Cynthia Erivo, Andra Day and More Standout Performances From 'A GRAMMY Salute to the Sounds of Change' Special

The special was hosted by Common and broadcast on Wednesday.

Artists came together for a special one-night celebration on Wednesday. Common hosted A GRAMMY Salute to the Sounds of Change, which put a spotlight on unforgettable songs that catalyzed social change, both reflecting and shaping their times. During the telecast, Billy Porter sat down with Gayle King to talk about the barriers he's overcome to find his truest voice. 

But first, Cynthia Erivo kicked off the celebration by singing John Lennon's classic "Imagine." Dressed in a head-to-toe pearl netted dress with a head wrap, she elegantly belted the song as images of Black Lives Matter demonstrations and protesters in the wake of George Floyd's death were shown on the screen behind her. Erivo was solely accompanied by a pianist during her performance.

Chris Stapleton then took the stage to perform Louis Armstrong's beloved 1967 recording of "What a Wonderful World." The track was inducted into the GRAMMY Hall of Fame in 1999. Stapleton, a five-time GRAMMY winner, sang the song as he played the electric guitar.

Loretta Lynn was honored during the telecast by LeAnn Rimes, who sang the icon's classic "The Pill." The single was about the then-risqué subject of birth control and became a hit despite being banned on many radio stations. Rimes, rocking a sparkling pink gown with matching gloves, had a full band behind her as she sang the catchy song.

Patti LaBelle, known for her own power ballads, sang an early feminist anthem, Leslie Gore's "You Don't Own Me." LaBelle was accompanied by three backup singers as she delivered the impactful tune.

Andra Day once again proved she's a force to be reckoned with as she continued to honor Billie Holiday with a captivating performance of "Strange Fruit." The singer-turned-actress has already won a Golden Globe for her portrayal of the iconic songstress in The United States Vs. Billie Holiday. She also received an Oscar nomination for Best Actress this week.

Joined by Terrace Martin on sax, GRAMMY-winning artist Leon Bridges gave a mesmerizing performance of "Sweeter," a song of change inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement. The song was written after Floyd was killed last summer by police in Minneapolis, sparking protests nationwide and moving many to action.

Gladys Knight paid tribute to Marvin Gaye during the special by performing his mega hit, "What's Going On." The singer was joined by Sheila E. on percussion, Israel Houghton on guitar, D Smoke on keyboards and Adam Blackstone on bass.

John Fogerty then treated audiences to two powerful performances. The singer sang his impactful songs "Weeping in the Promised Land" and "Fortunate Son" with a full band behind him.

After an insightful conversation with Gayle King, Porter took the stage to sing "You Are My Friend" by LaBelle. "For me, it's been my friendships, my chosen family, who have sustained me for the entirety of my life," he expressed, adding that one cannot choose their family "but you can choose your friends. And that's why I chose this song."

Gloria and Emilio Estefan took a moment to touch on how their powerful Latinx culture informed their collective musical experience. They then introduced their daughter, Emily, whose activism led her to write the compelling song for Justice Sonia Sotomayor, "This Is What (for Justice Sonia Sotomayor)."

Brad Paisley performed his 2009 single "Welcome to the Future" during the telecast. The single was inspired by his experience standing in Times Square as a crowd cheered on the historic news that America had elected its first Black president. He later sang the song live for the first time ever at the White House for President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama.

After a powerful speech about fighting for equality, Yolanda Adams closed the show by singing "We Shall Overcome." The gospel song became a protest song and a key anthem of the American civil rights movement. Adams was joined by a fantastic gospel choir dressed in bright yellow robes.

The 2021 GRAMMY Awards took place on Sunday, March 14. See highlights from the awards ceremony in the video below.