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Ariana Grande celebrated Aretha Frankin’s life and legacy on Friday (August 31) with a powerful tribute at the late singer’s funeral service. Taking the stage at Detroit’s Greater Grace Temple, Grande brought her A-game to a moving performance of “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman,” a beloved hit from the Queen of Soul, who died earlier this month at age 76 after battling pancreatic cancer.
Singing a Franklin classic in front of the late icon’s family and friends was no doubt a daunting task, but Grande handled it with grace, keeping her usual verbal gymnastics in check to deliver a beautiful, faithful rendition. She was backed by a small group of soulful backup singers, and moved several members of the crowd — which included her fiancé, Pete Davidson, and former President Bill Clinton — to sing along. Grande’s ex and Detroit native Big Sean even gave her a sweet standing ovation.
After Grande’s performance, Bishop Charles H. Ellis III, who co-officiated the ceremony, joked about the 25-year-old’s inclusion in the service. “When I saw Ariana Grande on the program, I thought that was a new something at Taco Bell,” he hilariously quipped, as the singer and the rest of the congregation laughed. He sweetly added, “Girl, let me give you all your respect. Did you all enjoy this icon? She’s an icon herself.” Grande, for her part, added a simple, “We love you, Aretha” before trotting off stage.
Grande — who joined a star-studded list of performers that included Stevie Wonder, Faith Hill, and Jennifer Hudson — was asked to sing at the funeral after Franklin’s family was moved by her emotional rendition of “Natural Woman” on The Tonight Show earlier this month. On the show, Grande recounted her memories of meeting Franklin, saying, “I met her a few times. We sang at the White House, and she was so sweet, and she was so cute. I was like, ‘How are you a real person?’ It’s an honour to have met her, and we’re gonna celebrate her.”
She definitely did just that. Revisit Grande’s Tonight Show tribute below.