Gladys Knight fronted a soulful gospel tribute to the late Aretha Franklin on Tuesday at the 2018 American Music Awards. Ledisi, Mary Mary, Donnie McClurkin and CeCe Winans joined for the all-star medley performance, which highlighted Franklin’s gospel roots and her seminal 1972 album, Amazing Grace.
Knight opened the show-closing set with a tender version of “Amazing Grace,” belting over piano and organ. The other singers followed with emphatic, spiritual takes on songs like “Climbing Higher Mountains,” “Mary, Don’t You Weep” and “How I Got Over.”
— WSB-TV (@wsbtv) October 10, 2018
Knight, a personal friend of Franklin’s, also performed at the soul legend’s Detroit, Michigan funeral, singing “You’ll Never Walk Alone.” Her appearance, however, was clouded with confusion when a local TV station reported that the vocalist said she was battling pancreatic cancer – the disease that killed Franklin. Knight subsequently clarified that she had previously been diagnosed with stage one breast cancer but is now “cancer-free.”
Franklin died in August at age 76, prompting tributes from numerous artists, including Mavis Staples, Smokey Robinson, Chris Stapleton, Celine Dion and Mariah Carey. Record executive Clive Davis is reportedly planning an all-star Franklin tribute concert for November 14th at Madison Square Garden in New York, New York.