Farewell to The Queen

“When I saw Ariana Grande on the program, I thought that was something at Taco Bell!  
Bishop Charles H. Ellis, who presided over Aretha Franklin’s funeral, shares his thoughts on Miss Grande after her
performance.  What does it say about me that I had the same thought?  Meet you at the Taco Bell, Bishop.

ATTENTION ALL MEDIA OUTLETS:  Can you please get your shit together?  I hate to start off like this, but it’s really getting out of control.  First, Fox News used a photo of Patti LaBelle in their tribute to Aretha Franklin.  And then, the BBC used a photo of Jenifer Lewis!!!  Y’all, Jenifer’s like a generation younger than Aretha.  Come on – all black people do not look alike.  Next you’ll say all gay people look alike – and I swear to you THAT’S not true.

The confusion stemmed from Jenifer’s performance at the Aretha Tribute Concert that took place on the eve of the funeral.  Accompanied by the prodigious Marc Shaiman, Lewis sang a self-penned composition, “Thank You, Aretha”.  Standing under the illuminated “Aretha” sign, the Brits simply got confused…as they are wont to do.  But there was no confusing Jen’s sentiment, as you’ll see on BillyMasters.com.

Prior to Jenifer, people watching the concert at home saw Patti LaBelle sing a teary rendition of “You Are My Friend”.  Except, she didn’t.  Sure, she sang it…at a concert at the Dell Music Center in Philadelphia a week earlier.  They simply filmed it and rolled it into the tribute concert, and most of the home viewers were none the wiser.  That’s what I’m here for.

Then there was the funeral.  Thank God I was watching from home.  I was able to put it on pause, go out to eat, watch a little more, take a nap, etc.  Poor Bill Clinton looked like he was gonna pass out.  Many people commented on Jesse Jackson’s distressed appearance.  In case you don’t know, late last year he announced that he’s been diagnosed with Parkinson’s.  So, I attribute it to that.  Some of the people who didn’t come, sent flowers.  Folks like Barbra Streisand, Tony Bennett, Sir Elton John, Mariah Carey, and Diane Ross all sent enormous tributes. 

Me-oh-my-oh – that was SOME hat on Miss Cicely Tyson!  For much of the service, I wasn’t even sure there was someone under it!  But, God love her, the 91-year-old legend launched into a freewheeling adaptation of Paul Laurence Dunbar’s When Malindy Sings, rechristened, When Aretha Sings.  Then there was Chaka Khan, who I thought was wearing a choir robe…or two.  In case you were wondering, her fan had dual purpose – it not only kept her cool, but also had the lyrics to “Going Up Yonder” printed on the back!  A very tasteful and appropriate Jennifer Hudson paid tribute to Aretha with “Amazing Grace”, further cementing her position as Franklin’s appointed portrayer for the proposed biopic.  Fantasia kicked off her shoes and stalked the stage with “Bridge Over Troubled Water”.  Stevie Wonder was the penultimate act, with “As”, backed by Shirley Murdock, Dottie Peoples, Angie Stone, and, wait, once again, Miss Jenifer Lewis wailing “Always”.  After that, Jennifer Holliday ended the ceremony with “Climbing Higher Mountains” as the casket was taken out of the church.

I believe the whole “show” (for lack of a better term) was stolen by Gladys Knight, who sang rings around everyone with “You’ll Never Walk Alone” and “Bridge Over Troubled Water” (you can never hear that enough times).  But she inadvertently caused quite a bit of gossip.  On her way into the funeral, she revealed that she met with Aretha about a year earlier.  Gladys said, “At that time, we shared the fact that we had the same disease.”  So, it wasn’t a stretch that most people thought Knight revealed she too has pancreatic cancer (she does look quite thin).  In a statement she released later that day, she said, “I’d like to clarify that Aretha and I discussed both of us having cancer, mine was stage 1 breast cancer and hers was pancreatic.  Due to early detection, I am cancer-free and grateful for that.”  She also chastised the media for spending time gossiping about her – especially on a day where we should be “celebrating Aretha’s life and massive contributions to our world.”

There was a much more unexpected tribute to Aretha that took place across the pond.  Perhaps to make up for the BBC’s little faux pas, Queen Elizabeth personally instructed the Royal Guards to play “Respect” during the traditional changing of the guards.  As luck would have it, the changing of the guard took place at the same time the funeral was going on.  Of course, it was pretty easy to coincide with a funeral that was 10 HOURS LONG!  Now if only QEII came out dancing to it – or at the very least sent Meghan Markle to do the honors!

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