Civil rights activist John Lewis’ life was celebrated last night (Aug. 4) in a prime time CBS special featuring top star music artists and celebrities including Brad Pitt, Tyler Perry, John Legend, Jennifer Hudson, Trevor Noah and more. The event was hosted by Oprah Winfrey.
Lewis died on July 17 at the age of 80. He was a Georgia lawmaker and a key figure in the civil rights movement and helped lead the ‘Bloody Sunday’ march through Selma, Alabama, an event that was instrumental in the passage of the 1965 Voting Rights Act.
Lewis was also the last surviving member of the Big Six, a Civil Rights activist group led by Martin Luther King, Jr.
The special, entitled John Lewis: Celebrating a Hero, featured several standout performances. Country singer Wynonna and gospel singer Yolanda Adams teamed up to perform the standard “I’m Not Tired Yet.” Billy Porter and Jon Baptiste did a take on Sam Cooke’s “A Change is Gonna Come”.
John Legend and Common recreated their Grammy and Oscar Winning song “Glory” set against a projection of the Edmund Pettus Bridge where Lewis led marchers in a peaceful protect as state troopers attacked them with clubs and whips.
Other stand out numbers included Jennifer Hudson who opened the show with a performance of Simon & Garfunkel’s “Bridge over Troubled Water” which she sung from a rooftop in her hometown of Chicago.
Pharrell Williams sang “Happy” which is known for being one of Lewis’ favorite songs. His performance included a montage of key moments in civil rights history and cameos from Ciara, Usher, DJ Khaled, Tracee Ellis Ross and Steph Curry.
There is no doubt Lewis’s death has made a mark on the music industry. Following his passing, many artists took to social media to pay tribute to this important man. Those who took the time to commemorate Lewis included Mariah Carey, Paul McCartney, Ice Cube, Katy Perry, Stevie Van Zandt, Herbie Hancock and Roseanne Cash.
Mariah Carey took to Twitter writing, "Today we have lost a heroes' Hero. Thank you God for John Lewis’s life of service. Let us continue to try to walk his walk of truth. Rest in Power.”
Paul McCartney tweeted, “ Sad to hear the news that civil rights legend John Lewis died yesterday. He was such a great leader who fought with honesty and bravery for civil rights in America. Long may his memory remain in our hearts. How about renaming the famous Pettus Bridge…”
"RIP John Lewis. Major major loss. A good friend and ally when I needed one. Absolutely one of a kind. A real hero. The last hero. Man we need him so badly right now. Fixing this mess is going to be a lot harder without him. Travel well my friend. I was lucky to have known you," Van Zandt tweeted.
John Lewis died of stage IV pancreatic cancer. May he continue to be remembered and celebrated for all the wonderful things he did.