Usher, Aretha Help Give Oprah a Spiritual Send-off

Oprah Winfrey and Aretha Franklin (Getty Images)

Oprah Winfrey and Aretha Franklin (Getty Images)

It was a happy day for Oprah Winfrey as Day Two of her marathon, arena-sized farewell ended Tuesday with singing star Usher leading a stage full of top celebrities in the singing of “Oh, Happy Day.”

It was a fitting, satisfying capper to an hour that was more spiritual in nature than Day One on Monday. How could it not be? Just before Usher sang “Oh, Happy Day,” Aretha Franklin took the stage and delivered a rendition of “Amazing Grace” that might have been the most unique version of this classic song that has ever been sung anywhere. Watching at home, it was impossible not to have goosebumps. You could only imagine what this performance must have been like in person inside Chicago’s vast United Center.

Aretha was introduced by Stedman Graham, Oprah’s long-time companion, who Oprah apparently didn’t expect to see on stage. When he appeared, she could be heard saying: “What in the name of Jesus?”

Watch some highlights of Day Two of Oprah’s Farewell Fest:
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The Stedman surprise was just one of many that were sprung on Oprah in Part Two of this two-day event her producers had titled “Oprah’s Surprise Spectacular.” Among the surprises earlier in Day Two: Poet Maya Angelou reciting a new poem written especially for Oprah, while accompanied by Alicia Keys on the piano. It was likely the same grand piano that rose from beneath the floor of the stage earlier in the show with Stevie Wonder sitting before it. Stevie sang “Isn’t She Lovely,” while Oprah listened, accompanied by Jamie Foxx, who had already been introduced by Will Smith.

And so it went. Michael Jordan – the only Chicago celebrity as famous and beloved in the Windy City as Oprah Winfrey – made a brief appearance. There was even a stand-up comedy performance from Jerry Seinfeld, who riffed on husbands, wives and “The Oprah Winfrey Show.” “When you’re having a conversation with your significant other,” Jerry said, “learn to talk like you’re being interviewed by Oprah.”

Next it was Simon Cowell’s turn to take the stage to introduce a song-and-dance number featuring Rosie O’Donnell, soon to host her own talk show on OWN, who was joined by Dr. Phil, Dr. Oz and Nate Berkus, daytime stars discovered and nurtured by Oprah.

There was Tyler Perry and Maria Shriver (who made no reference to her marital woes) and of course Gayle King. Along the way, Oprah was thanked by recipients of scholarships she funded – particularly the many graduates of Morehouse College whose educations she paid for. Oprah cried and cried, and this gargantuan farewell festival finally came to an end.

And now, there’s just one more show to go – a quieter affair back in the familiar confines of Oprah’s Harpo Studio. It was taped on Tuesday and will air on Wednesday (check local listings). And since it’s been taped, the details trickled out on Tuesday. Gone will be the celebrity guests. In their place: Just Oprah, talking directly to viewers and reminiscing.

“This is my love letter to you,” Oprah reportedly said, according to this story.

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The opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Comcast.

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