Bill Clinton eulogizes Franklin: Hillary and I were 'Aretha groupies'

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Grande, who has become one of music's biggest names over the past two years, was invited to perform at the funeral after impressing Franklin's family with her tribute on Jimmy Fallon's The Tonight Show following the musician's death at 76 earlier this month.

Former secretary of state Hillary Clinton accompanied her husband to the service. A screen broadcasting the funeral was erected in a nearby gas station.

Robinson, the Motown great, remembered first hearing her play piano when he was just 8 and remaining close for the rest of her life, talking for hours at a time. The choir of angels now have the greatest voice of all time to lead, praise and join in to sing before Jesus.

"I'm so thankful that they've opened this up to the public so we can be a part of it". And while no one could claim Hill's rendition of "What a Friend We Have in Jesus" (which Hill has performed many times before) wasn't passionate and honest, it seemed nerves got the better of her Friday.

Pink Cadillacs - some having been driven across the country - parked en masse outside the church, expected to follow her cortege to the cemetery where she is to be buried alongside her father and siblings.

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Speaking about the late singer, funeral directors Swanson said: "God didn't make a better singer and there isn't a better casket than her 24 karat gold one".

Outside, dozens of pink Cadillac owners worked together to pay their respects, lining the road ahead of Franklin's funeral. She was "gaunt" but went on to perform for 45 minutes.

Taking to Twitter, a British Army spokesperson said: "Respect for others underpins all we do in the British Army so it was no surprise that the Welsh Guards Band paid tribute to musical icon and inspiration Aretha Franklin at Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace today".

Friday's service, however, will feature those who knew and loved Franklin most, such as her childhood friend, singer Smokey Robinson, who talked to CNN soon after Franklin died about their life-long friendship.

Barbara Sampson read a statement from former President George W. Bush, saying that Franklin would continue to inspire future generations.

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