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Dressing For A Queen: Aretha Franklin Fans Pay Tribute To The Late Singer


Detroit is celebrating the life of the queen of soul in royal style this week before her funeral on Friday. For a second day, Aretha Franklin lies in repose at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History. NPR's Debbie Elliott reports some fans are paying tribute with their own version of Aretha's style.

DEBBIE ELLIOTT, BYLINE: The viewing is in the rotunda of the museum, a bright space filled with flowers. Fans stop at the gold-plated casket for a final farewell. Today Franklin is wearing a powder blue dress with matching heels. Yesterday she wore red. It's the regal treatment, says funeral home director O'Neil Swanson II.

O'NEIL SWANSON II: In keeping with her unusual personality and uniqueness, you have to provide a service that's different, distinguishable. And I think that's what this is. She's an iconic personality in this city and the entire nation.

ELLIOTT: Cecelia McPherson of Chesterfield, Mich., is impressed.

CECELIA MCPHERSON: Beautiful - she looked beautiful. She really did.

ELLIOTT: McPherson is honoring Franklin's memory with her own fashion statement.

MCPHERSON: You know, when I got ready, I said, I think I'm going to put on my Aretha hat. My husband said, I know you're not going to put on Aretha's hat - that hat - and go down there. I said, yes, I am. And I did (laughter). I just had to do it.

ELLIOTT: It's a royal blue satin hat with an oversized sequined bow on the front in the same style that Aretha Franklin wore when she sang at President Obama's inauguration.

MCPHERSON: I've met a lot of different people because of this Aretha hat.

ELLIOTT: There's a camaraderie here as people wait in line to pay their respects. A local radio station is playing Aretha's hits as people sing along.


ARETHA FRANKLIN: (Singing) Stand behind me. Come what may.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: I'm going to keep feeling real good.

ELLIOTT: Some are wearing T-shirts dedicated to the queen of soul. There are a few tiaras, a feather boa and more than one church hat. Denise Barrett-Hubbard came with a busload from Toronto, Canada. A black and white fascinator is pinned to her hair.

DENISE BARRETT-HUBBARD: I want to do something that honors the queen in me and the queen in her as well. So it's fun. It's beautiful. It's - yeah, it's just on.

ELLIOTT: Tomorrow there will be another visitation for Franklin at her late father's church. Her funeral is Friday. Debbie Elliott, NPR News, Detroit. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR National Correspondent Debbie Elliott can be heard telling stories from her native South. She covers the latest news and politics, and is attuned to the region's rich culture and history.
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