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Vendors Make The Most Of Aretha Franklin's Public Viewing


The city of Detroit continues to celebrate the life and the music of the queen of soul, Aretha Franklin. Today, the New Bethel Baptist Church will hold a public viewing of her body. This is the church where a young Aretha found her voice and launched her career. Memorial services like this can, of course, be somber events. But Aretha's visitations have been anything but. Quinn Klinefelter of member station WDET has more.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: Queen of soul - $10 only, $10 for the book and the CD, baby. Ten dollars all day long.

QUINN KLINEFELTER, BYLINE: Thousands of fans have already viewed Franklin, resplendent in her gold casket. She was lying in repose at the Wright Museum of African-American History over the past two days. And a kind of Aretha-themed bazaar sprang up along the sidewalks around the museum, dozens of tables filled with posters and shirts featuring Franklin.

At one table is a seller who gave his name as Kwasi Bidiako. He chewed on a toothpick, saying the media publicity over the passing of the queen of soul drew him from Alabama to do business here, though he says he never sought any permission from her family to do so.

KWASI BIDIAKO: It's an emotional time. It's immediately right after the transition. So the family probably is still in a state of shock or in mourning. It hasn't been a problem, so we just take it as it is.

KLINEFELTER: In fact, many people here were embracing the chance to, in essence, buy a piece of this moment in history. That includes Brenda McIntosh Boone, who was haggling with vendors unpacking a van filled with shirts She says she definitely wants something to commemorate Franklin's passing.

BRENDA MCINTOSH BOONE: Just to remember her. Every time I put it on, I can think about her. Because she was a soul singer, she could just take you through some of your problems.

KLINEFELTER: Nearby, Detroiter Alice Fowler says Franklin helped her personally. Fowler says she was born to a mother in prison. She shared her story with the singer at a church one day and says that encounter reshaped her life.

ALICE FOWLER: She told me I was going to be a strong person. So she was really a good inspiration. She actually saved me from drugs and everything. And I told her, ever since then, she was always like an angel to me.

KLINEFELTER: Fowler glances at the merchandise passing hands. She's not buying, and finds it far from angelic.

FOWLER: That's what I was saying. Like, why are they selling so much stuff? They should be almost giving it away. This is a legend that died. There's a certain time and certain place for stuff.

KLINEFELTER: With that, Fowler filters back into the crowd, squeezing past others still searching for their souvenir.

For NPR News, I'm Quinn Klinefelter in Detroit.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: Aretha Franklin book, CD included – 20 greatest hits.


Quinn Klinefelter