Ariana Grande and Stevie Wonder lead tributes to Aretha Franklin at memorial service

"Though the pain, she gave us the joy, and said, ‘Let’s make love great again.'"

Stars and fans have paid emotional tributes to Aretha Franklin during her funeral service in Detroit yesterday (August 31) at the Greater Grace Temple.

“We will have never known a queen like this,” Stevie Wonder said, as he paid tribute to the “Queen of Soul” in an emotive eulogy to the late star, who died of pancreatic cancer earlier this month, aged 76.

Between perofmrances of ‘The Lord’s Prayer’ and ‘As’, Wonder said the world needed to “make love great again” as a fitting tribute to “what Aretha said throughout her life.”

Wonder added: “What needs to happen today, not only in this nation but throughout the world, is that we need to make love great again…because black lives do matter. Because all lives do matter…that is what Aretha said throughout her life. Though the pain, she gave us the joy, and said, ‘Let’s make love great again.'”

Stevie Wonder performs at the funeral for Aretha Franklin at the Greater Grace Temple on August 31, 2018 in Detroit, Michigan. Credit: Scott Olson/Getty Images

Ariana Grande also performed at the service, singing one of Franklin’s most famous songs, (You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman.

Earlier this month, Grande paid tribute to Franklin by performing the same song on Jimmy Fallon’s The Tonight Show with the Roots. Grande also reminisced on the show about the time she spent with Franklin, saying “It was an honour to have met her.”

Grande was called back onto the stage following her performance at the service by the master of ceremonies, Bishop Charles Ellis, who praised the singer: “Let me give you all [the] respect.” He added that Grande “is an icon herself.”

However, there was controversy afterwards when Ellis was accused of “groping” the star and for a controversial comment where he likened the star to something at “Taco Bell”.

Singer Ariana Grande speaks with Bishop Charles Ellis III after performing at the funeral for Aretha Franklin at the Greater Grace Temple on August 31, 2018 in Detroit, Michigan. Credit: Scott Olson/Getty

He has since issued an apology: “Maybe I crossed the border, maybe I was too friendly or familiar but again, I apologise…I hug all the female artists and the male artists.”

“Everybody that was up, I shook their hands and hugged them. That’s what we are all about in the church. We are all about love.”

He added: “The last thing I want to do is to be a distraction to this day. This is all about Aretha Franklin.” Grande has not yet responded publicly to the comments.

Other tributes at the service included performances by Jennifer Hudson, Chaka Khan and Gladys Knight.

Lasting over seven hours, the service was both reflective and celebrity, focusing on Franklin’s gospel roots. Franklin began her career singing gospel in Detroit where she was a member of the New Bethel Baptist choir. The service also dedicated much to her illustrious career and her part in American’s civil rights movement.

Singer Chaka Khan performs at the funeral for Aretha Franklin at the Greater Grace Temple on August 31, 2018 in Detroit, Michigan. Credit: Scott Olson/Getty Images

Jennifer Hudson performs at the funeral for Aretha Franklin at the Greater Grace Temple on August 31, 2018 in Detroit, Michigan. Credit: Scott Olson/Getty

Mowtown legend Smokey Robinson, a long-time friend of the late singer, also delivered a eulogy to the star before singing a short a cappella dedication to Franklin.

Speaking about Franklin, Robinson said: “I’m going to miss our talks, we used to talk for hours about anything we wanted, or nothing at all…You will be a featured voice in the choir of Angels.”

Further tributes were paid by Bill Clinton and Barack Obama; Franklin had sang at both of their presidential inaugurations. In a speech, Clinton said: “The secret of her greatness is that she took this massive talent, and this perfect culture that raised her, and decided to be the composer of her own life’s song. And what a song it turned out to be.”

In a letter, Obama wrote: “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.”

Tributes were also paid to Franklin’s contributions to the civil rights movement. “She gave us pride and she gave us a regal bar to reach. And that’s why we’re all here. We don’t all agree on everything but we agree on Aretha,” said Reverend Al Sharpton.

“She gave us pride and she gave us a regal bar to reach. And that’s why we’re all here. We don’t all agree on everything but we agree on Aretha.”

He also went on to criticise President Trump, who said “she worked for me on numerous occasions” during his initial response to the star’s death. “No, she used to perform for you…Aretha never took orders from nobody but God,” Sharpton added.

NME‘s tribute to Franklin wrote: “The Queen Of Soul, the “voice of black America”, Lady Soul, arguably the greatest singer in living memory – Aretha Franklin, who died in her Detroit home on August 16 aged 76, will go down in musical history as one of the few artists that not only defined their times but transcended them to become a key figure in social change.”