Forty-four years after Stevie Wonder released "Love's in Need of Love Today," Louisiana's Archie Williams proved the powerful song's lyrics still ring true, especially today.
Baton Rouge native Williams was the last of 11 quarter-finalists performing on "America's Got Talent's" first live show of the season Tuesday night, after which viewers voted for their favorites. On Wednesday's night results show, the five acts moving on in the competition will be revealed. Voters will have one more chance to vote during the broadcast to save one contestant in danger of elimination. The show airs at 7 p.m. on WVLA, Channel 33 (cable Channel 3 in Baton Rouge), KLAF, Channel 15 (cable Channel 3 in Lafayette) and WDSU, Channel 6 (cable Channel 7 in New Orleans).
To see Williams' performance, click here.
After watching trained pigs jump through an obstacle course, a hip-hop dancer bend and twist in all directions and an aerial artist survive the "wheel of death," viewers witnessed another moving performance from 59-year-old Williams. His story went viral following his May audition on the NBC talent competition series.
In addition to performing Elton John's "Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me" for his audition, Williams told his story of being falsely accused of the rape and stabbing of a woman at her home in the Hundred Oaks area of Baton Rouge in 1983, then being convicted of the crimes and sentenced to life plus 80 years in prison, with no chance of parole, at Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola.
He was exonerated in March 2019, thanks to the help of the Innocence Project New Orleans, when improvements in evidence technology proved fingerprints taken at the scene of the crime belonged to another man — a serial rapist who went free while Williams was serving his sentence.
Before singing live on the "AGT" stage Tuesday night, a recorded segment had Williams reading from his initial letter, written on loose-leaf paper, to the Innocence Project in 1995. He explained that he had penned many such letters, but no one seemed to want to help him.
"Hate's goin' round, breaking many hearts, stop it please, before it's going too far," Williams sang soulfully, bringing tears to judge Heidi Klum's eyes.
"I can feel all the pain that you've gone through and the words could not be more perfect right now. We need more love and less hate," Klum told him afterward.
Judge Kelly Clarkson, filling in for Simon Cowell, critiqued Williams for the first time.
"I know your story is an incredible testimony, honestly, and it's powerful, but I don't want that to overshadow the beautiful gift that you have too," she told him. "Your tone is so cool. It was just a blessing to hear such a storyteller."
"You know, you don't sing to us, it's like you preach to us," judge Howie Mandel added. "Your words mean so much more than even the lyrics and the way you sing it; to have endured what you do, you know you are an inspiration. I think you deserve, the fact that the first freedom you had you decided to share on our stage, we can't thank you enough. … You deserve it Archie, more than anybody."
In the next three weeks of the live quarterfinals, 11 acts will perform each Tuesday and viewers can vote at NBC.com/AGTVote and via the “AGT” App (available through Google Play and on the App Store). In addition, Xfinity X1 customers can vote via their set-top box during the live broadcast by saying “vote for AGT” into the X1 voice remote.
Should Williams, who now calls New Orleans home but is living temporarily in California, advance this week, he'll perform again when semi-final rounds start.