Aretha Franklin’s Funeral to be in Detroit

Relatives of the late singer Aretha Franklin say her funeral will be August 31 in her hometown of Detroit.

There will be a two-day public viewing before the funeral at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History in Detroit, a publicist for the family, Gwendolyn Quinn, said, to allow fans to mourn.

The funeral will take place at Greater Grace Temple, which seats about 4,000 people and will be limited to family, friends and invited guests, which are expected to include dignitaries and music royalty from around the world.

Following the funeral, Franklin is to be buried with other members of her family at Woodlawn Cemetery.

Franklin died Thursday at her home in Detroit at the age of 76 from pancreatic cancer.

The Grammy-winning vocalist was born in Memphis, Tennessee, but grew up in Detroit after moving there as a youngster with her family.

Her talent was recognized at a young age as she played piano and sang hymns at the church where her father, C.L. Franklin, was a popular preacher.

Franklin moved into pop and jazz music at age 18 on the Columbia Records label. But her real breakthrough came in 1967 on Atlantic Records, which allowed her to sing with her natural gospel intensity for the first time.

She rocketed to national fame that year with a series of hit singles, including “Chain of Fools,” “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman,” and her most famous song, “R-E-S-P-E-C-T,” her first No. 1 hit on the Billboard Hot 100.

Franklin eventually racked up more than 110 entries on Billboard magazine’s charts, the most by any woman in the magazine’s history. In 1987, she became the first woman to be inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.

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Miss America: Leadership Bullied, Manipulated, Silenced Me

The reigning Miss America says she has been bullied, manipulated and silenced by the pageant’s current leadership, including Gretchen Carlson.

In a letter sent Friday to former Miss Americas, Cara Mund says she decided to speak out despite the risk of punishment.

Her letter is reminiscent of the movie Mean Girls, in which characters Gretchen and Regina bully the heroine and make her life miserable. That’s what happened to her in real life, Mund wrote. Carlson is chairwoman of the Miss America Organization; Regina Hopper is its CEO.

Her letter exponentially increased the turmoil surrounding the pageant three weeks before the next Miss America is to be crowned in Atlantic City.

“Let me be blunt: I strongly believe that my voice is not heard nor wanted by our current leadership; nor do they have any interest in knowing who I am and how my experiences relate to positioning the organization for the future,” Mund wrote. “Our chair and CEO have systematically silenced me, reduced me, marginalized me, and essentially erased me in my role as Miss America in subtle and not-so-subtle ways on a daily basis. After a while, the patterns have clearly emerged, and the sheer accumulation of the disrespect, passive-aggressive behavior, belittlement, and outright exclusion has taken a serious toll.”

Mund said she’s been left out of interviews, not invited to meetings and called the wrong name. When she obliquely hinted at trouble with pageant leadership in an interview earlier this month with The Press of Atlantic City, Mund said she was swiftly punished by having her televised farewell speech cut to 30 seconds, and was told a dress she had been approved to wear in the traditional “show us your shoes” parade cannot be worn.

This year’s competition will not include swimsuits, and pageant officials from at least 19 states have called for the current leadership to resign.

There was no immediate response from The Miss America Organization or from Carlson and Hopper, who were singled out in Mund’s letter.

Mund said she was given three talking points to be made in every appearance: “Miss America is relevant. The #MeToo movement started with a Miss America, Gretchen Carlson. Gretchen Carlson went to Stanford.” (Mund said she was allowed to mention that she went to Brown to show that both women were highly educated.)

“Right away, the new leadership delivered an important message: There will be only one Miss America at a time, and she isn’t me,” Mund wrote.

Mund, who was Miss North Dakota and won the crown on a platform of increasing the number of women elected to political office, said she was treated better by the previous Miss America leadership that was forced from power after sending emails ridiculing the appearance, intellect and sex lives of former Miss Americas.

She cites examples of mistreatment including being excluded from the nationally televised announcement that swimsuits were being eliminated — even though she was with Carlson at the TV studio where it was made. She says pageant handlers ridiculed her clothing choices and chided her for wearing the same outfits too often. When she reached out to former Miss Americas to see if they had been treated similarly, “I was reprimanded by Regina who told me that problems and concerns had to be kept ‘in the family.'”

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Fans Gather in New York, Los Angeles to Bid Aretha Goodbye

Fans of Aretha Franklin came together at New York City’s landmark Apollo Theater and on the Hollywood Walk of Fame on Thursday to pay their respects to the Queen of Soul, singing along to her hits and sharing memories of her remarkable career.

