Laura and I send our heartfelt sympathy. May God bless you.
George W. Bush
1:38 p.m. ET, August 31, 2018

Aretha Franklin's granddaughter: "Nothing sounded better to me than the way my grandma sings"

Aretha Franklin's granddaughter, Victorie Franklin, spoke a bit about growing up with such an iconic singer as her grandmother.

"I remember when I was a kid people used to always ask me what does it feel like to be Aretha Franklin's granddaughter? I would always shrug my shoulders and go I don't know. It's just my grandma," she said.

She added, "When I would go to her shows and watch her sing it would be the best feeling in the world. Nothing sounded better to me than the way my grandma sings. Her voice made you feel something. You felt every word, every note, every emotion in the songs she sang. Her voice brought peace."

The granddaughter added that "it feels amazing to see a woman so fierce, so courageous, gifted, so respected and to be able to call that my grandmother, to know that I have that running through my blood and that she's a part of who I am."

12:57 p.m. ET, August 31, 2018

Smokey Robinson sings goodbye to his "longest friend"

Smokey Robinson, a lifelong friend of Aretha Franklin's, spoke directly to Franklin and told her how the whole world is mourning at her passing.

"I've been watching the celebration of your life from everywhere and I've been doing interviews from everywhere, from all over the world. In fact, the last one I did was from Brazil and the station that I was talking on covered all of South America. So the world is celebrating you. And the world is mourning you and the world is going to miss you," he said.

He then sang his song, "Really Gonna Miss You," which includes the lyrics:

Really gonna miss you
It's really gonna be different without you
For the rest of my life
I'm gonna be thinking about you
I'll miss you my buddy
I'll miss you my friend
I know that my love for you will never end

"I will love you forever," he added.

1:30 p.m. ET, August 31, 2018

Al Sharpton reads a letter from President Obama

Al Sharpton just read a letter from former President Barack Obama, who described Aretha Franklin as an inspiration to all people "who may have just needed a little love."

"In the example she set both as an artist and a citizen, Aretha embodied those most revered virtues of forgiveness and reconciliation," Obama wrote.

Read Obama's letter:

Dear friends and family of Aretha,
Michelle and I extend our heartfelt sympathies to all of those who gathered in Detroit, and we join you in remembering and celebrating the life of the queen of soul. 
From a young age, Aretha Franklin rocked the world of anyone who had the pleasure of hearing her voice, whether bringing people together through thrilling intersections of genres or advancing important causes through the power of song, Aretha's work reflected the very best of the American story. In all of its hope and heart, its boldness and its unmistakable beauty. In the example she set both as an artist and a citizen, Aretha embodied those most revered virtues of forgiveness and reconciliation. While the music she made captured some of our deepest human desires, namely affection and respect, and through her voice, her own voice, Aretha lifted those of millions, empowering and inspiring the vulnerable, the downtrodden, and everyone who may have just needed a little love. Aretha truly was one of a kind, and as you pay tribute, know we'll be saying a little prayer for you and we'll be thinking of all of Aretha's loved ones in the days and weeks to come.
12:45 p.m. ET, August 31, 2018

Al Sharpton criticizes Trump for saying Franklin worked for him

The Rev. Al Sharpton sharply criticized President Donald Trump at Aretha Franklin's funeral over something Trump said in the wake of the soul singer's death.

"You know, the other Sunday on my show, I misspelled "Respect" and a lot of y'all corrected me," Sharpton said. "Now I want y'all to help correct President Trump to teach him what it means. And I say that because when word went out that Ms. Franklin passed, Trump said, 'She used to work for me.' No, she used to perform for you. She worked for us," Sharpton said to loud applause.

What Trump said: "I want to begin today by expressing my condolences to the family of a person I knew well. She worked for me on numerous occasions. She was terrific — Aretha Franklin — on her passing."