The legendary Apollo Theatre – one of Harlem, and the nation’s best-known music venues – celebrated it’s 80th Anniversary this week at their annual spring gala and the historic landmark has never looked better!
The fête that raised a record-breaking $2.3 million dollars for the theater, included unforgettable performances by singing legends Natalie Cole, Gladys Knight and The Isley Brothers — who will be inducted into The Apollo Theater Legends Hall of Fame. The night also included impressive stage performances by a younger generation of stars including rapper Doug E. Fresh, tap dancer Savion Glover, singer Joss Stone, Australian quartet Human Nature and pianist Mathew Whitaker. Multi-talented actor Wayne Brady hosted the night and in addition to making jokes in between sets, he bobbed and weaved through the performances himself, singing and even rapping!
The performers each paid homage to history-making stars that have graced the marquee like Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Nat King Cole, Sarah Vaughn, Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald, James Brown, Stevie Wonder, Luther Vandross and more reminding the crowd just how full of history the venue truly is.
It’s almost hard to imagine that when the theater was constructed in 1914, and named the Hurtig and Seamon’s New Burlesque Theater, it kept it’s doors closed to Black people with a strict “Whites Only” policy. But after it officially opened as the “Apollo Theater” in 1934 it became an incubator for Black talent. Jimi Hendrix won the first place prize in an amateur musician contest at the Apollo in 1964. James Brown recorded four albums there, including the legendary “Live At The Apollo,” album that sat on the Billboard pop album charts for 66 weeks. Lauryn Hill and Dave Chappelle were both famously booed at their first “Showtime at the Apollo” appearance.
Of course, there are countless other historic moments in the Apollo’s history books and this week’s spring gala showed the venue is still in the business of being a destination where “stars are born and legends are made.”
#TeamBeautiful was in the house for the celebration and danced the night away during the program – and epic after party where DJ D-Nice hit the ones and twos! Check out video of the red carpet and performance clips from Joss Stone, Gladys Knight and The Isley Brothers, below.
We were on a mean two step and body roll when The Isley Brother’s hit the stage singing “In Between The Sheets!”
In case there was any doubt about UK singer Joss Stone’s ability to put the soul in songs, see her belt James Brown’s “It’s A Man’s, Man’s World.”
Gladys Knight lent her beautiful vocals to the classic hit “Someone To Watch Over Me.”
NewsOne’s Roland Martin hits the red carpet to get the scoop from guests!
1. Happy 80th Anniversary Apollo Theater!
The Apollo Theater celebrated their milestone anniversary this year at their annual spring gala. This year’s gala celebrated the eight decades of artistic brilliance that have been presented on the Apollo stage since 1934 with a fantastic line up of stage guests! Keep clicking to see some of the highlights from the show!
2. Natalie Cole
Natalie Cole's kicked off the night singing Ella Fitzgerald's "Mr. Paganini" amongst other classic tunes. "I'm honored to be on the same stage my dad performed on," she said of her late father Nat King Cole.
3. Gladys Knight
Gladys Knight & the Pips started their careers on the Apollo stage! At the gala, Knight shouted out great singers who came before her like Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughn and Billie Holliday. "They taught me how to sing a love song. They taught me love comes *before* sex," she said before singing hits like "The Man I Love" and "Someone To Watch Over Me."
4. Joss Stone
UK singer Joss Stone showed the crowed she's got SOUL (in case there was any doubt) and brought down the house belting James Brown's "It's A Man's Man's World."
5. The Isley Brothers
The Isley Brothers had the whole crowd body rolling and screaming "YASSSSS!" when they crooned their hits "Between The Sheets," "Who's That Lady" and more! The group is this year's Apollo Theater Hall Of Fame honoree, a prestigious honor held by
6. Human Nature
This Australian group gave us a Motown moment and held their own singing classics like the Jackson 5's "ABC."
7. Doug E. Fresh & Wayne Brady
Did you know Wayne Brady had rhymes? The multi-talented host kicked a few bars while Doug E. Fresh beat boxed, in between schooling the crowd on hip-hop culture.
8. Savion Glover & Doug E. Fresh
In one of the most epic stage moments of the night, tap dancer Savion Glover showed off his fancy footwork in rhythm to Doug E. Fresh's fresh beat boxing. Mind blown!
9. Wayne Brady & Mathew Whitaker
Wayne Brady also showed off his singing chops and performed Ray Charles' "Georgia On My Mind" alongside pianist Mathew Whitaker, who like Charles, was also born without sight.