Stevie Wonder, Aretha Franklin, Ludacris Honor Martin Luther King

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					9/19/07, 10:30 am EST

Stevie Wonder, Aretha Franklin, Ludacris Honor Martin
Luther King Jr. At Star-Packed New York Charity Concert




On the red carpet outside of New York’s Radio City Music Hall last night, a diverse
group of stars including Garth Brooks, Wyclef Jean and Russell Simmons made their
way past the blinding flashbulbs for an historic concert: The Martin Luther King Jr.
National Memorial Project Foundation is $18 million shy of the $100 million needed
to construct the MLK monument on the Washington, D.C. mall and, with tickets
ranging from $150-$1,000 a pop, the star-studded Dream Concert would bring the
dream of a King standing amongst the presidents closer to fruition.

(Click here to check out photos of Stevie Wonder, Joss Stone, Ludacris and more
Dream Concert performers and attendees.)

When Diddy took the podium in a snappy white blazer, he solemnly quoted Dr. King,
“We have guided missiles but misguided men,” before welcoming Robin Thicke, who
breezed through “Lost Without You,” then turned over the mic to Joss Stone. A red-
headed Stone appeared center stage in an iridescent green gown, barefoot, as usual,
saying, “This is something I wrote, I hope you like it. Fingers crossed,” and she
belted a slow, bluesy jam about putting the pieces back in place. Ryan Shaw joined
Stone for an impressive duet of “A Change Is Gonna Come” that was sung like they
truly believe it’s gonna come soon.
Next, a more seasoned duo took the stage — gospel favorites BeBe and CeCe
Winans, who brought the hall to church with “I’ll Take You There.” Amens rang out
through the crowd, and continued throughout the evening every time someone said
a profound King




quote, which was often. When five-time Grammy winner John Legend finished
adjusting the microphone at his piano, he explained, “They wanted me to do
‘Ordinary People’ but I made a last-minute decision to change my song. A few years
ago, I wrote a song called ‘Freedom Now.’ And it seemed more appropriate for
tonight.” With an MLK photo swallowing up the stage on the backdrop behind him,
Legend sang a rousing song about fighting for freedom. Sprinkled throughout Radio
City, a few fists were firmly in the air.

When Cedric the Entertainer took the stage he attempted to “crank it up” by doing
the Soulja Boy Superman dance before his hilarious stand-up set. “John Legend is
that low-sodium music!” he joked. “That music make you wanna get your life
together, get your credit right.” Cedric introduced Brooklyn’s own Talib Kweli, who
confidently delivered “Hostile Gospel,” instructing the crowd to “Get your hands up!”
though few did.

“Aw naw, they not energetic enough!” Ludacris scolded the crowd before taking the
stage next. The cheers rose and Luda spat a fast and furious intro before breaking
into his hit “Money Maker.” Babyface offered a rocked-out version of Eric Clapton’s
“Change the World,” then Garth Brooks appeared onstage. “It’s truly an honor to be
here. I’m scared to death,” he admitted, sounding sweet and sincere in his signature
cowboy hat. The crowd chuckled, and Brooks broke into the contemplative war cry
“Abraham Martin & John,” then his gospel-country response to the 1992 L.A. riots,
“We Shall Be Free.”

Soon, LL Cool J and Miss USA Rachel Smith were at the podium introducing Wyclef
Jean, who immediately had the crowd clapping along. “Don’t clap, you’re throwing
me off rhythm!” ‘Clef complained as he strummed his guitar, and everyone stopped.
“Obaaama! Hillary Clinton! They got competition. Vote for meeee!” he sang as he
opened his 2004 sleeper single “President.” “Bush don’t care about Iraq, he cares
about the oil,” he rapped, and everybody cheered. Wyclef started rapping in Spanish,
then French, and the crowd got on their feet for the first time, dancing and chanting
along. In response, Wyclef did a full back flip.

Tony Award-winning actor Ben Vereen and gospel favorite Kirk Franklin next
introduced Carlos Santana. “’Victory is Won’ is a song I wrote for Desmond Tutu, Mr.
Harry Belafonte, Mr. Nelson Mandela, and of course, Mr. Martin Luther King,” he said
before jumping into an electrifying instrumental. Santana put a second guitar over
his shoulder and played “Maria Maria” and “Smooth,” minus Product G&B and Rob
Thomas, respectively.

Later, Usher stepped out, looking sharp in a gray blazer and crisp, white shirt, to
introduce the Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin. Her voice filled Radio City with
“Respect,” ending with powerful pleas, “I don’t want much! I don’t want much! Just a
little!” She then performed “Make Them Hear You,” a song about the civil rights
movement, waved and strutted off the stage with assistance from an escort. “Yes,
Lord, yes!” yelled a woman in the crowd who caught the spirit. “Let’s sing and pray
in that old-time way!”

“Why do I feel the Holy Ghost right now, y’all?” asked Academy Award-winning actor
Cuba Gooding Jr. from the podium. “God is in the building!” Quincy Jones then took
the stage to introduce Stevie Wonder, saying Martin Luther King could have been
talking about Wonder when he said, “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he
stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of
challenge and controversy.” Wonder entered and spoke his mind about how far we
still have to go in the struggle for equality. “We have grown, but we have not grown
so much that we have something like Jena Six… Do you think that Dr. King would be
happy about now? I would say no,” Wonder stated firmly before playing “Love’s In
Need of Love Today,” “Living for the City” and “Visions,” on which he was joined by
India.Arie. Wonder topped things off with “Superstition” and his renowned “Happy
Birthday,” the very song he used to help spearhead the fight to make Martin Luther
King Jr. Day an official holiday in 1986. More than two decades later, it’s about time
for a monument, and hopefully, for a movement.

       Laura Checkoway