“This is the first time in history that I’ve ever come in 2,588th place -- and it felt like No. 1.”
So noted Usher as he received the latest star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame on Wednesday afternoon (Sept. 7) in Los Angeles. Among the music stars joining Usher’s strong contingent of family and friends at the star site -- 6201 Hollywood Blvd., near the intersection of Hollywood & Vine -- were fellow Hollywood Walk of Famer Stevie Wonder, Kelly Rowland, Miguel, will.i.am and Usher’s Hands of Stone co-star Edgar Ramirez.
Paying tribute to the singer before he took the podium were guest speakers Harvey Weinstein, co-chairman of the Weinstein Co., and Terry Lewis, another Walk of Famer as a member of the award-winning music production duo with Jimmy Jam. Weinstein, who gave Usher his first movie role in 1999’s She’s All That and his current role as boxer Sugar Ray Leonard in the Roberto Duran biopic Hands of Stone, described Usher as a “triple-threat talent like a James Cagney or Michael Jackson who could do everything.” Lewis referenced how Usher has always “worked tirelessly” and possesses the ability to “understand concepts quickly.” Hollywood Chamber of Commerce president/CEO Leron Gubler emceed the ceremony.
Die-hard fans of the eight-time Grammy winner began lining up at 6 a.m. for the 11:30 a.m. ceremony. Amid their shout-outs of “we love you” and “you deserve this,” Usher paid homage to everyone who has supported him on a journey that began at 14 years old when he was signed to LaFace Records by co-founder Antonio “L.A.” Reid. In addition to Reid, chairman/CEO of Epic Records, other music industry executives spotted in the audience included Warner/Chappell chairman/CEO Jon Platt and RCA president of urban music Mark Pitts.
“I don’t just celebrate this moment by myself. I celebrate it with those people who invested in me, those people who loved me through my hard times,” Usher said before singling out his mother and first manager Jonetta Patton. “Mom, thank you for everything and all the people that you’ve actually helped to bring here. They wouldn’t be here if you didn’t recognize and make sure you selected the right people to be around and to help me be the man I am today and in this position.” Additional family members present for the ceremony included the singer’s grandmother, aunt, wife Grace Miguel and his sons Usher Raymond V and Naviyd.
In a speech shifting between serious and lighthearted, Usher delivered his own shout-outs to several icons he wished could be present: Prince, Michael Jackson, James Brown and Luther Vandross. “They were so important in shaping who I am as an entertainer,” said Usher. Of the legendary Wonder, Usher added, “The one thing you’ve preached to me that’s become a mantra is that love is the key. Thank you for giving me that life lesson.”
Usher, whose new RCA album Hard II Love arrives Sept. 16, then saluted his fans. “It’s because of you that this shining star is here. Now it’s your responsibility to come down here every chance you get to shine my star,” he added with a laugh. “That’s the smallest thing that I could ask of you right now especially given the fact that I’m going to be walked on.”