Usher, Babyface among star-studded stars on The Apollo Theater spring benefit

. June 12, 2024

Usher, Babyface

Source: The Zimbabwe Mail

NEW YORK — The Apollo Theater, a cornerstone of Black music and culture and one of New York City’s most iconic venues, marked its 90th anniversary with a grand celebration on Tuesday.

The historic theater held its annual spring benefit, its largest fundraising event, which this year raised an impressive $3 million. The event featured performances by Usher, Babyface, Big Daddy Kane, Jordin Sparks, and more.

Jordin Sparks kicked off the evening with a powerful medley of classics including Stevie Wonder’s “Superstition,” Aretha Franklin’s “Respect,” and Chaka Khan’s “I’m Every Woman.” Comedian Kym Whitley hosted the event, bringing humor and warmth to the stage, particularly when she joked about Babyface, suggesting he should now be known as “Grown-man-face, sexy-face, kiss-your-face.”

Whitley also shared a personal connection to The Apollo, recounting how it was the stage where she made her television debut as a stand-up comedian. “If you can make it at The Apollo,” she said, “You can make it anywhere.”

Notable speeches were delivered by several Apollo representatives, including President/CEO Michelle Ebanks, Chairman of the Board Charles Phillips, Executive Producer Kamilah Forbes, and New York Governor Kathy Hochul.

The performances were the highlight of the evening, with dancers performing a choreographed medley of Usher’s hits, from “Yeah!” to “Burn,” “Caught Up,” and “Confessions Part II.” Usher, who recently headlined the 2024 Super Bowl halftime show, was honored with the Icon Award. In his acceptance speech, he fondly recalled watching “Showtime at The Apollo” with his late grandmother and dreaming of one day performing on its stage. His heartfelt remarks culminated in a standing ovation from the audience.

Fat Joe and Kwanza Jones, former winners of The Apollo’s famed Amateur Night, led a singalong of Babyface’s 1989 hit, “Soon as I Get Home,” before introducing the legendary producer. Babyface had been honored the previous day with the inaugural Legacy Award at The Apollo Theater’s 2024 Walk of Fame ceremony.

“I never imagined I would get this,” Babyface said at Monday’s ceremony. “I didn’t want to perform here because I didn’t want to get booed, but I didn’t get booed,” he laughed. “I’m so glad that I came here for The Apollo.”

On Tuesday, his acceptance speech was filled with gratitude. “To be here at The Apollo — it’s hard for me to find the words because I never saw myself on this stage. I was always the guy behind the scenes writing songs for everyone else,” he said. “I am just in awe to be considered a part of this.”

The evening concluded with a series of tribute performances of Babyface’s greatest hits, including Toni Braxton’s “You Mean the World to Me,” Eric Clapton’s “Change the World,” and Whitney Houston’s “I’m Your Baby Tonight.” Standout moments included Karyn White’s rendition of “Superwoman,” Johnny Gill’s energetic performance of “My, My, My,” and Babyface himself closing the night with “Whip Appeal.”

The Apollo Theater’s 90th anniversary celebration was a testament to its enduring legacy and its pivotal role in shaping music and culture.