- More than 130 pink Cadillacs will line up in a procession for the Queen of Soul's Friday funeral in tribute to her 1985 hit Freeway of Love
- The Grammy-Award winning song features chorus lyrics: 'We're going riding on the freeway of love. In a pink Cadillac'
- Crisette Ellis, an independent national sales director for Mary Kay Cosmetics, came up with the idea after she and her husband were inspired by police lining up in their cars for fallen officers
- Franklin had an outfit change for day two of her public viewing at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History in Detroit
- Yesterday, she wore a red lace and netting dress and red stiletto shoes, while today she was in a blue dress
- Her funeral director said Franklin will wear different ensembles throughout her memorial and funeral services
- Franklin's body arrived in a shining gold casket on Wednesday morning in a vintage white LaSalle, the same Cadillac was used to transport her father, Rev. C.L. Franklin, when he died in July 1984
More than 130 pink Cadillacs from across the country will line the front of the church where Aretha Franklin's funeral will be held on Friday in homage to one of her most famous songs and a Detroit anthem.
The cars will pay tribute to the Queen of Soul's hit song Freeway Of Love, a 1985 groovy bop that features chorus lyrics: 'We're going riding on the freeway of love. In a pink Cadillac.'
Crisette Ellis, an independent national sales director for Mary Kay Cosmetics, came up with the idea after she and her husband were inspired by police lining up in their cars for fallen officers.
Mary Kay, the company that Ellis works for, also gifts their top sellers with the pink rides.
'My husband said, "Wouldn't it be awesome if we could have a sea of pink Cadillacs parked on Seven Mile Road to greet Ms. Aretha Franklin as she arrives?"' Ellis, who owns a luxurious pink Escalade, explained to NPR.
Ellis began searching for others who might have had their own vehicle to spare for the sentimental procession.
'They're coming from everywhere,' she added. 'They are coming from as far as Texas; Omaha, Nebraska; Florida; North Carolina; Maryland.'
The independent saleswoman shared that a few classic ones from the 1960s would be included in the motorcade.
Freeway of Love will be included in the musical tribute for the star on Thursday night, led by music director Kern Brantley. He had worked with Franklin as a bass player and a producer.
'Freeway of Love is like an anthem for us Detroiters,' he explained. '[It] starts off with a Motown beat, and that's the pulse of the city.'
The song would grant Franklin her 12th Grammy Award, winning for Best Female R&B Vocal Performance. Its subsequent video features scenes of the Motor City, with the city's once booming motor industry prominently featured in it.
The procession is just one of the many luxurious send offs that can be expected for the star's services.
Franklin's body arrived in a shining gold casket at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History in Detroit, Michigan, her hometown, on Wednesday morning for the second and final day of her public viewing.
The diva was dressed in new outfit today; a powder blue dress and matching shoes. Yesterday, she was wearing a red cocktail dress and matching shiny red stilettos as she lay in her gleaming gold casket.
The R.E.S.P.E.C.T singer was once again transported to the museum in a vintage white LaSalle, the same Cadillac was used to transport her father, Rev. C.L. Franklin, when he died in July 1984. It was also used to transport Rosa Parks' body when she died in 2005.
Outside the museum, hundreds of fans filed in past a flower tributes, artwork and a pink Cadillac parked outside.
Many mourners carried flowers which appeared to have dollars weaved into them.
The Wright Museum board member Kelly Major Green said that the museum was hoping to create a respectful environment similar to a church.
She said that Franklin's outfit today was supposed communicate both power and comfort and show 'The Queen of Soul is diva to the end.'
Yesterday, Franklin was dressed in a red cocktail dress, to symbolize her honorary membership in the Delta Sigma Theta Sorority.
Her niece, Sabrina Owens said that dress looked like 'something she would have selected for herself' to wear on stage.
She told INSIDE EDITION that the red dress had a lace bodice and sleeves and a netting skirt. Her shoes were Christian Louboutins and her jewelry was custom made for the funeral.
Linda Swanson, executive vice president of Swanson Funeral Home, which is coordinating Franklin's viewings and other services, said the Queen of Soul will don multiple outfits in true diva fashion in the days leading to her burial.
What she will be wearing is a 'surprise,' Swanson told the Detroit Free Press, but added that the clothing will be 'Just natural changes in wardrobe that a queen would make.'
On Thursday, a public viewing will take place at Aretha Franklin's hometown church of New Bethel Baptist Church on Linwood, where her father was a former pastor.
Franklin's funeral is being held Friday at Detroit's Greater Grace Temple. The family and friends-only service is set to feature an all-star lineup of performers including Stevie Wonder, Faith Hill, Jennifer Hudson, Fantasia and Shirley Caesar. Ron Isley, Chaka Khan, Yolanda Adams, Jennifer Holliday and Franklin's son, Edward Franklin, will also perform.
VIPs aren't expected to be limited to the musical kind: Scheduled to speak at the service is former President Bill Clinton, whose inaugurations featured performances by Franklin. Others include the Revs. Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton, Bishop T. D. Jakes, Cicely Tyson, former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, Clive Davis and Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder.
Smokey Robinson also plans to pay tribute with words, not music. The Motown 'Miracle' and Franklin grew up together and delivered a spine-tingling duet on Soul Train in 1979.
The Rev. Jasper Williams Jr., pastor of Atlanta's Salem Baptist Church, will deliver the eulogy.
