President Obama won't be at Aretha Franklin's funeral, but he sent a letter
Although she sang at his 2009 inauguration and her voice moved him to tears at the Kennedy Center Honors Awards, former President Barack Obama and former First Lady Michelle Obama won't be in Detroit Friday for the funeral of Aretha Franklin, their spokeswoman Katie Hill confirmed Wednesday.
"Unfortunately, President and Mrs. Obama will not be able to attend Aretha Franklin’s services on Friday, but they have sent a letter, which the Rev. Al Sharpton will be reading during the service," Hill said.
The ex-president is to give a eulogy along with former President George W. Bush Saturday morning at the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C., for the late U.S. Sen. John McCain, the Arizona Republican who died Aug. 25.
Bush, the Free Press previously reported, also sent a letter to be read at Franklin's funeral service.
Franklin, one of the best-selling artists of all time, died Aug. 16 of pancreatic cancer. She has a long history with those who hold the nation's highest office.
She sang at President Jimmy Carter’s Inaugural Gala in 1977 and performed at former President Bill Clinton's inaugural ceremonies as well.
In May 1999, Franklin performed for Clinton at the White House Correspondents Association's annual dinner, and later that year, the president awarded her with the National Medal of Arts and Humanities during a White House ceremony.
Bush awarded her the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2005, and she famously sang "My Country, 'Tis of Thee" at Obama's 2009 inauguration.
Clinton will be among the speakers at Franklin's funeral, as will former Attorney General Eric Holder.
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The Obamas issued a statement following Franklin's Aug. 16 death, which read:
"America has no royalty. But we do have a chance to earn something more enduring. Born in Memphis and raised in Detroit, Aretha Franklin grew up performing gospel songs in her father’s congregation. For more than six decades since, every time she sang, we were all graced with a glimpse of the divine.
"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. She helped us feel more connected to each other, more hopeful, more human. And sometimes she helped us just forget about everything else and dance.
"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. Michelle and I send our prayers and warmest sympathies to her family and all those moved by her song."
The White House has not responded to a call and an email message from the Free Press about whether President Donald Trump or First Lady Melania Trump will attend.
On the day she died, Trump told reporters:
"I want to begin today by expressing my condolences to the family of a person I knew well. She worked for me on numerous occasions. She was terrific — Aretha Franklin — on her passing. She's brought joy to millions of lives and her extraordinary legacy will thrive and inspire many generations to come. She was given a great gift from God — her voice, and she used it well. People loved Aretha. She was a special woman. So just want to pass on my warmest best wishes and sympathies to her family."
Contact Kristen Jordan Shamus: 313-222-5997 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @kristenshamus. Staff writer Brian McCollum contributed to this story.