This was no easy feat: Franklin was a fearsome gospel singer, and the version of “Amazing Grace” that appears on her 1972 album of the same name is remarkable, stretching out over more than ten magnificent minutes.
However, Hudson proved up to the task: She opened her rendition with wordless, bluesy vocal runs; Michael Eric Dyson, the fiery speaker who preceded her, rocked gently back and forth in the background. Then Hudson eased her way into the opening lines of “Amazing Grace,” leaving big gaps between syllables that were often filled by the Grace Temple house band — flinty clusters of notes from the pianist and swelling cymbals from the drummer.
By the end of her first verse, Hudson reached her full eruptive power. She began to roar through each word, hurling lines to the back of the cavernous 4,000 seat church. While she sang, she sometimes doubled over, as if the force of projecting was overwhelming her. The choir joined Hudson during the second verse of “Amazing Grace,” serving as a soothing counterbalance to her explosive lead vocal, and together they brought the hymn to a close.
This is not Hudson’s first time tackling songs associated with Franklin: Earlier this year at Clive Davis’ annual pre-Grammys party, she performed a medley of Franklin’s hits, including “Think,” “Rock Steady” and “R.E.S.P.E.C.T.”
At the same event, Davis announced that Franklin had handpicked Hudson to play her in a forthcoming biopic. Following the singer’s death in August, the film’s producers said the project was “still a priority.” “Hopefully we can make a film that people can remember [Franklin] by and can look to for comfort and good memories and smiles,” said collaborator Harvey Mason Jr.