Settle in for a Rich and Full Day of Tributes; ‘No Way This Is Ending at 3 p.m.’  –  Deadline Detroit

With a sizable set of prominent speakers taking turns at the lectern, as well 19 vocalists and two gospel choirs lifting their voices, Aretha Franklin’s funeral Friday will run through lunch and towards dinnertime.

One national blogger thinks it could stretch 12 hours. “And I’m not even being faceitous,” posts Panama Jackson of Washington, D.C. (More from him later.)

Graphic by City of Detroit media services office.

No one inside Greater Grace Temple or watching the livestream is likely to mind. This is a service “fit for a queen,” as Swanson Funeral Home’s program says, and food will be available outside the sanctuary.

The program starts at 9:30 a.m. with a 20-minute musical prelude by the Aretha Franklin Orchestra and a 10-minute ceremony of lighting 14 symbolic candles at the head and foot of the casket. It’s unrealistically scheduled to end at 3 p.m. after a 10-minute musical tribute by Stevie Wonder and others, followed by a 15-minute recessional led by Jennifer Holliday and the Aretha Franklin Celebration Choir.

♦ The program, with times, is at the end of this article. 

It’ll be televised locally by WDIV (Channel 4, starting at 9 a.m.), WJBK (Fox 2) and WXYZ (Channel 7) and livestreamed at Campus Martius Park on a jumbo screen until 4 p.m.

Nationally, full coverage will be on HLN and BET (hosted by Marc Lamont Hill), as well as partial live coverage on ABC (first two hours, at least), Fox News, CNN and MSNBC. A full audio broadcast will air on SiriusXM satellite radio’s Channel 49, a soul music station temporarily named the Aretha Franklin Tribute Channel.

The rich and full lineup of dignitaries and performers suggests a wrap-up no sooner than late afternoon, and possibly early evening. News directors can confidently plan live shots from West 7 Mile during 5 p.m. and 6 p.m. newscasts, we predict.

“See ya’ at midnight,” WSU trustee Kim Trent posts on Facebook. “They need to budget 20 minutes for Fantasia’s runs alone.” 

Verna Green of Farmington quips online: “Let’s see if they have to reschedule the interment to the next day!”

Bring snacks

Panama Jackson of Washington, D.C., posting at a site called Very Smart Brothas (part of, calls the printed timetable “the most optimistic schedule I’ve ever seen in my entire black funeral life.”

Here’s one obvious reason we agree: Bill Clinton is allotted five minutes to speak. ‘Nuf said, right?

Jackson forecasts an extended affair:

If you’re going to this here funeral in person, well, I hope you have all of the snacks and make sure to bring plenty of water.

While the service is already scheduled to be as long as the Easter Sunday service at a southern Baptist church with a new pastor trying to prove himself (9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.), I’d bet good money that it will last at least 12 hours. . . .

I love all of those folks performing with my whole heart. But Shirley Caesar and Tasha Cobbs-Leonard have four minutes to sing from 12:15 to 12:19? A whole song? Tasha Cobbs-Leonard has six-, seven- and eight-minute songs by herself on her latest album, “Heart.Passion.Pursuit.” . . .

Something this important might start on time, but that first prayer of comfort at 10:20-10:25 a.m. is where I’d imagine a minute here and a minute there get added. And before anybody knows it, it’s 6:45 p.m. and the service is outlasting “Law & Order: SVU” marathons. . . .

There is no way this is ending at 3 p.m. . . . I say a little prayer because ain’t no way.

Graphic by Swanson Funeral Home

Rosa, MJ and Elvis

OK, so let’s check the archives for historic precedents:

  • Tributes to Rosa Parks at the same church in November 2005 exceeded six hours, including Franklin’s seven-minute delivery of “The Impossible Dream.”

  • In August 1984, the Rev. C.L. Franklin – the singer’s father – was honored “in a roaring four-hour display of oratory, music and hand-clapping,” as Detroit Free Press reporters Tim Kiska and W. Kim Heron described it. 

  • On the short side, a globally broadcast public memorial in Los Angeles for Michael Jackson lasted just two and a half hours in July 2009.

  • Another brisk service took place privately at Graceland in August 1977, when Elvis was mourned and euologized in about two hours. The day before, more than 30,000 fans filed past his casket there.  

Friday’s lengthy lineup of microphone guests kindles affectionate humor on social media, though hardly anyone suggests a hasty sendoff for this member of Detroit royalty. Samples of the playfulness:

  • “I am going to call the over/under at 8 hours, I’m going heavy on the over.” — John Davis, Detroit

  • “Jennifer Hudson is singing ‘Amazing Grace,’ which will have more runs than a college track meet. Yes, 10 hour funeral it is. I’m here for it.” — Taylor Harrell, Detroit

  • “That program was written using church time. They have a different method of measuring minutes and hours. Five church minutes is the equivalent of at least 15 minutes, 30 mins or even an hour depending on your denomination.” — Kamara Latrece Montgomery, Southfield

  • “Does anyone really believe Stevie Wonder is going limit his conversation to less than a hallf-hour? Really?” — John R. Arnold, Detroit

  • “Five minutes for TD Jakes.” — Catherine Simpson, Detroit 

  • “Will they have a timer facing the speakers? Will they start playing ‘get off the stage music’ when people hit their allotted time?” — Chastity Pratt Dawsey, Detroit

  • “Instead of pink Cadillacs, there should be a caravan of Domino’s delivery cars.” — Kim Trent, Detroit

  • “Jesse Jackson can’t say good morning in five minutes.” — Karen Morgan

  • “This is a good lineup. It’ll also be the longest funeral in the history of Earth!” — Nila N. Brown of Alpharetta, Ga.

  • “Marvin Gaye’s was three days, so yup.” — Rod Shields of Hayward, Calif.

  • “Bump it, we just need a whole month. Stevie can go for hours, too!” — Aisha K. Staggers of New Haven, Conn.

Your turn: How long do you think it’ll run? Comment below and/or at our Twitter poll (by 1:30 p.m. Friday).

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