With elaborate sets, moments of magic and stirring live performances, BET's annual Celebration of Gospel, which took place on Saturday, lived up to the show's 14-year legacy.
Hosted by Academy-Award nominated actress Taraji P. Henson, gospel music's biggest celebration featured several gospel and R&B collaborations.
From Charlie Wilson's lively set which was arguably the night's top performance to Yolanda Adams' evangelical fervor, the show brought together top artists from both the secular and gospel music worlds.
Kicking off the evening's celebration was Deitrick Haddon. With an awe-inspiring display of endurance and talent, the minister and gospel singer who appears on the Oxygen docu-series "Preachers of L.A.," roared on stage performing his single "Great God." This was followed by Tamela Mann and Sisters with Voices, the R&B Grammy-nominated trio from New York City better known as SWV. Powerhouse vocalist Yolanda Adams had the audience on their feet, including celebrity guest Kenny Lattimore, as she belted out the hit "The Only Way."
Performing "He Turned It," Tye Tribbett, who was joined by Donnie McClurkin sang, cajoled, conducted, and danced, while acoustic soul artist India Arie gave a more subdued performance with contemporary gospel artist Jonathan McReynolds.
Other performers included "American Idol" winner Ruben Studdard, BET's "Sunday Best" winner LeAndria Johnson, and soulful crooner Kem who joined forces to raise the praise as a triumphant trio. With elements from gospel, jazz, blues, and R&B, Lalah Hathaway performed with Zacardi Cortez and Chante Moore had a musical number with Vashawn Mitchell.
Midway through the show, there was a touching tribute to gospel music pioneer Richard Smallwood and rousing spoken word pieces from Pastor Shirley Caesar and Dr. Bobby Jones.
Eddie Levert from the group The Ojay's also made a special appearance much to the audience's delight, but the evening's most definitive moments came from Charlie Wilson who confirmed that he's still the singer and showman he was in the early '80s when he led the Gap Band through its biggest hits. Clad in a white suit and backed by a musical entourage, Uncle Charlie, as he fondly called, shared his testimony in a sanctified song titled "If I believe," a track which he told Gospel Herald addresses his faith in God.
"If you believe in something greater than yourself and believe in yourself, you can do anything," added Wilson, who shared that he was excited to be performing at an event which celebrates the word of God.
Wilson who overcame a drug addiction, prostate cancer and being homeless for a few years on the streets of Los Angeles has made comeback in the music industry and recently beat out Justin Timberlake, John Legend and Robin Thicke to receive the NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Album for Love, Charlie.
"I fell to my lowest point during my addiction to drugs and alcohol that left me homeless," stated Wilson. "I was able to pick myself up and begin a second career as a solo artist through God. My faith has led me to heights I could not have imagined and I put God first and I thank him. I know if it wasn't for him I wouldn't be where I am now."
BET's annual gospel music special, "Celebration of Gospel" will air on Sunday, April 6 at 8 p.m./EST on the BET Network.