Jennifer Hudson made a surprise appearance at the Pulitzer Prize awards ceremony in New York City to pay tribute to Aretha Franklin. The singer offered a rousing version of “Amazing Grace” at annual Pulitzer Prize luncheon at Columbia University’s Low Memorial Library, which honored the 103rd class of Pulitzer winners.
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Special surprise guest, Academy Award-winning actress and Grammy Award-winning recording artist Jennifer Hudson @iamjhud performing "Amazing Grace" at the Pulitzer luncheon @Columbia University today, in honor of 2019 #Pulitzer Special Citation awardee, the #QueenOfSoul @ArethaFranklin. @DonLemon @clivedavis . #PulitzerPrizes. #music. #ArethaFranklin Video by @spinitsocial
In April, Pulitzer announced it would be awarding Franklin, who died last year, a posthumous special citation “for her indelible contribution to American music and culture for more than five decades.” Franklin is one of only a few musicians to receive the Pulitzers’ Special Citation for the arts and she is the first individual female musician to take the honor. Previous winners include Rodgers & Hammerstein, George Gershwin, Duke Ellington, Thelonious Monk, John Coltrane, Bob Dylan and, most recently in 2010, Hank Williams.
— Columbia University (@Columbia) May 28, 2019
Hudson almost didn’t make it to the ceremony after being stuck in the Midwest due to bad weather. As a tribute to the Queen of Soul, she decided to brave an all-night road trip to New York. Hudson told the Associated Press, “I looked up and I thought, ‘You know what, it’s like Aretha’s spirit is in me. She didn’t believe in flying, she would drive.’ I got here in time, five minutes early to sing, because I wasn’t going to miss it. Honey I said, ‘If I got to walk, if I got to crawl, I’m going to get there.’ And here I am — so it’s in my heart.”
Hudson will play Franklin in an upcoming biopic of the singer’s life for MGM. The film, Respect, is being written by Oscar-winning Thelma & Louise screenwriter Callie Khouri and directed by Liesl Tommy. Hudson was hand-picked by Franklin to star in the film. She said in a statement, “It is an absolute honor to be a part of bringing Ms. Franklin’s story to audiences who adore her around the world. She is one of the most iconic and talented artists of all time and what a dream come true it is to portray her extraordinary life on screen. I could not be more excited to be working alongside Liesl Tommy, a brilliant and thoughtful director, who is no doubt the perfect choice to lead the film.”