The Reverend Al Sharpton eulogized James in a rousing speech after opening the services with a message from President Barack Obama, who famously danced with First Lady Michelle Obama to James’ song “At Last” during his first inaugural ball.
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“Etta will be remembered for her legendary voice and her contributions to our nation’s musical heritage,” Obama’s statement read. “I know she will be sorely missed by all those who knew and loved her.”
Among the stars who paid tribute to James were Stevie Wonder, who performed with a church choir, singing “Shelter in the Rain,” “The Lord’s Prayer,” and playing a harmonica solo.
Christina Aguilera performed James’ “At Last,” and shared with the crowd that she has included the song in every concert she’s performed as a tribute to her musical inspiration. “Out of all the singers that I’ve ever heard, she was the one that cut right to my soul and spoke to me,” Aguilera said.
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During the eulogy, Sharpton praised James for being a trailblazer and for helping to break through racial barriers with her music. “She was able to get us on the same rhythms and humming the same ballads and understanding each other’s melodies way before we could even use the same hotels,” Sharpton proclaimed. He also applauded the Grammy-winner for overcoming poverty and drug addiction.
“At last, you can find peace now,” Sharpton concluded in his eulogy. “At last, you can get the gratitude of the savior now. Etta, you made it, you’re going home. At last! At last! At last!”