Music News: What happened at Aretha Franklin's funeral?

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A woman holds a program from Aretha Franklin's funeral.
A woman holds a program from Aretha Franklin's funeral at the Greater Grace Temple in on August 31, 2018 in Detroit, Michigan. (JEFF KOWALSKY/AFP/Getty Images)
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What happened at Aretha Franklin's funeral?
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Above, listen to an episode of The Current's daily Music News podcast. Subscribe on Apple Podcasts, Google Play, Spotify, or wherever else you get your podcasts.


Aretha Franklin was remembered in an eight-hour funeral on Friday in Detroit. Live-streamed online, the funeral featured musical tributes from the likes of Faith Hill ("What a Friend We Have in Jesus"), Ariana Grande ("[You Make Me Feel Like a] Natural Woman"), Chaka Khan ("Going Up Yonder"), and Jennifer Hudson ("Amazing Grace"). (New York Times)

Much of the buzz surrounding the funeral, though, didn't have much to do with music. Rev. Jasper Williams Jr. delivered a nearly hour-long eulogy that "included controversial views on Black Lives Matter, single parenthood, and more," reports Pitchfork. The Franklin family subsequently distanced themselves from the widely reviled remarks, saying in a statement: "We feel that Rev. Jasper Williams, Jr. used this platform to push his negative agenda, which as a family, we do not agree with."

Another religious figure, Bishop Charles H. Ellis III, apologized for getting, in his own words, "too friendly" with Grande. As he wrapped his arm around her from the side during the service, many viewers remarked on how close his hand came to the singer's breast. On top of that, he also apologized for making a joke at her expense: "When I saw Ariana Grande at the program, I thought that was a new something at Taco Bell." (New York Times)

Bill Clinton paid tribute to Franklin, saying, "The secret to her greatness is that she took this massive talent, out of this perfect culture that made her, and she became the composer of her own song."

Al Sharpton, in his own remarks, took issue with Donald Trump's statement that Franklin "worked for him" at one point. "Aretha never took orders from nobody but God," said Sharpton.

New dining options for music fans in London

The London hotel where David Bowie threw a 1973 party to officially retire his Ziggy Stardust persona is opening a Bowie-themed cocktail bar. Ziggy's opens on Sept. 20 at the Hotel Café Royal, with drinks inspired by songs on The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars. As NME reports:

"Tigers on Vaseline" takes its name from the lyrics to "Hang On To Yourself," and is described as a modern twist on the pina colada. "Darkness and Disgrace," meanwhile, is an espresso martini crossed with a rum flip, and takes its name from "Lady Stardust."

That bar seems not to be endorsed by the Bowie estate, but Björn Ulmvaeus of ABBA is definitely officially behind a new interactive dining experience called "Mamma Mia! The Party. "The restaurant will be a recreation of a taverna on the island of Skopelos, where most of the first [Mamma Mia!] movie was shot, and will serve Mediterranean cuisine while hits from ABBA's extensive catalog are performed," reports Billboard.

The venue at London's O2, which is inspired by a wildly successful similar experience in Stockholm, will be opening next spring.

Vocal woes for Bono, Grohl

On Saturday night in Berlin, U2 had to end a show early after Bono lost his voice. Clearly struggling to sing during the first few songs of the show, Bono told the crowd he thought the smoke machines might have been interfering with his voice. After ending the show early, the band apologized to fans and Bono said he's expecting to return to "full voice for the rest of the tour." (New York Times)

Bono's woes became a punch line for Dave Grohl when Foo Fighters announced that they're postponing two shows in Canada due to Grohl's temporary loss of voice. "That's the last time I ever make out with Bono," said the Foo frontman in a statement. (Consequence of Sound)

Remembering Conway Savage

Pianist Conway Savage has died of a brain tumor at age 58. Savage was best-known as a member of Nick Cave's Bad Seeds for three decades. "Conway was the anarchic thread that ran through the band's live performances," wrote the band in a statement. "He was much loved by everyone, band members and fans alike. Irascible, funny, terrifying, sentimental, warm-hearted, gentle, acerbic, honest, genuine — he was all of these things and quite literally 'had the gift of a golden voice,' high and sweet and drenched in soul."

Savage, who also released two solo albums and participated in other bands, handled lead vocals on Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds' version of the traditional song "The Willow Garden." (Rolling Stone)

Childish Gambino releases controversial animated video

It's not as explosive as his "This is America" clip, but Childish Gambino's new video for "Feels Like Summer" is still sparking plenty of discussion. The animated video has Donald Glover walking down sun-drenched suburban streets listening to music on earbuds, surrounded by antics featuring stars including Chance the Rapper, Drake, and Nicki Minaj.

At one point, Glover closes his eyes for a fantasy sequence that includes Kanye West weeping in a Make America Great Again hat, only to be comforted by Michelle Obama. Some viewers found it moving, some thought it was a reference to West's late mother, some noticed a resemblance to a famous photo of Obama hugging George W. Bush, and some criticized Glover for suggesting that black women need to "fix" black men. (Billboard)


Songs sampled in podcast
Jahzzar: "Comedie" (CC BY 4.0)
BoxCat Games: "Against the Wall" (CC BY 3.0)
Jennifer Hudson: "Amazing Grace"
Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds: "The Willow Garden"
Childish Gambino: "Feels Like Summer"


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