Or anything that even approaches it?
Anyone with a pulse knows about the 8-hr spectacle that was Aretha Franklin’s funeral in Detroit on Friday, August 31.
Aside from the multitude of musicians performing – pop, gospel, R&B and soul artists among them – there were tributes and eulogies galore from multiple clergymen, former civil rights leaders, sports figures, actors, professors, a TV judge, and local elected officials, including the governor of Michigan.
Even three former presidents paid tribute, including one in person (Bill Clinton) and two others (Barack Obama and George W. Bush) who sent letters that were read aloud by Rev. Al Sharpton and Barbara Sampson, respectively. The likely only reason all three were not in attendance was that Obama and Bush remained in Washington for the late Sen. John McCain’s memorial service the next day.
In the days since, the marathon funeral has ironically taken on a life of its own with enough sub-plots and analyses to give the internet meme fodder for weeks. One clever soul joked he was “binge watching the first season of Aretha’s funeral on Netflix.” Another jokingly quoted Aretha as posthumously saying “bury me, already!”
In a country without any true royalty, Aretha Franklin went out as only royalty could. Many would like to believe she even planned it that way, from every pastor (save for the Reverend Jasper Williams and his “Black Lives Don’t Matter” speech) and every celebrity guest appearance right down to the four wardrobe changes she had while lying in state.
But seriously, who does that?
Well, Aretha does. And as the dust continues to settle on such a magnanimous event and people continue to quibble over whether the services were too long, too self-serving, too political, too secular, too over-the-top, and even – dare I say – too “black,” it made me wonder whether any remaining musicians of any genre, race or gender could call for the kind of sendoff Aretha received.
Not that any of them would want to. Aretha was in a class all her own and didn’t take her crown lightly. She demanded respect – even from those she didn’t reciprocate it – and in planning her services, Aretha’s family likely set the bar so high for her memorial that no one will ever be able to approach it.
But there are actually several musicians remaining who could get the royal treatment upon their deaths – perhaps minus the marathon-like aspect of Aretha’s.
This blog decided to look at a dozen musical celebrities – all legends in their own right – who might (or might not) be able to commission world leaders, get constant news coverage and have millions watching as they are eulogized when that day eventually comes. They are evaluated below in alphabetical order.
Beyoncé is one of the most influential, most compelling singers of the 21st century. In the age of visual and social media, Beyoncé has a huge following and, like Aretha’s fan base, it crosses multiple generations. Beyoncé also has the benefit of having mixed it up with presidents and presidential hopefuls including former President Obama and the Clintons.
Both in her music and in her actions, Beyoncé has been seen as an empowering figure for women - even employing all-female band members for her concert tours. And, like Aretha, Beyoncé in her own way has taken on civil rights causes including the issue of police brutality in the black community.
Though she is immensely talented, her worldwide success is often seen as being attributed to - or at least enhanced by - her sexual image during the video era. Her alignment with the hip-hop community could also be seen as a turn-off by some of the establishment’s elite. Bottom line: As Beyoncé just turned 37 years old on September 4 and her legacy is still growing, it’s far too early to determine whether she could command the kind of royal send-off that Aretha Franklin just did.