Gospel songs filled Los Angeles’ Microsoft Theater at the 2018 American Music Awards as music legends honored the iconic Aretha Franklin, who passed away from pancreatic cancer on August 16th.
The awards show ended on the right note with a stirring tribute, a “Amazing Grace”, “Mary, Don’t You Weep”, and “How I Got Over” medley, led by Gladys Knight, Donnie McClurkin, CeCe Winans, Mary Mary, and Ledisi.
Before the show, I talked with CeCe and Mary Mary’s Erica Campbell on the phone about the “amazing” tribute and their fond memories of the Queen of Soul.
“The tribute is gonna be amazing,” CeCe said. “I’m in the company of spectacular people, my best friends, and I believe it’s gonna honor Aretha in the way that she should be honored. I’m just humbled to be a part…. It’s going to be a joyous celebration.”
“My prayer is that this tribute will touch people in their hearts and their spirits and their soul, that they would feel an experience of God in a way that they’ve never experienced before, that they will feel the love of God,” CeCe said. “I’m hoping … people will really understand what ‘Amazing Grace’ is, that they will understand where this legendary woman came from, and that it would bless their lives.”
Half of Mary Mary, sister Erica Campbell, vividly remembers her interactions with Aretha. And, to this day, she regrets getting a new phone because in transition she lost an old voicemail from the three-time AMA winner.
“I wish I could be like the U.S. government and go back and find it,” Erica said laughing.
What Erica loves and will miss the most, though, is Aretha’s signature sound.
“It didn’t matter what she was singing,” Erica said. “Whether she was paying tribute to somebody or singing her own songs, it was that voice that I loved… the authenticity of her voice, the power, the passion. There’s just so much in her voice. That’s why she’s such a timeless singer and everybody loves her. I don’t know anybody that doesn’t love Aretha’s voice.”
Aretha Franklin was one of a kind with a God-given gift that touched the world.
She once said, “I never left the church. The church goes with me.”
May that be true of us all.