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Gladys Knight, Ledisi, Donnie McClurkin, CeCe Winans and Mary Mary Gave Aretha Franklin The Tribute She Deserved

LOS ANGELES, CA – OCTOBER 09: Gladys Knight performs onstage during the 2018 American Music Awards at Microsoft Theater on October 9, 2018 in Los Angeles, California. 

Since soul singer Aretha Franklin’s passing in August, fans have pondered what voices remaining in the industry had the power to carry out a tribute to her legacy.

When the American Music Awards aired last night, it was clear that the talents of Gladys Knight, Ledisi, Donnie McClurkin, CeCe Winans and Mary Mary were perfectly fitted to honor the late star.

Knight began the emotional tribute to Aretha, crooning the old negro spiritual, “Amazing Grace.” The gospel-filled tribute continued with pew favorites such as “Climbing Higher Mountains,” “Mary, Don’t You Weep” and “How I Got Over.”

LOS ANGELES, CA – OCTOBER 09: Gladys Knight, Ledisi, Donnie McClurkin, CeCe Winans, Erica Campbell, and Tina Campbell perform a gospel tribute to the late Aretha Franklin onstage during the 2018 American Music Awards at Microsoft Theater on October 9, 2018 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images For dcp)

The tribute was a welcomed departure from Madonna’s self-indulgent tribute to Aretha at the 2018 VMAs.

At the time, Madonna defended her bizarre speech saying, “I was asked to present video of the year by MTV! And then they asked me to share any anecdotes I had in my career connected to Aretha Franklin! I shared a part of my journey and thanked Aretha for inspiring me along the way. I did not intend to do a tribute to her!”

But that’s all in the past, with the American Music Awards grabbing the baton of tributes and running with it.

“What an amazing night!” host Tracee Ellis Ross said after the show-closing performances.