Franklin's body arrived, in a 1940 Cadillac LaSalle hearse, more than two hours before the service was scheduled to start.
"I've been wishing and hoping that I will wake up and that this is just a dream", she said.
Clinton said that Franklin appeared to be very ill, but that she still spent 45 minutes singing in front of the crowd in West Harlem.
In an interview with ET earlier this week, Knight reflected on her and Franklin's similar rise to fame.
The Band of the Welsh Guards, dressed in bright scarlet tunics and tall bearskin hats, belted out an upbeat, brassy rendition of Franklin's 1967 hit in the courtyard of the palace, before the usual August throng of tourists.
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Franklin was dressed in a sparkling full-length gold dress with sequined heels for her final outfit, and she was dressed head-to-heel in red for her first public viewing on Tuesday, a nod to her membership in the sorority Delta Sigma Theta.
He led them in a prayer of thanks for Aretha and her minister father, asking that god make all in the church "better, not bitter, " by the time the day is over.
However, other fans tweeted support, pointing out that even if Hill's performance wasn't note-perfect, it came from the heart, because she and Franklin were friends and the Franklin family clearly wanted her there. "We used to talk about that - we saw a lot of soldiers go".
Meanwhile, the 25-year-old's choice of funeral attire drew criticism on social media for being a bit too revealing for church.
Clinton said that before he and his wife were famous politicians, they were simply an "Aretha groupies".
"After all she gave to the world, I felt we needed to give her an appropriate send-off that would match her legacy", Owens said.