Robinson reminisced about meeting Franklin just after she moved to Detroit from Buffalo. Robinson was eight at the time. “From that moment on, almost, we had been so, so close and so tight,” he said. “I didn’t know, especially this soon, that I was going to have to be saying goodbye to you, or farewell.”
“We talked about it many times, how we were the two who were left out of all our neighborhood friends,” Robinson continued. “We were the longest ones. Now my longest friend has gone home. You went to be with our Father like we all have to be one of these days.”
Robinson said he and Franklin spoke frequently about “anything or nothing.” “I’m gonna miss our talks,” he said. “The last conversation we had, you were telling me that you were gonna do your movie, and you wanted to know who I wanted to play me.” Robinson laughed as he remembered this, and said he left the decision up to Franklin.
“You’re going to be one of the featured voices in the Choir of Angels, because, you know, you’d have to be,” he added.
Robinson finished his address by singing “Really Gonna Miss You,” a song he wrote for former Temptations member Melvin Franklin, who died in 1995. It’s a brokenhearted tune — full of lines like, “for the rest of my life, gonna be thinking about you” — and Robinson sang with a light, tragic quaver in his voice. After he finished, he looked at Franklin’s casket and added, “I’m going to love you forever.”
Robinson was one of many soul luminaries scheduled to appear at Franklin’s funeral, a group that included Stevie Wonder and Chaka Khan. Ariana Grande also performed “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman” at the service.