It's expected to be a marathon service, perhaps lasting five hours or more and will be livestreamed and broadcast on TV.
Greater Grace Temple is calling on people with pink Cadillacs to line up before the funeral in an effort to create a 'Freeway of Love' in tribute to Franklin. That's a nod to her funky '80s tune of the same name that prominently featured the car in the lyrics and video.
Those who line the route get a special perk: The driver of the Caddy and one extra person will be admitted to the funeral.
The church also hosted Parks' funeral, at which Franklin sang.
After the funeral, Franklin will be entombed at Woodlawn Cemetery in Detroit, along with her father, Rev. C.L. Franklin; brother Cecil Franklin; sisters Carolyn Franklin and Erma Franklin; and nephew, Thomas Garrett. Woodlawn also is the final resting place for Parks and many of the Motor City's musical elite, including members of the Four Tops.
Franklin passed away August 16 at 9.50am surrounded by family and friends at her home in Detroit following a battle with advanced pancreatic cancer.
'In one of the darkest moments of our lives, we are not able to find the appropriate words to express the pain in our heart. We have lost the matriarch and rock of our family,' a statement from her family read.
'We have been deeply touched by the incredible outpouring of love and support we have received from close friends, supporters and fans all around the world. Thank you for your compassion and prayers.
'We have felt your love for Aretha and it brings us comfort to know that her legacy will live on. As we grieve, we ask that you respect our privacy during this difficult time.'
Franklin, who sang with matchless style on such classics as 'Think,' 'I Say a Little Prayer' and her signature song, 'Respect', announced her retirement from touring last year.
The mother-of-four had battled various undisclosed health issues in recent years. Her last public performance was at Elton John's AIDS Foundation gala in New York in November last year.
Swanson told the Associated Press that her family has long been close with the Franklin family and that it was nothing for Franklin to call the funeral home and take care of families in financial need - 'usually in full without being asked or prompted to do so.'
Swanson said many people attending Franklin's two-day public viewing at a Detroit museum 'are here because they were blessed by her big heart and her desire to reach beyond the boundaries of her own success and touch others.'
Franklin's gospel recordings played in the background as mourners paying their respect approached her casket, pausing as they cried, crossed themselves, bowed their heads or blew kisses to the late singer.
Wright Museum board member Kelly Major Green said the goal was to create an environment akin to a church, reflecting the place where Franklin got her start as a singer.
Franklin's casket is believed to be the special order Promethean Casket, which retails for $40,000 and is said to be the same style coffin that James Brown and Michael Jackson were buried in. Handcrafted over two weeks, the mirror-finished casket features 24k gold-plated hardware and a velvet interior and is made from 48oz. per square foot of bronze.
While many fans hailed from Detroit, others had traveled in from all around the country for the opportunity to see Franklin while lying in state at the museum, which had previously hosted a similar public viewing for civil rights icon Rosa Parks following her death in 2005.
LaTonya McIntyre, of Las Vegas, was the first on line to get inside the museum for the public viewing, arriving Monday a 4pm to start the line.
McIntyre told CNN that she was seven years old and living in Alabama when she first heard Franklin's rendition of the gospel track, 'Holy, Holy.'
'It was just pleasing to my soul,' McIntyre said. 'She wasn't the Queen of Rock and Roll or the Queen of R&B, she was the Queen of Soul. Because she touched your soul.'
Melissa Howard, 50, of Austin Texas, said she flew in to Detroit the day before Franklin's public viewing started, so she could ensure that she would be able to get inside the museum and pay her respects to Franklin.
Howard, a fan of Franklin's since she was a child, told the Detroit Free Press that she arrived on the line at 6.30pm Monday and that Franklin was 'royalty' and 'worth it.'
Howard said that at around 1am Tuesday, Franklin's niece, Chrystal, came to visit the line and handed out bottled water and White Castle hamburgers to say thank you to fans on behalf of the family.
While plenty of the people waiting on line were there to see Franklin because they were fans of her music, others said they were there to celebrate her for her accomplishments in the civil rights movement.
Aretha fan Charles Thomas, 59, of Detroit, told the Free Press that, 'She helped the movement — her and Sidney Poitier and Harry Belafonte. She went through the back door so people who look like me could go through the front door.'
Thousands of mourners are expected to visit the museum, which was the largest black museum in the United States until the National Museum of African American History and Culture opened in Washington, D.C., in 2016.
Franklin's public viewing will be open from 9am to 9pm on Tuesday and Wednesday. Then, on Thursday from noon to 4pm, her body will be moved to New Bethel Baptist Church, which was founded by her late father, Rev. C.L. Franklin, giving congregation members a chance to pay their respects if they were unable to get into the public viewing.
Thursday night at 6pm, a riverfront amphitheater will rock and roll with musical tributes to Franklin, which is being called 'A People's Tribute to the Queen.'
Chene Park will host the genre-spanning Thursday evening concert, which is scheduled to feature Gladys Knight, Johnny Gill, Dee Dee Bridgewater, Angie Stone, Keith Washington and many others. The free tickets were all claimed shortly after going on sale Monday morning.
The Four Tops also will be among those performing. Abdul 'Duke' Fakir said he was honored that his famed Motown group was invited to perform. The lone, surviving original member of the quartet said he and his bandmates shared a special bond with Franklin on stages and in studios over the decades.
'I'm happy - we always love to do anything we can for 'little sis,'' he said, adding that the performances 'should be awe-inspiring.'