Franklin, known for such classic songs as “Respect” and “Chain of Fools,” died at home in Detroit on Thursday at the age of 76 after a battle with pancreatic cancer, her family said.

“My heart feels empty,” said Sheila Black, 51, outside the Apollo, not far from where she grew up in Harlem, as she recalled listening to Franklin’s “Another Night Without You” to get over heartbreak. “Her music will live forever. I’m just so sad that we had to lose her.”

Billy Mitchell, the Apollo’s historian, said the landmark theater would likely hold a tribute to one of its most beloved performers.

“We’re sad but we’re very grateful to have had someone like Aretha Franklin in our lifetime,” said Mitchell, known as “Mr. Apollo.”

Inducted to the Apollo’s Walk of Fame in 2010, Franklin performed there more than a dozen times, most recently in 2010.

Her June 1971 “homecoming” show “drove fans to near-hysteria,” according to the theater.

“Aretha’s legacy should be excellence in music,” Mitchell said. “There’s a reason why she’s queen. You don’t get to get that title by being mediocre.”

Lou Adams, 77, who had seen Franklin perform at the Apollo, said she was one of the greats. “It’s an experience you can’t explain; you have to feel,” he said of the concert.

Fans gathered at Franklin’s star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, leaving flowers and candles and sharing tributes to the entertainer.

“Every time one of her songs comes on, everyone sings along, everyone knows the lyrics and… her songs give you that power, like that confidence to step out into the world and to feel, as a woman and as a black woman, like, that you are beautiful and that you can do it,” said Chelsea Monroe, 29.

Crystal Carpenter, 56, said she grew up listening to Franklin in the late 60s and early 70s.

“And my mom bought this album back in ’71 and now I have it,” Carpenter said, holding a copy of Franklin’s ‘Amazing Grace,’ which was recorded live in the Watts neighborhood of Los Angeles.

“I love her gospel, secular, everything,” Carpenter said. “She was the queen.”

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Little Leaguers Connect With Translate, Fortnite, Facebook

Outfielder Rolando Rodriguez from Panama heard a reporter’s question, but he doesn’t speak English. So Georgia shortstop Tai Peete helped him out, pecking the words into Google Translate to ask about how young baseball players are sharing technology during the Little League World Series.

“It was easier than expected,” Rodriguez said of the language barrier, speaking through an interpreter.

So goes life in the International Grove, the dorms where 16 teams all are staying during the double-elimination tournament in pursuit of a world title. Apps and even video games are making it easier for the boys to communicate and get to know each other — making smartphones a key part rather than a distraction during their moment of a lifetime.

Eight teams are from U.S. states while the other teams represent various countries around the world and the U.S. territory of Puerto Rico.  Players are using Translate to input questions in their native languages and let other players read or hear them in one of more than 100 languages.

Trading pins

That’s changing some of the tournament’s traditions. For example, each team has pins that they are given to trade with other teams. While body language used to go a long way in this process, players are using technology to directly ask for trades.

No words actually need to be spoken aloud, but the kids still are helping fellow baseball players pronounce the words, learning a little bit of a new language in the process.

“I talked to the Mexico team,” Peete said. “I was talking about Little League and they couldn’t pronounce it, so I was helping them.”

Even with better technology, language and cultural barriers still exist.

It’s “a lot harder than I thought,” said Lee Jae-hyeok of South Korea, who noted through a human interpreter that players also were using Facebook to connect.

The days leading up to the start of the series on Thursday consisted of practices, interviews and hanging out in the players village. For the duration of the tournament, each team from the U.S. bracket shares a dorm with one of the international teams. The rooms have bunk beds and TVs, but no Wi-Fi.

They do have a game room, however, which allows players to get their video game fix in a more social way.

Arcade games, table tennis

The space has arcade games, including bowling and motorcycle simulators, but also activities like table tennis. Peete taught the tailgate favorite cornhole to the Australian club.

One common thread for most of the boys: Fortnite, the massively popular, multiplayer shootout video game. They don’t have their consoles but they can still play on their phones and try to impress each other with renditions of the famous dances done by the game’s characters.

But the reason for their visit to Pennsylvania loomed.

“Can we play a [baseball] game?” Peete asked a volunteer at the Little League complex before the tournament started, suggesting that maybe the whole World Series could be moved up.

“There’s nothing else to do,” he said.

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Aretha Franklin Leaves a Powerful Civil Rights Legacy

Aretha Franklin, who was born and rose to fame during the segregation era and went on to sing at the inauguration of the first black president, often used her talent, fortune and platform to inspire millions of black Americans and support the fight for racial equality.

