Hudson performed the Aretha Franklin classic "Amazing Grace" at the late singer's Pulitzer Prize special citation award ceremony on Tuesday

By Matt McNulty
May 29, 2019 08:59 AM
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Jennifer Hudson gave a surprise performance in honor of Aretha Franklin at the Pulitzer Prize luncheon at Columbia University on Tuesday, where the late singer was being posthumously honored “for her indelible contribution to American music and culture for more than five decades.”

The 37-year-old paid tribute to the Queen of Soul by singing the Franklin classic “Amazing Grace,” having previously honored her at the late singer’s funeral in August, as well as a Grammys tribute.

The Dreamgirls actress commemorated the occasion on her Instagram shortly after, and highlighted the significance of Franklin’s Pulitzer Prize special citation honor, as she’s the first woman to earn one since it was first awarded back in 1930.

“Only 43 special citations have been granted since 1930, and #ArethaFranklin became the first woman honored with one.”

“Franklin’s citation was a rare move for the @pulitzerprizes. The queen still reigns,” Hudson said on Instagram.

Singer Jennifer Hudson sings "Amazing Grace" in tribute to Aretha Franklin, who received a special music citation during the 2019 Pulitzer Prize winners awards luncheon at Columbia University, in New York
Credit: Bebeto Matthews/AP/REX/Shutterstock

Last year, Hudson was actually announced to play the role of Franklin in the upcoming biopic Respect. Theater director Liesl Tommy has since signed on to direct the film, which is set for release in August 2020.

Franklin herself made it clear she wanted Hudson to play the role before she died at 76 last August.

Singer Jennifer Hudson sings "Amazing Grace" in tribute to Aretha Franklin, who received a special music citation during the 2019 Pulitzer Prize winners awards luncheon at Columbia University, in New York
Credit: Bebeto Matthews/AP/REX/Shutterstock

Hudson nearly missed the event entirely due to the extreme weather conditions across the country, causing her flight from Chicago to New York City to be canceled, according to the Associated Press.

Hudson made the nearly 13-hour road trip instead, arriving just in time to perform as the luncheon was coming to an end.

Said Hudson, “I looked up and I thought, ‘You know what, it’s like Aretha’s spirit is in me. She didn’t believe in flying, she would drive. I got here in time, five minutes early to sing, because I wasn’t going to miss it. Honey I said, ‘If I got to walk, if I got to crawl, I’m going to get there.’ And here I am — so it’s in my heart.”

Singer Jennifer Hudson sings "Amazing Grace" in tribute to Aretha Franklin, who received a special music citation during the 2019 Pulitzer Prize winners awards luncheon at Columbia University, in New York
Credit: Bebeto Matthews/AP/REX/Shutterstock

Earlier in Tuesday’s Pulitzer Prize award program, Brandie Inez Sutton performed Duke Ellington’s “In a Sentimental Mood,” “You’ll Never Walk Alone” by Rodgers and Hammerstein, as well as the spiritual “Hold On” in honor of Franklin. Sutton is a soprano for New York’s Metropolitan Opera.