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Detroit church holds vigil for Aretha

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ARETHA FRANKLIN performs during the commemoration of the Elton John AIDS Foundation 25th year fall gala at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York City in New York, on Nov. 7, 2017. — REUTERS

DETROIT — The Detroit church once led by Aretha Franklin’s father — and where she first tested her remarkable voice — filled with music once again Wednesday as dozens gathered for a prayer vigil for the ailing “Queen of Soul.”

Civil rights leader Jesse Jackson and music legend Stevie Wonder were among the latest to visit the 76-year-old icon, as news of her failing health led to a flood of well-wishes this week.

Dozens, including ministers from multiple Detroit-area churches, gathered at New Bethel Baptist Church for a 5 a.m. service dedicated to Franklin, who influenced generations over a five-decade career.

Few details have emerged about the singer’s condition or illness, but she is said to be in hospice care, surrounded by family and friends.

The singer’s father CL Franklin was a preacher at New Bethel church, where a young Aretha got her start singing gospel music.

The 18-time Grammy award winner maintained ties with the church throughout the years, including making financial contributions and hosting events.




Franklin influenced generations of singers from pop diva Mariah Carey and the late Whitney Houston, to Alicia Keys, Beyonce, Mary J. Blige and the late Amy Winehouse.

The vigil was part of an outpouring of well-wishes this week from celebrities and fans alike.

Stevie Wonder visited Franklin on Tuesday, civil rights leader Jesse Jackson on Wednesday.

Franklin was the first woman inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and sang at the inaugurations of two presidents — Bill Clinton and Barack Obama.

“Like people all around the world, Hillary and I are thinking about Aretha Franklin,” Clinton said Monday on Twitter.

Beyonce dedicated her Detroit concert Monday to Franklin, while Chaka Khan, the Queen of Funk and Franklin’s contemporary, said on Twitter: “I fall asleep tonight with a heavy heart & a prayer for my soul sister.” — AFP