“She not only provided the soundtrack for the civil rights movement, Aretha’s music transcended race, nationality and religion and helped people from all backgrounds to recognize what they had in common,” said longtime civil rights leader the Rev. Joseph E. Lowery.

Franklin, who died Thursday at 76, was a close confidante of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and a financial lifeline to the civil rights organization he co-founded, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.

​Father’s commitment

The Queen of Soul’s commitment to civil rights was instilled by her father, the Rev. C.L. Franklin, who also knew King and preached social justice from his pulpit at New Bethel Baptist Church in Detroit.

The church, in fact, was the first place King gave his “I Have a Dream” speech in 1963. Among those in the congregation were Aretha Franklin and Mahalia Jackson. It was Jackson who later urged the civil rights leader to “tell them about the dream, Martin” at the March on Washington, where he delivered the oration for which he is most famous.

Franklin recorded “Respect” on Valentine’s Day 1967. Black Americans had won federal legislation outlawing segregation and protecting their voting rights, particularly in the Deep South.

But blacks were still a year away from the Fair Housing Act. And just months after the song was recorded, urban centers, including Franklin’s hometown of Detroit, would burn, exposing police brutality and unequal living conditions and job opportunities.

Financial backer

“Her songs were songs of the movement,” Andrew Young, the former King lieutenant and U.N. ambassador, said Thursday. “R-E-S-P-E-C-T. … That’s basically what we wanted. The movement was about respect.”

The SCLC often struggled financially, but Franklin played a vital role in keeping the movement afloat.

“Almost every time we needed money, there were two people we could always count on: Aretha Franklin and Harry Belafonte,” Young said. “They would get together and have a concert, and that would put us back on our feet.”

Strong faith

King and Franklin were like spiritual siblings, sharing a bond rooted in their Christian faith, Young said. King would often ask Franklin to sing his favorite songs, “Amazing Grace” or “Precious Lord, Take My Hand.” When King was assassinated in 1968, Franklin sang “Precious Lord” at his funeral in Atlanta.

Franklin’s “Amazing Grace” was also a comfort to the Rev. Al Sharpton when he was a boy. He recalled that his mother would play the song nonstop in their Brooklyn home after his father left.

As an adult and an activist, Sharpton became friends with the soul singer. He noted her unwavering faith, which she brought with her on stage to every performance.

“Whether it was the White House, Radio City Music Hall or the Apollo Theater, she always did gospel numbers,” Sharpton said. “She was unapologetically a hardcore, faith-believing Baptist. At the height of her career, she cut a gospel album. Who does that? Her faith is what motivated her.”

Committed to social justice

Long after the civil rights movement ended, Franklin remained committed to social justice, helping Sharpton as he began his organization, the National Action Network, in New York. She would call Sharpton for updates on the emerging Black Lives Matter movement, asking about such cases as those of Trayvon Martin and Eric Garner.

“She gave so much to so many people, from Dr. King, to Mandela, to Barack Obama,” said Rev. Jesse Jackson, a longtime friend who visited her the day before her death.

Her presence and influence were as valuable to the movement as her financial contributions, Sharpton said.

“To have someone like that that involved and interested … was a statement,” he said. “It gave all the credibility in the world. Others had celebrity, but she had gravity and respect.”

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Queen of Soul Aretha Franklin Dies

Musical icon Aretha Franklin, known by millions around the world as the Queen of Soul, is dead at the age of 76. The American singer — who had been ill for a while — was considered one of the country’s greatest musical artists. She sold millions of albums, received numerous honors and awards — including 18 Grammys — and was loved by generations of fans, artists and celebrities the world over. VOA’s Julie Taboh has more.

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‘Queen of Soul’ Aretha Franklin Dies

Aretha Franklin, the American singer known to millions of fans around the world as the “Queen of Soul,” has died at the age of 76.

Franklin passed away Thursday in her hometown of Detroit, where she had been under hospice care after a long battle with cancer.

Born March 25, 1942, in Memphis, Tennessee, Franklin was raised in Detroit, where her father, C.L. Franklin, was a popular preacher. Her talent was recognized at a young age as she played piano and sang hymns at his church services.

Franklin moved into pop and jazz music at age 18 on the Columbia Records label. But her real breakthrough came in 1967 on Atlantic Records, which allowed her to sing with her natural gospel intensity for the first time.

She rocketed to national fame that year with a series of hit singles, including “Chain of Fools,” “A Natural Woman,” and her most famous song, “Respect,” her first No. 1 hit on the Billboard Hot 100.

