Some of music's most memorable names are joining together to honor an industry legend. On Thursday, Aug. 23 the Associated Press reported that Stevie Wonder will perform at Aretha Franklin's funeral, along with Jennifer Hudson, Faith Hill, Fantasia, Jennifer Holliday, Chaka Khan, and Franklin's son Edward. AP noted "many more will perform," which means that's not even a definitive list. Franklin's funeral will be held next Friday, Aug. 31 in Detroit, a location which held significance to the singer. According to CBS News, she was born in Memphis, but grew up in Detroit, where she sang in her church choir.
Last Thursday, Aug. 16, news broke that Franklin passed away at age 76 from pancreatic cancer. On behalf of the Queen of Soul's family, longtime publicist Gwendolyn Quinn released a statement to publications, including the Associated Press, which read in part:
"In one of the darkest moments of our lives, we are not able to find the appropriate words to express the pain in our heart. We have lost the matriarch and rock of our family. The love she had for her children, grandchildren, nieces, nephews, and cousins knew no bounds.
We have been deeply touched by the incredible outpouring of love and support we have received from close friends, supporters and fans all around the world. Thank you for your compassion and prayers. We have felt your love for Aretha and it brings us comfort to know that her legacy will live on. As we grieve, we ask that you respect our privacy during this difficult time."
Soon after the news spread, the mark Franklin left on the music industry — and beyond — was widely acknowledged on social media by singers and fans alike. And the range of talent performing in her memory next week may encapsulate that influence the best. During her career, Franklin won 18 Grammys and made history as the first woman inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.
According to People, Stevie Wonder recalled Franklin's major impact during an interview with CBS This Morning last week. Wonder said,
"She did incredible music, incredible singer. She touched every genre. Every singer was influenced in some way by the way she sang. They will forever be influenced by her because of her voice, her emotion, her sincerity is unforgettable."
He added, "She was just consistently a great human being and she always — even with whatever turmoil that may have been happening in her life — she did not put that on anybody else... She brought joy to a lot of lives and her voice and the essence of her will stay with all of us."
Given his close connection to the singer, Wonder performing at the funeral is guaranteed to be bittersweet, but also a beautiful tribute from someone who knew her well.
The same can be said for the other artists selected. As USA Today reported, Franklin hand-picked Jennifer Hudson to play her in an upcoming biopic, so it's fitting that she's performing. Meanwhile, Faith Hill tweeted about how humbled she felt to meet Franklin in a heartfelt post after her passing. The country singer wrote,
"The choir of angels now have the greatest voice of all time to lead, praise and join in to sing before Jesus. I wanted to share this photo because it shows just how soulful Aretha was without uttering a word. To say I was humbled to be in her presence would be an understatement."
Of course, there's no way that anyone can ever replace Franklin, but by bringing together the artists who knew her best, they'll hopefully do her legacy justice. And as heartbreaking as the funeral may be, it just goes to show how many people Franklin's music touched over the course of her decades-long career.