The star’s body was placed cross-legged in an open casket at Detroit’s Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History.
The Detroit diva was transported to the museum in a classic white LaSalle Sedan as part of a regal send off.
Her shiny casket – inscribed inside with “The Queen of Soul” in small gold letters – was surrounded by a spray of soft-pink and lavender-coloured roses.
The flowers were said to reflect her love for them and her propensity to send arrangements “in grand fashion”.
And her legs were said to have been crossed at the ankles, to remember someone who was comfortable with being a strong woman.
Franklin wore scarlet lip stick and ruby high heels and was dressed in red which was symbolic of her membership in the Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, which fights for the rights of African American women.
Meanwhile its ornamental elements and sheer netting fabric paid homage to something she would wear onstage.
Sabrina Owens, Franklin’s niece, who was among those organising the event, confirmed the dress was “something she would have selected for herself”.
She said: “After all she gave to the world, I felt we needed to give her an appropriate send-off that would match her legacy.
“She loved the city of Detroit and the city of Detroit loved her.”
Aretha’s soaring voice also poured out from loudspeakers outside the museum, stirring fans arriving to pay their respects to sway and sing along and others to weep.
Franklin died last week at the age of 76 from pancreatic cancer in Detroit, where she began her career as a child singing gospel in the New Bethel Baptist Church choir.
Hundreds of music lovers slept on the sidewalk overnight to ensure they were among the first to say a farewell to the global star.
Officials made mourners put away their cell phones before viewing Aretha and quickly ushered them along.
Tammy Gibson, 49, of Chicago said she arrived about 5.30 a.m.
She came alone but made fast friends with others who sang and reminisced.
Growing up, Gibson said she heard Franklin’s music “playing all the time” by her parents, who “told me to go to bed it’s an adult party.”
Outside the museum, she said: “I know people are sad, but it’s just celebrating people dancing and singing her music.” Indeed, a group of women were singing her hit “Freeway of Love.”
Franklin had been a constant in Gibson’s life.
“I saw the gold-plated casket it dawned on me: She’s gone, but her legacy and her music will live on forever.”
Multiple life-sized posters of her flanked the entrance and exit of the building – which was soon mobbed with fans.
Museum board member Kelly Major Green said the goal was to create a dignified and respectful environment akin to a church, the place where Aretha got her start.
“What we wanted to do is be reflective of the Queen,” Ms Green said.
“It’s beautiful. She’s beautiful.”
The high-heel scarlet shoes, in particular, show “The Queen of Soul is diva to the end,” Ms Green said.
“She is just iconic. The way she loved and treated individuals, and she always remained down to earth,” said Mary Jones, who wore an”‘I love Aretha’ t-shirt and made the four-hour drive from Ohio to pay her respects.
“It’s unreal that I’m going to get to say goodbye to her now. It’s amazing.”
The Wright Museum previously hosted a similar public viewing for civil rights icon Rosa Parks after her 2005 death.
Aretha sang at Parks’ funeral and the singer will be entombed in the same cemetery as Parks.
It has now emerged that the mega-star did not leave a will – despite having tens of millions stashed in the bank.
Court documents show the ‘I Say a Little Prayer ‘ legend had no will at the time of her death, reports US entertainment website TMZ.
The singer’s four sons – Clarence, Edward, Teddy White Jr. and Kecalf – will now share equally in her estimated $80m estate, in accordance with Michigan state law.
Aretha’s funeral is due to take place on August 31, at at 10am Eastern Standard Time, which is 3pm in the UK, when her body will be entombed at a family gravesite.
It will be held at the Greater Grace Temple in Detroit, Michigan and her body will be entombed at the Woodlawn Cemetery.
The funeral will see the legendary artist’s family and closest friends say goodbye to the singer in the private event.
Over a 100 pink Cadillacs are expected to line up outside the church to pay homage to Franklin’s song Freeway of Love, in which she sings about a pink Cadillac.
Stevie Wonder, Jennifer Holliday, Jennifer Hudson and Yolanda Adam are set to perform at the service, according to CNN.
Others performing are Faith Hill, Chaka Khan, classical artist Audrey DuBois Harris, soprano Alice McAllister Tillman, Franklin’s son Edward Franklin, the Aretha Franklin Orchestra and the Aretha Franklin Celebration Choir.
Music producer Clive Davis is also planning a tribute concert to honour the legend at New York City’s Madison Square Garden in November.
Aretha’s dazzling music career included classic songs (You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman and RESPECT.
The mum-of-four died surrounded by loved ones in the town where she grew up, publicist Gwendolyn Quinn announced.