The song was written by singer-songwriter Otis Redding, who died the year it was released in 1967. But Franklin transformed the song into an anthem for blacks and women by rewriting some of the lyrics and adding lines that spelled out the title: “R-E-S-P-E-C-T, find out what it means to me.”

She eventually racked up more than 110 entries in Billboard magazine’s charts, the most by any woman in the magazine’s history. In 1987, Franklin became the first woman to be inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.

She also recorded popular and acclaimed albums such as “Amazing Grace” and “Young, Gifted and Black.”

After a downturn in the late 1970s, Franklin’s career rebounded with an appearance in the 1980 film “The Blues Brothers” and a new series of hits, including “Freeway of Love.”

Franklin struggled with weight and health problems, but even in her older years, her soaring voice remained a thing of wonder.

In 2009, she sang at President Barack Obama’s first inauguration, thrilling the crowd with a rendition of “My Country ‘Tis of Thee.”

She made headlines again in 2016 when she sang a four-and-a-half-minute rendition of the U.S. national anthem before a Detroit Lions football game.

Paul McCartney was among those paying tribute to Franklin on Thursday.  “Let’s all take a moment to give thanks for the beautiful life of Aretha Franklin, the Queen of our souls, who inspired us all for many many years. She will be missed but the memory of her greatness as a musician and a fine human being will live with us forever,” he said on Twitter.

Elton John said “The loss of @ArethaFranklin is a blow for everybody who loves real music: Music from the heart, the soul and the Church. Her voice was unique, her piano playing underrated – she was one of my favourite pianists.” 

President Donald Trump said “The Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin, is dead. She was a great woman, with a wonderful gift from God, her voice. She will be missed!”

Former President Barack Obama and his wife Michelle sent “prayers and warmest sympathies to her family and all those moved by her song.”  

“Through her compositions and unmatched musicianship, Aretha helped define the American experience.  In her voice, we could feel our history, all of it and in every shade—our power and our pain, our darkness and our light, our quest for redemption and our hard-won respect,” the Obamas said in a statement. “Aretha may have passed on to a better place, but the gift of her music remains to inspire us all.  May the Queen of Soul rest in eternal peace.”

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‘Simpsons’ Creator Brings Animated Fantasy Show to Netflix

The creator of the long-running animated TV series The Simpsons brings his first new show in 20 years to Netflix this week, a story that centers around a drunken princess, an elf and a demon.

Set in a medieval world called Dreamland, Disenchantment is creator Matt Groening’s take on shows like HBO’s blockbuster fantasy series Game of Thrones.

Speaking at the show’s Los Angeles premiere on Tuesday, Groening said the program is “more emotional” than The Simpsons or his other animated hit, Futurama. He said Netflix gave him “free rein” to create whatever he wanted.

Netflix will release all 10 episodes of Disenchantment on Friday.

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Diamond Won’t Let Parkinson’s Slow Him Down

Neil Diamond may have retired from the road because of Parkinson’s disease, but he said he’s working hard to get back onstage.

“Well, I’m doing pretty well. I’m active. I take my meds. I do my workouts. I’m in pretty good shape. I’m feeling good. I want to stay productive. I still have my voice. I just can’t do the traveling that I once did, but I have my wife there supporting me [and] friends,” he said in an interview with The Associated Press.

“It does have its challenges, but I’m feeling good and I feel very positive. … I’m feeling better every day,” he added. “Just dealing with it as best I can, and just keep the music coming.”

The 77-year-old canceled planned concerts when he announced he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s in January. Still, fans will be able to see the icon perform with Hot August Night Ill, a live concert CD/DVD chronicling his return to the Greek Theatre in Los Angeles in August 2012. It’s out on Friday.

1972 album

The two-hour-plus performance featuring 33 songs celebrated the 40th anniversary of his original Hot August Night live album, also recorded at the Greek in August 1972. He performed 10 shows at the venue that month.

“It brings back memories — very deep, loving and warm memories,” he said of his performance. “Playing there and doing music relating to the audience, it was special. It’s a special experience for me.”

He said he watched the 2012 footage recently as it was edited for the new release, and he called it “one of the best live performances that I’ve done and I’m proud of it.”

“I love the chemistry with the audience and myself. That’s part of the thrill of the whole thing. There’s a little magic involved in it,” he said. “I’m just going to keep on keeping on, and that’s about it.”

“The thing I love most about live performing is that it’s very much in the moment. It’s just something that you really can’t describe,” he continued. “You just have to be there and let the moment happen. Let yourself connect with the audience. Let that relationship with the audience express itself. It’s a powerful tool.”

