Anita Baker’s Lifetime Achievement Tribute Performance Brings Us All Joy (Video)

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Last night (June 24), Anita Baker received the Lifetime Achievement Award during the 2018 BET Awards. The gesture places the iconic songstress in the company of Prince, James Brown, Smokey Robinson, and others. One of music’s “quiet storms,” Baker’s career is profiled, from her real messages of love, loss, and also reconciliation. Moreover, the 60-year-old Toledo, Ohio native’s impact on style and musical trends are explored through interviews by Mary J. Blige (who was signed from a demo of an Anita song), current band members, and more. Tyler Perry presented the moment to Baker with an impassioned speech about the impact of this singer that reached households across the globe.

In the tribute performance, stars from across genres paid respects. Yolanda Adams’ rendition of “You Bring Me Joy” was a superb take on the beloved 1986 Rapture album cut. Floetry alum Marsha Ambrosius delivered a worthy cover of “Caught Up In The Rapture” from the same LP. The singer injected her own soul and sincerity into the Top 40 standout. Ledisi also joined the medley which included “Sweet Love.”

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In the crowd, J. Cole, Donald Glover, Michael B. Jordan were among those clearly connecting with the performance. Host Jamie Foxx started the medley at the piano. After some jokes, the actor/musician unwound a tribute that the honoree seemed to appreciate:

Upon receiving her lifetime award, Baker had a succinct message for those in attendance and all viewing. After a graceful and poised hello to the network that played an integral role in her career during the ’80s and ’90s, Anita used her platform to say something. “This band right here…I mean live music is alive and well tonight,” she began, adding that the night’s event was four years in the making. “I was just nervous” explained the eight-time Grammy Award winner who has not released an album in nearly 15 years.

“The young ones are coming; they are here! Please support them,” said Baker, naming Ledesi in particular. “There are so many people to thank, but there’s so little time—and I have your attention and your ears [now]. All that I’d ask is that the music be allowed to play, that singers are allowed to sing, and rappers are allowed to rap, and poets are allowed to rhyme. And I ask that the powers that be in the music industry [and all of us], that we would bring more of what we see here tonight—just a lil’ bit! When I came up in the business, I had amazing people like Tom Joyner [at radio] and amazing formats like ‘The Quiet Storm’ that supported me as a young artist. I would ask that the singers that are veterans here, when you see the young ones, tap ’em the shoulder. They need you. Young ones, now that you’re here tonight look around the room, and find a veteran, and tap ’em on the shoulder. Introduce yourself. Let’s take care of each other. We need each other. We can’t do it alone. Thank you for this welcome home, BET. Thank you.”

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The Lifetime Achievement Award comes after Anita Baker announced her retirement. She recently wrapped a farewell tour that included a stop at New Orleans’ Jazz Fest.