VH1’s beloved franchise VH1 Divas paid tribute to the great cities of soul music last night, including Chicago, Detroit, London, Memphis and Philadelphia.
The all-star diva roster included Mary J. Blige, Kelly Clarkson, Florence + The Machine, Jennifer Hudson, Jessie J and Jill Scott, accompanied by one of the most exciting groups of modern soul, The Roots, with Questlove and Adam Blackstone as musical directors.
In addition to the Divas, the evening included an incredible line-up of performers including Chaka Khan, Erykah Badu, Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings, Boyz II Men, Estelle, Marsha Ambrosius, Travie McCoy, Mavis Staples, Wanda Jackson, Martha Reeves and Ledisi. Presenters were Dolly Parton, Queen Latifah, Terrence Howard, Nas, Common, Sherri Shepherd, La La Anthony, and Archie Panjabi.
The night kicked off with a rousing medley of soulful reworks of “You Keep Me Hanging On,” “Spotlight,” “Real Love,” and “Since U Been Gone” performed by respective divas Jennifer Hudson, Mary J. Blige and Kelly Clarkson. Mavis Staples, Erykah Badu and Chaka Kahn then stopped the show with a high-spirited rendition of “I’ll Take You There.” Other highlights include Florence Welch with a barefoot performance of “Walking on Broken Glass” and Chaka Khan and Mary J. Blige dueting on “Ain’t Nobody.”
One of the night’s major highlights included a special tribute to Amy Winehouse and her contribution to modern London soul music. Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings and rockabilly legend Wanda Jackson performed “You Know I’m No Good,” and Florence Welch performed “Back to Black.” The Dap-Kings contributed a number of tracks for Winehouse’s Grammy Award-winning album “Back to Black.” In addition, Nas, who collaborated with Winehouse on the first single of her current posthumous album, introduced the tribute medley.
As in previous years, this edition of “VH1 Divas” benefits the VH1 Save The Music Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to raising awareness about the importance of music education in a child’s life. VH1 Save The Music Foundation auctioned special “Divas” ticket packages before the show on leading charity auction site charitybuzz.com, including the opportunity to watch the sound check, walk the red carpet and more. Proceeds from these exclusive packages benefit the Foundation’s mission to equip students with the tools to lead, innovate and create in the 21st century.