Stevie Wonder was one of the last friends to share treasured moments with Aretha Franklin before her passing on was announced on Thursday. Beyond that memory, though, Stevie Wonder knew Aretha Franklin on a much more private and deeper level, like many who shared the roots of the music and the lifeblood of Detroit in the early 1960s. The Rev. C.L. Franklin was one of the most prominent ministers in the country at the time, and on “CBS This Morning,” August 17, Stevie Wonder shared that one of his earliest memories was listening to the radio broadcasts of Rev. Franklin through his youth.

The minister’s status meant that Aretha Franklin’s childhood home would be in the lavish blocks nestled within the “hood” of Detroit, but her heart would reach out to the needs of all people, and become a beacon of strength and hope through the civil rights movement, the AIDS crisis, and many more causes throughout her 76 years.

She continually used her means and her platform for the good of others, and this morning, Stevie Wonder still shed tears of love for the woman he knew as a mentor, colleague, inspiration, and friend.

Still, tears left to shed

Even before co-anchor Gayle King opened her conversation with Stevie Wonder by saying that his song “I Never Dreamed You'd Leave in Summer” reminded her so much of Aretha Franklin, the emotion filled the legendary “Higher Ground” singer-songwriter. He cleared his throat, and was still visibly and audibly overcome as he spoke of his Tuesday (August 14) visit with Aretha Franklin this week, and how two months ago, they were planning to record a new song he wrote, called “The Future.”

“I thought I cried my last tear,” Wonder paused, still in evident grief. He related his final time seeing Aretha on Tuesday, and how “she wasn't able to speak,” but her family still felt that she could hear Stevie’s words of love and comfort.

“I said all the things I've always said and told her to say hello to my sister,” Stevie lovingly recalled, again swept in tearful remembrance. After reiterating that every singer and every genre felt the influence of Aretha Franklin, Stevie Wonder praised that the voices most embedded in his memory and consciousness were those of, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Aretha Franklin, and her father, who he heard from the time he was four years old.

So much more than her hits

More than sharing the stage countless times, Stevie Wonder extolled Aretha Franklin as being “a consistently great human being,” which is the highest praise any person could hope for, and clearly, a personal standard for The Queen of Soul. Wonder noted that even though her illness (Franklin had battled pancreatic cancer, but never confirmed her condition publicly.) her struggle was never “put on anybody” and that “she believed she was doing God's work, and she was” which Stevie affirmed in the joy that her music brought to so many.

Stevie Wonder would not oblige the request to choose a favorite Aretha Franklin song, but he did verify the much-repeated reminder that “once Aretha takes your song, you don't get it back” that has filled many tributes recently. He remembers when “Respect” was written by Otis Redding and became a whole different song under Aretha’s passionate vocal mastery. He didn't mind surrendering “Until You Come Back to Me,” which also became forever her own.

Stevie Wonder always sees a higher plane above life's turmoil, and he turned this moment of paying honor to Aretha Franklin into a plea about pancreatic cancer [VIDEO], and how health is impacted by everything in the environment [VIDEO]. He urged listeners to heed that global warming is real, and understand that “what we eat affects the world, what we do affects the world,” including harboring unhealthy emotions. He closed with a hope that mankind will “grow up and grow out of the foolishness” which involves “letting go of the hatred, the bigotry, the evilness, the selfishness” that deflects from “how we think, how we do, how we treat others.”

Stevie Wonder played his Arpeggio with a few strums, singing “I love you Aretha, and that's a forever thing.” He closed with another “I love you, Aretha, but you know that” and surely now, The Queen of Soul feels love more clearly and powerfully than ever, as her voice fills heaven’s choir.