Diamond is one of music’s best-selling singers with a number of hit songs, including Sweet Caroline, America and Love on the Rocks.

One-song shows

He’s given one-song performances since his Parkinson’s diagnosis, including at the Songwriters Hall of Fame in June and last month for firefighters battling a blaze near his Colorado home.

He said he’s not sure he can perform more than one song at the moment, but added: “The only way I could find out is to actually do it.”

“But I think I can, and I will give it a try at some point,” he added. “I’m glad to still be around. The fact that I’m still singing well is a bonus and I hope to continue doing it, but in a format that I can handle.”

Could a residency be a possibility?

“Well, I feel I can do it. I want to do it,” he said. “It’s just a matter of resting up, finding the time, preparing, and then just doing the show.”

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From Reese Witherspoon to Sarah Jessica Parker, the Rise of Celeb Book Clubs

Jimmy Fallon remembers a summer a few years back when it seemed everybody was reading Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn.

“Everyone had that book. If we had people over, or went on vacation poolside, people had that book wrinkled and curled up. I read it with my wife and we read every chapter together and we’d be like, ‘[Gasps] This is great!’ It was the world’s smallest book club,” he laughed.

This summer, Fallon decided to expand his book club of two to include his late-night audience. In June, he launched “Tonight Show Summer Reads.” Fallon presented five book options on his show and instructed viewers to go online and vote for their favorite. The results exceeded his expectations with 140,000 votes. The winner was Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi.

“Any way to engage the audience and to do stuff with them is always more fun,” said Fallon.

He also enthusiastically tracked how the books performed on Amazon after a mention on his show. The company confirms he had an impact.

“When a celebrity decides to get behind a book, we generally see a lift in sales,” said Chris Schluep, an editor at Amazon. “For instance, Children of Blood and Bone has been selling well this year. But the week after Jimmy Fallon selected it as the first Tonight Show book club selection, it sold nearly three times the number of print, Kindle and Audible books that it had sold in the previous week at Amazon.”

Reese Witherspoon

Fallon isn’t the only celebrity to follow in Oprah Winfrey’s footsteps with a book club. Reese Witherspoon has made such a success of her monthly literary picks that publishers are now putting Reese stickers on her selections.

“It’s fantastic and we have a great experience,” said Witherspoon, who has bought the rights to many of her picks to adapt for film or television. One of her selections, Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Cg will be a limited series on Hulu starring Witherspoon and Kerry Washington.

The Oscar winner has also partnered with the audio producer-distributor Audible on audio recordings of her selections.

Emma Roberts

Emma Roberts has turned her lifelong love of reading into a pet project she calls Belletrist. A website and social media for Belletrist celebrate all things books. Each month they feature a new book to read and even an independent bookstore to check out.

“Belletrist is my baby,” said Roberts, who runs the site with her partner, Karah Preiss.

She says there is “no criteria” for books she features because her personal taste is so varied, but she does tend to lean toward highlighting female authors.

She wants to create a community for Belletrist followers to share thoughts and ideas about what they read.

Sarah Jessica Parker

Sarah Jessica Parker is so committed to reading that she’s partnered with the American Library Association to share her own suggestions. The goal, she says, is to not only get people to read but to also support their own local libraries.

When Parker was approached by publishing house Hogarth to start her own imprint, her respect for writing initially made her think it wasn’t a good idea.

“I didn’t think I had the experience and had too much respect for people who’ve been in publishing for a long time,” she said. But Parker then thought it could be a way to help champion works in the literary fiction space which isn’t always as commercial. The first novel printed by SJP for Hogarth, A Place for Us by Fatima Farheen Mirza, is a New York Times best-seller.

Parker said she also enjoys posting about books on social media because it’s a safe topic.

Books are the “one thing I can talk about on Instagram that’s not controversial,” she said. “Everybody wants to talk about their favorite books or their feelings about books and share title recommendations. I mean, it’s a huge exchange of information and enthusiasm and it’s really the easiest part of my relationship with social media certainly.”

Like Witherspoon, Roberts and Parker are open to the idea of giving a book they recommend the Hollywood treatment.

“One of the most exciting things about reading is thinking about how to bring it to life. I’m always imagining the show or the movie. We’re in an exciting time,” said Roberts.

Parker stresses her goal first and foremost is to help the author.

“I’m in it really for the genuinely purest of intentions — to introduce new authors to readers. And if the opportunity exists for there to be a discussion about any television or film rights, I would certainly enter in to those conversations. But that isn’t in any way my incentive.”

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