At Sunday’s Grammy Awards, Wonder began the annual “In Memoriam” segment — honoring those musicians who’ve died in the past year — with a tribute to Bennett, who died in July at age 96. Seated at his piano, Wonder first sang “For Once in My Life” alongside an archival video of Bennett singing, then performed the late icon’s “The Best Is Yet to Come.”
Wonder recalled first hearing Bennett singing “For Once in My Life” when “I was like 13 or 14 years old,” and released his own version of the song in 1968 when he was 18. When he got into the studio with producer Henry Cosby for a more uptempo number than had been recorded previously, songwriter Ron Miller said to Wonder, “What are you doing to my song?!” Later, Wonder and Bennett performed it as a duet for Bennett’s 2006 album “Duets” and the track won won the Grammy for best pop collaboration with vocals in 2007.
“What’s amazing is I was able to actually sing the song with someone that I admired for so long,” an emotional Wonder said of working with Bennett. “Not just because of his voice, which was incredible, but because of his love for art. His love for peace. His love for unity. His love for civil rights. Yes, I remember as a little boy him being in places where most people would not even go to stand for the right for freedom for everyone.”
In conclusion, Wonder added, “Tony, I’m going to miss you forever. I love you always and God bless that God allowed us to have you and have us in this time and space in our life.”
Annie Lennox sings a Sinead O’Connor classic, Oprah Winfrey and Fantasia Barrino honor Tina Turner
After Wonder’s tribute to Bennett, there was a video snippet of Jimmy Buffett crooning “Come Monday” before Annie Lennox took the stage to tearfully sing Sinéad O’Connor‘s “Nothing Compares to U.”
“Artists for ceasefire, peace in the world!” Lennox said at the end, her first raised.
After a Burt Bacharach video package, Jon Batiste sang “Ain’t No Sunshine,” “Stand by Me” and “Optimistic” in a tribute to Clarence Avant, a music executive and manager dubbed the “Black Godfather of Music” who helped the careers of Quincy Jones, Bill Withers and others.
“She is our forever goddess of rock and roll, who inspired millions. A moving symbol of grace and grit, soul and power,” Winfrey said. She called Turner “a special kind of role model. She used to say to me, ‘Oprah, you should always dress up for dinner even if no one’s there, just so you feel beautiful to you, for yourself,’ ” before “The Color Purple” star Fantasia Barrino launched into a rousing cover of “Proud Mary.”
First appeared on www.usatoday.com