Gospel legend, Triangle native sings at Aretha Franklin's funeral

Tuesday, September 4, 2018
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Gospel Queen Shirley Caesar, a pastor from Durham, and Soul Queen Aretha Franklin are two legends who were best friends.

DURHAM, N.C. (WTVD) -- Gospel Queen Shirley Caesar, a pastor from Durham, and Soul Queen Aretha Franklin are two legends who were best friends.

Their relationship spans more than 50 years.

"Aretha and I were like sisters," said Caesar.

Caesar tells ABC11 that she and Franklin would talk about their faith and often times, Caesar would counsel her on spiritual matters.

Their relationship dates back to the 60's as young women with powerful voices.

In the beginning, Caesar says Franklin and her father, Pastor C. L. Franklin, supported her early career as a gospel singer.

"Aretha, all of a sudden, became this promoter in Detroit for a lot of the Gospel artists and I was one of them."

Over the years, Caesar says they talked about everything from relationships to music.

RELATED: Aretha Franklin funeral pictures: Remembering the Queen of Soul

A couple of months ago, Caesar says one of their last conversations was about Franklin's declining health.

"Aretha said, 'Shirley, I'm down to 117 pounds,' I said 'Aretha if you don't eat--' and she quickly cut me off and said 'I don't have an appetite.'"

Franklin died at age 76 from pancreatic cancer.

At her funeral, Caesar sang "How I Got Over," a song Franklin recorded in 1972.

"In singing the song I knew I could not sing it like her, so I had to Caesarize it and sing it my way."

Caesar was part of a star-studded line-up paying tribute to the Queen of Soul, which also included North Carolina's own Reverend William Barber and singer Fantasia.

"I think it was awesome! North Carolina in the house!" she exclaimed.

Caesar recalls a funny moment she had with her regal, sister-friend in music.

"She said to me, 'Shirley, what you and I need to do is go to London and show the Queen who the real Queens are,' I said 'How are we going to go? You don't fly. We can't take the bus. So how you gonna get there?' We laughed about that," Caesar said.

There were a few controversies at the funeral Shirley Caesar addressed.

Social media was critical of how country artist Faith Hill sang at the funeral.

Caesar said she liked Hill's performance.

There were parts of the eulogy by Reverend Jasper Williams (who also eulogized Franklin's father) that Caesar didn't agree with. Williams seemed to critique part of the Black family structure, where some black women are the head of households.

Caesar said the focus should have stayed on Aretha's life and legacy.

A few years ago Caesar and Franklin recorded a song together called "Friends."

It hasn't been released yet, but Caesar hopes producers will release the song in the near future.

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