Harlem’s Apollo Theater is serving as a memorial for the late Aretha Franklin as fans continue gathering at the famed venue to pay their respects to the Queen of Soul.
People began coming to the Apollo on Thursday as soon as news broke that Franklin died. The singer, best known for hits including “Respect,” “I Say a Little Prayer” and “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman,” passed away in Detroit at age 76 after battling illness.
Vendors are nearby selling t-shirts, buttons and other memorabilia. Fans are also signing their names and farewell notes on two large poster size drawings of Franklin.
A roped off shrine for the legend has been set up under the Apollo’s marquee around her Walk of Fame plaque. Flowers, photos and trinkets surround the plaque as Franklin’s songs are being played on loud speakers throughout the day and evening.
“We’ve decided to make sure that we honor her by having music piped through our speakers until 11 at night for a while,” said Apollo Theater historian Billy Mitchell.
Franklin’s relationship with the Apollo spans nearly as long as her own 60-year career. One of her first appearances at the theater was in 1961 when she was just 18 years old billed with Sam Cooke. In the early 1970s, fans lined up around the corner for a one-week engagement she did at the theater.
“There aren’t too many acts that did that,” Mitchell said. “She was very important to the Apollo Theater and its history because she didn’t fly so you had to wait for your turn to get her booked.”
Mitchell added that there will be a tribute to Franklin during the Apollo Theater’s weekly Amateur Night next Wednesday.