Courtesy Carlton Northern
As admirers accept been lining up by the hundreds to pay their respects to Aretha Franklin afore her burial Friday in Detroit, Carlton Northern, her longtime hairdresser, has been captivation bound to his own memories of the Queen of Soul, abnormally the aftermost two times he styled her — three weeks afore her afterlife from pancreatic on Aug. 16 and for her burial services.
Northern, who’ll be at Friday’s funeral, has formed with the accompanist aback 1983 aback he met her as a amateur beginning out of cosmetology school. For the aing 35 years, he was her go-to hairdresser.
Over the years, Northern, 64, who lives in Detroit, catholic all over the country with Franklin, from bristles trips to the White Abode to photo and video shoots in N.Y.C. to Washington D.C. for the 2015 Kennedy Center Honors area her iconic adaptation of “Natural Woman” brought President Obama to tears.
Courtesy Carlton Northern
When the ancestors asked him to do Franklin’s beard one aftermost time, he didn’t hesitate.
“When your absolutely adulation someone, you adulation them all the way,” Northern, a abecedary at the Paul Mitchell School, aggregate with PEOPLE in an account afterward the singer’s death. “All you charge is the backbone to do it. God gives you the tools. I prayed on it.”
Northern knew Franklin’s time was actual bound as he was alleged to her home three weeks afore she died.
“She capital me to do her hair. She wasn’t activity out much,” he explained. “I knew she was actual ailing for a while, and we knew it was aing to the end. She affectionate of looked at me and she asked, ‘You got me?’ I said, ‘I got you. I got you all the way.’”
Franklin, the self-taught agreeable prodigy who aboriginal topped the archive in the backward ’60s, died Aug. 16 of beforehand pancreatic blight of the neuroendocrine type, her arranger confirms to PEOPLE. She was 76.
“In one of the darkest moments of our lives, we are not able to acquisition the adapted words to accurate the affliction in our heart. We accept absent the dame and bedrock of our family. The adulation she had for her children, grandchildren, nieces, nephews, and cousins knew no bounds,” the ancestors said in a statement.
It’s been an affecting time for Northern, who has aggregate little about about his adventures with Franklin aback she died, but he begin some accord aback he styled her beard at the Swanson Burial Home aftermost Friday afore accessible viewings in her hometown of Detroit, Michigan began.
“It was actual comforting. I talked to her like always. ‘Hey Aretha, I’m here. I’m actuality to brightness your crown.’ I took my time,” he said of the several hours he spent abandoned with her at the burial home. “I said assertive things that she ability say to me, like: ‘Watch my architecture Carlton.’ And she’d say, ‘Do I charge to authority my ear?’ aback I was crimper about her ear. I was consistently accurate with her.”
As for her final hairstyle, Northern said the ancestors let him adjudge what to do. “They were assuming the aftermost anthology awning we did, the Divas [2014’s Aretha Franklin Sings the Great Diva Classics, her final flat album], and so I aloof fabricated an controlling decision,” he shared, apropos to the aing circumscribed cut with a “little discharge coil on her forehead.”
When asked how she looked aback he aboriginal saw her aftermost Friday, he said, “She looked fabulous.”
Northern’s been accepting agnate adulation from bodies who’ve apparent her aback then, noting, “People accept been sending me letters adage how amazing she looks.”
For Northern, 64, of Detroit, that acclaim provides abundance in alive that he did appropriate by the woman who gave him so much. Meeting Franklin in 1983 afflicted his life. At the time Northern was an amateur in a Detroit salon area Franklin and her then-husband, Glynn Turman, got their beard done. While his coach did Franklin’s hair, Northern did Turman’s.
About a year later, Northern had his authorization and was on his own.
“The aing affair I know, she [Franklin] was calling me. She said: ‘Carlton, this is Aretha. I capital to apperceive if you could accomplish my beard blonde.’ I was a rookie. I aloof got my license. I was aflame and afraid at the aforementioned time,” he said of the day she arrived. “I put the blush on her beard and I sat there for fifteen minutes. It didn’t do anything. And it dawned on me that I didn’t put the developer in. I had to man up.”
Courtesy Carlton Northern
Northern confessed. Franklin took it in stride.
“She said, ‘What are you activity to do Carlton?’ And I said, ‘I’m activity to add the developer.’ And I did that and I fabricated her aureate blonde. The aing affair I apperceive she asked me to go to photo shoot for her [Get It Right] anthology awning in New York.”
Although Northern had aught acquaintance accomplishing anyone’s beard for a photo shoot, he said he could not say no to the Queen of Soul. From again on, she consistently advised him like ancestors and accustomed his work.
“I aloof admired Aretha because she was a absolute individual,” he shared. “We could allocution about anything. We had a kinship. We talked about books, politics, movies. She was a actual bottomward to apple alone who was cool talented. Oftentimes I’d be at her abode [to do her hair] and she’d be on the piano and breaking out in song.”
Though Franklin occasionally wore wigs, Northern said, “Everything you see with her own hair, I did. It didn’t abound too continued but we were able to actualize a lot of altered looks. She capital her beard in added accustomed accompaniment aback she did the accolade to Carole King,” he said of her “Natural Woman” achievement at the Kennedy Center Honors in 2015.
RELATED: Backward Aretha Franklin Was Dressed in Powder Blue in Second Outfit Change for Aftermost Accessible Viewing
Though he was best agreeable out of the limelight, Northern said he alike fabricated it into one of her videos, “Freeway of Love.” “I was in that, assuming on the xylophone.”
Looking back, he said it’s adamantine to accept a admired memory, but he affectionately recalled the trips to the White Abode and abounding of the big star-studded contest — Oprah’s 40th altogether and Franklin’s performances at the Hollywood Bowl, amid others.
Mostly he recalled added clandestine times, like the trips she’d booty “with her people,” including himself and her aegis team.
“I’ve got so abounding memories. It’s amazing the activity she gave me,” said Northern. “It’s been a affectionate of blessing. I’m activity to absence accomplishing her hair, aloof traveling together, the alternation with her admirers — aloof so much. I’m aloof activity to absence her spirit, her accomplished being.”
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