The famed producer, 86, was one of the many speakers who shared memories of the late Queen of Soul at her ‘Celebration of Life’ funeral service.
Taking the stage at the the Greater Grace Temple in Detroit, Michigan, Davis gave a touching speech that honored Franklin’s legacy — calling her “a true genius of American music.”
Davis originally signed Franklin to his label, Arista Records, back in 1980. During her time at the label, Franklin’s singles included “Freeway of Love,” “Sisters Are Doin’ It for Themselves” (with The Eurythmics) and her No. 1 duet with George Michael “I Knew You Were Waiting (For Me).”
“Every time I was with her, professionally or personally, I was conscious that she was and would always be a significant part of history,” Davis said. “Over the course of my life, I’ve been blessed with the opportunity to spend time with presidents of countries and companies, with many successful artists writers and movie makers. Most of these individuals have affected the world in some way but Aretha is in her own special category. Aretha’s voice will be heard, will be impacting, will be influencing others for centuries to come.”
“I was so privileged to be there and personally witness a magnitude of talent of the singer’s singer; this musician’s musician,” he added. “I’ll think of her timeless influence on countless generations to come, but there is and always will be a huge void.”
According to Davis, Franklin was a perfectionist in the studio — and would dive into “Aretha mode” before recording, privately rehearsing and practicing the album’s tunes for weeks before recording began. “By the time she came into the studio she owned the song,” he said. “It was a real rarity if she ever were to do more than two takes. She was in control and she was to nail it. “
But Davis’ words weren’t just about their professional collaborations. He also gave insight into their friendship, and “Aretha the person.”
“Aretha was indeed kind and thoughtful. And when she loved you, she really loved you,” he said. “She was generally funny, occasionally with an on-the-money topical sarcasm. She had a great sense of humor. But what stood out personally to me is she really defined loyalty. If you asked Aretha to be there, she would be there. Yes, she traveled the country by bus, and in the winter roads are not very friendly. But she would be there.”
“I will miss, deeply miss, that once-in-a-lifetime voice,” he said, at his speech’s conclusion. “I will miss her hearty laugh, those endlessly curious questions to me, and that thirst and hunger for life. I will greatly miss the ultimate natural woman.”
Franklin’ funeral, which is expected to run for six and a half hours, has already seen touching speeches from family members, politicians (including former President Bill Clinton), and friends like Tyler Perry and Cicely Tyson.
Faith Hill kicked off the musical performance tributes, followed by Ariana Grande — who sang Franklin’s 1967 hit “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman.” Chaka Khan, Shirley Caesar and Fantasia Barrino-Taylor have also been among those singers paying their respects to the Queen of Soul in song.
Other musical acts coming down the bill include Smokey Robinson, Yolanda Adams, and Stevie Wonder. Jennifer Hudson, who is playing Franklin in an upcoming biopic, will deliver a “sermonic selection,” while the Rev. Jasper Williams, Jr. — Pastor of Salem Baptist Church in Atlanta, GA — will deliver Franklin’s eulogy.
“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,” Franklin’s family said in a statement. “We have lost the matriarch and rock of our family. The love she had for her children, grandchildren, nieces, nephews, and cousins knew no bounds. 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.”
It concluded: “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.”
At the time of her death, Davis mourned Franklin’s loss on Twitter.
“I’m absolutely devastated by Aretha’s passing,” Davis wrote on Twitter after her death on Twitter. “She was truly one of a kind. She was more than the Queen of Soul. She was a national treasure to be cherished by every generation throughout the world. Apart from our long professional relationship, Aretha was my friend. Her loss is deeply profound and my heart is full of sadness.”
In April 2017, Franklin honored Davis at the Tribeca Film Festival Opening Gala, where the documentary about the music mogul — Clive Davis: The Soundtrack of Our Lives — was premiering.
“Mr. Davis, for so many years, it’s been a real pleasure. I am honored to have been an artist of his and to still be an artist of his,” she said before launching into a performance of her signature song, “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman.”
“What a wonderful, caring humanitarian,” Franklin continued of Davis. “He’s not only the chieftain who sits in the executive office and takes care of all the business; he takes care of his artists as well.”