If there’s one thing you can count on from America’s Got Talent it’s a few genuinely moving moments packed in between the dancing pigs, card tricks, lame rollerskaters and jokey acts clearly just trying to steal some airtime. All of those things happened on Tuesday night’s (May 26) first round of auditions for the summer blockbuster show’s 15th season.
And when the time came for the tearjerker, it was all that and more. Archie Williams confidently walked out on stage with a story that is sadly all-too-familiar to some. The Louisiana native collected himself before explaining that he was in prison for 37 years on a false conviction tied to the 1982 rape and stabbing of a white woman. “I knew I was innocent. I didn’t commit a crime, but being a poor black kid I didn’t have the economic ability to fight the state of Louisiana at the trial,” Williams said.
Williams was sentenced to life plus 80 years with no chance of parole and served nearly four decades in prison before being exonerated based on DNA evidence. In his pre-performance package, Williams said he spent much of his time in lockup praying and singing — as well as watching AGT — before his release last spring.
He then moved the crowd and panel to tears with a soulful, stripped-down cover of Elton John‘s “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me,” his voice filled with a moving, raspy cry as he sang, “Don’t let the sun go down on me/ Although I search myself, it’s alway someone else I see/ I’d just allow a fragment of your life to wander free.” In addition to getting four thumbs up from the judges, with Simon Cowell saying he’d never listen to the song the same way again, Williams got the ultimate kudos: a tweet from Sir Elton himself.
“I was moved to tears when I heard Archie’s story and saw him perform ‘Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me,'” the iconic singer tweeted. “The courage and forgiveness shown by him is truly inspiring. The same spirit that that the world found so inspiring with Nelson Mandela.”
Check out the performance and John’s tweet below.
I was moved to tears when I heard Archie’s story and saw him perform "Don’t Let The Sun Go Down on Me". The courage and forgiveness shown by him is truly inspiring. The same spirit that the world found so inspiring with Nelson Mandela. Love, E xx https://t.co/oYxM3IyvWB
— Elton John (@eltonofficial) May 26, 2020