Aretha Franklin could have just about anyone perform at her funeral and there’s zero chance the performer in question would overshadow Franklin’s legacy. Even when one of those performers has staked a pretty convincing claim to one of your most memorable songs. The memorial service for the late soul singer took place in Detroit Friday, and among the starry roster of musicians slated to perform was Ariana Grande, who also performed a tribute to Franklin during a recent appearance on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon.
As Grande and fiancé Pete Davidson arrived at the ceremony, they caucused briefly (and snapped a selfie) with Hillary Clinton before taking their seats. Grande first met Franklin in 2014, when both were invited to perform at the Obama White House (Barack and Michelle Obama were unable to attend the funeral), and they apparently were in touch a couple times after that: “She called me one time, it was one time only, and she goes, ‘Hi, its Aretha.’ I’m like, ‘Franklin?’” Grande recalled during her interview with Jimmy Fallon on the day of Franklin’s death.
During that same appearance on The Tonight Show, Grande also performed a cover of “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman”—which she then reprised at Franklin’s funeral Friday. She performed with accompaniment from the house band and a handful of backup singers at the Greater Grace Temple in Detroit, where the ceremony took place; when she concluded the song, she was about to step off the stage, but Charles Ellis III, the bishop at Grace Temple and the event’s master of ceremonies, stopped her.
“When I saw Ariana Grande on the program, I thought that was a new something at Taco Bell,” he said, joking. “Girl, I gotta give you all your respect,” he went on (pun intended?), before turning to the crowd: “Did you all enjoy this icon?” he asked. They cheered in response, echoing the ensuing response from observers on social media (the event was live-streamed).
The event also featured performers including Stevie Wonder, Faith Hill, Jennifer Hudson, and Chaka Khan; among the attendees were the Clintons, Whoopi Goldberg, and Cicely Tyson, whose expansive hat rivaled Grande’s performance.