Superstar Beverley Knight paid a stunning tribute to the late father of soul music, Sam Cooke, with a note-perfect rendition of one of his inspirational classics as part of a star-studded TV celebration of music, dance, magic and comedy.
But before wowing audiences with her emotionally-charged performance, she first thanked Highfields, her former school, for encouraging her to nurture the phenomenal voice and musical talent that has seen her become one of the world’s most celebrated and loved singers.
Beverley was appearing on Bruce’s Hall of Fame at The Dominion Theatre, which gave some of the UK’s best-loved entertainers the chance to celebrate the artists who inspired their careers.
Speaking to host Alexander Armstrong before her performance, Beverley told of some of the early influences in her life which have led her on the path to global success and adoration as a recording artist and West End sensation.
She said: “It started in church and at home, as music is a huge part of the whole gospel community, but also at school.
“I happened to go to a fantastic school that cared about extra-curricular activities so they encouraged my music and drama.
“Who knew that when I was Sandy in Grease at Highfields School that I would come back to theatre. I am so thrilled to have had that opportunity given to me.”
Three-time MOBO Award-winning Beverley, who has become a huge hit in the West End with critically-acclaimed leading performances in The Bodyguard, Memphis the Musical and Cats, performed Sam Cooke’s beautiful A Change is Gonna Come as part of the Bruce’s Hall of Fame extravaganza.
Cooke is remembered as the father of soul music, with his pioneering contributions to the genre playing a part in the rise of legends including Aretha Franklin, Al Green, Stevie Wonder and Marvin Gaye. A Change is Gonna Come became an anthem for the American Civil Rights Movement and, as well as being voted among the best songs ever written numerous times, was also selected for preservation in the Library of Congress, with the National Recording Registry deeming it ‘culturally, historically or aesthetically important’.
Ahead of her stunning rendition, Beverley said: “You can listen closely to any soul singer of any decade and you will trace them back to Sam. I was just absolutely mesmerised by the power and the delivery of his voice. It would take me to another world.
“He died in an America where he couldn’t vote, where he was still treated as a third class citizen. As Sam was the man he was, he dreamt of better things and of better days.”
She described the song as a ‘beautifully-crafted masterpiece’ that had become a torch throughout the decades, even being used at American President Barack Obama’s inauguration.
“Paying homage to Sam Cooke, the father of soul, is one of the biggest responsibilities and one of the biggest honours I could ever have,” she added.
After receiving a standing ovation for her faultless performance, host Alexander Armstrong said: “That is a performance that nobody in this theatre will ever forget for the rest of their lives. That was just extraordinary.”
Beverley was joined by comedian and actress Catherine Tate, former Pussycat Doll Kimberley Wyatt, Australian film star, singer and dancer Adam Garcia, EastEnders actress and singer Shona McGarty and magician and illusionist Jamie Raven as part of the Hall of Fame extravaganza, which had originally been due to be presented by Sir Bruce Forsyth.
Beverley, from Penn Fields, has kept close ties with Highfields and was invited to be a VIP guest to the official opening of the school's new state-of-the-art building, which was unveiled in 2012. Earlier this year she delighted the cast of the school's production of Hairspray when she invited them to visit her in the West End where she was appearing in Memphis The Musical.