Last time Detroit honored Aretha Franklin

Vince Paul had known Aretha Franklin for years when he snagged her to be the headliner for his inaugural Detroit Music Weekend in June 2017.

But this time around, he told CNN, there was something very different about the legendary singer.

“There was a lot of crying, the whole weekend,” he said. “Can you imagine Aretha Franklin crying? There was a lot of crying to the point where I was weirded out.”

There will be a great deal of tears in Detroit again this week connected to the Queen of Soul as the city — her city — bids her farewell.

Franklin died August 16 after a battle with pancreatic cancer. She was 76.

A star-studded, private funeral is set for Aug. 31 at 10 a.m. at Greater Grace Temple in Detroit.

Stevie Wonder, Jennifer Hudson, Yolanda Adams, Fantasia, Faith Hill and Pastor Shirley Caesar are among those set to perform at the funeral.

The ceremony will culminate a week of planned events in Detroit, which will include her body lying in state Tuesday and Wednesday at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History.

The Detroit Free Press reported that a public viewing had been added on Thursday at New Bethel Baptist Church, where Franklin’s father, the late Rev. C.L. Franklin, formerly served as pastor.

While she was born in Memphis, Tennessee, Franklin is more closely identified with the city of Detroit, where she lived most of her life.

Paul is the president and artistic director for the Detroit Music Hall Center for the Performing Arts, which is described as providing “southeastern Michigan with high quality performing arts programs and education that reflect the diverse mix of cultures that make up our community.”

He is passionate about using the arts to both highlight Detroit’s growth and encourage it.

With the city’s rich history in music — which includes everything from techno to rock and soul — Paul said he had the idea to create a festival that would celebrate the various genres and Detroit.

Having produced for Franklin a half dozen times, he said he went to her with the idea for Detroit Music Weekend in November 2016 and she loved it.

The singer was also aware that to pull off such an event, it would require a well-known artist to draw attendees, and naturally, Paul wanted it to be Franklin.

“Aretha is a double-edged sword,” Paul told CNN recently. “She does things, or she doesn’t do things. It’s very definitive. You can’t talk her into it.”

When it came to the festival, the legend wanted it to be outdoor, free to the public and right in the middle of Madison Avenue with other streets blocked off for a big concert to close it out, he said.

Raising the money to put on the event, including paying Franklin’s fee, turned out to be less nerve-racking than the six months back-and-forth over whether Franklin would actually perform, Paul told CNN.

“She’s coming, she’s not coming,” he said. “She’s calling around to people, then she disappeared, then she re-emerges and she starts calling around to different people ‘Everything’s cool, everything’s on schedule.'”

Paul said it turns out she was ill. He said he had heard rumblings three years earlier that she was sick, but she was believed to have gotten better.

So when he heard a few months before the planned festival that she was ill again, he assumed that she would pull through again.

Franklin did and ended up doing what would be the last full concert of her career — three hours long, complete with 29 musicians, backup singers and dancers.

The star looked frailer than she had in the past, but Paul said she delivered to the tens of thousands of fans who turned out to support her.

“It was glorious,” Paul said. “It turned into a four-day celebration of Aretha Franklin in the city of Detroit as it should be.”

There was a tribute concert to her, with video tributes from the likes of Bonnie Raitt and Carole King, a street-naming ceremony for Aretha Franklin Way, and Franklin received the key to the city.

It all proved to be quite an emotional experience for the usually more stoic singer, Paul said.

Now that she is gone, Paul said that to him, Aretha Franklin embodied soul music.

“She personified it, she monetized it, she knew how to produce it, she knew how to arrange it where everybody liked it,” he said. “There isn’t another Aretha Franklin.”

In her honor, the Music Hall plans to rename its Jazz Cafe “Aretha’s Jazz Cafe,” Paul said.