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Aretha Franklin honored by Gladys Knight, Ledisi and others

American Music Awards spotlighted the late singer

After the publicity debacle that followed Madonna’s “tribute” to Aretha Franklin in the MTV Awards in August, you knew that the American Music Awards would do it right.

The Tuesday night award show wrapped with an all-star gospel performance in homage to Franklin featuring Gladys Knight, Ledisi, Donnie McClurkin, CeCe Winans and Mary Mary.

The Queen of Soul’s history with the AMAs – as a host, winner and performer – was acknowledged at the beginning of the segment, before a smiling Knight emerged to draw the notes out of “Amazing Grace” in the essence of Franklin.

Gospel mainstay Donnie McClurkin took the crowd to church with a rousing “Climb Higher Mountains” (also the recessional song at Franklin’s funeral) and was followed by Winans delivering a passionate “Mary Don’t You Weep,” Ledisi belting “How I Got Over” and gospel duo Mary Mary and a spirited backing chorus clapping and grooving through “Old Landmark.”

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Earlier in the show, Taylor Swift commanded the winner’s circle with an armful of awards, including artist and tour of the year. 

Amusingly, Atlanta rappers Migos won favorite duo or group – pop/rock (really?), beating Imagine Dragons and Maroon 5. 

For a full list of winners, click here.

About the Author

Atlanta Journal-Constitution staff writer Melissa Ruggieri covers music and entertainment news for the AJC. She remembers when MTV was awesome.  

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