Next time you're in Detroit's theater district, you can take a spin down Aretha Franklin Way.
The Queen of Soul wiped away tears Thursday evening as street signage in her honor was unveiled to a crowd of cheering fans on Madison.
The renaming ceremony was kickoff to a celebratory Aretha weekend as part of the inaugural Detroit Music Weekend festival downtown. She'll be on hand — and perform a closing song — for a Friday tribute show at Music Hall, then headline a free outdoor concert at 6 p.m. Saturday along the newly christened stretch of Madison.
Aretha Franklin Way, the latest honorary street designation established by the Detroit City Council, runs on Madison between Brush and Witherell. The area is the heart of a district that includes venues such as Music Hall, the Detroit Opera House, the Gem Theatre and the Carr Center.
Franklin, in a cheery yellow sundress befitting the bright June day, seemed genuinely stirred by the occasion. Before the sign unveiling, Franklin sat on the Music Hall stage as City Council President Brenda Jones read a resolution rattling off the singer's accomplishments — her Presidential Medal of Freedom, her place in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, her No. 1 spot in Rolling Stone's all-time greatest singers ranking.
"This is not only the Queen of Soul," Jones said, gesturing to Franklin. "This is the spirit of Detroit, as well."
Franklin, 75, called the street designation a "resplendent and magnificent honor" in her hometown, as she recalled her youthful days skating at the Arcadia Ballroom and singing at the Flame Show Bar.
Detroit singer Angela Davis, backed by a small combo, stepped up and nailed the daunting task of performing "Respect" just feet away from Franklin.
The action then moved across the street, on a corner outside 36th District Court, where more than 100 people pressed in close as Franklin and Jones tugged on a rope to unwrap and reveal the blue "Aretha Franklin Way" sign.
The City of Detroit has been bestowing secondary street names to hometown celebrities and dignitaries since 2007. The original street names are retained to prevent disruption to address holders, and the blue markers are affixed above the existing street signs.
Other honorary musical streets in the area include Berry Gordy Boulevard (West Grand Boulevard at the Lodge) and Stevie Wonder Avenue (Milwaukee at Woodward), along with Glenn Frey Drive in Royal Oak.
Contact Brian McCollum: 313-223-4450 or firstname.lastname@example.org