Soul-man showtime at the Apollo: Usher and Babyface honored on the stage that ‘fuels dreams’

As Johnny Gill sang in tribute to Babyface, “My, My, My.”

That was the feeling in the house at the Apollo on Tuesday night when both Kenneth “Babyface” Edmonds and Usher Raymond IV — but really, only one name is necessary for each — were honored at the iconic  Harlem iconic institution as it celebrated its 90th anniversary with its annual spring benefit.

No doubt — it was the ultimate soul-man showtime at the Apollo, raising more than $3 million for the nonprofit organization that has been the music mecca for everyone from Louis Armstrong and Ella Fitzgerald to James Brown and Aretha Franklin.

Those velvet seats were feeling extra cushy on this night.

“This entire 90 years of this classic moment that you are celebrating … fuels dreams,” said Usher. SHAHAR AZRAN PHOTOGRAPHY

After 2007 “American Idol” winner Jordin Sparks opened the night with a medley of classics, it was all about the boys 90 years after the Apollo opened on Jan. 26, 1934, turning 125th Street into hollowed ground for generations of African-American artists.

Given the fancy footwork that took Usher to the Super Bowl halftime stage this year, it was fitting that a dance performance including hits such as “Caught Up,” “Burn” and of course “Yeah!” paid tribute to the 45-year-old singer before he accepted the 2024 Icon Award.

“It’s an Icon Award, so I feel like I can take a little more time,” Usher joked as he began his acceptance speech.

And then he told the crowd that was standing in salute, “Don’t sit down — I love it. When I was kid … I can remember watching ‘Showtime at the Apollo with my grandmother, who no longer is here with us … and I would look at the television and I would say, ‘Man, some day I’m gonna make it to that stage. And hopefully one day, I’ll get a standing ovation.’ ”

He continued: “And I stand before you humbled by your appreciation. Thank you guys so much, everyone who made this possible. But this entire 90 years of this classic moment that you are celebrating and will continue to celebrate fuels dreams.”

“I never feel like it’s just me doing it … It’s me meeting you, me talking to you, me hearing your stories,” said Babyface. Shahar Azran Photography

Then it was Babyface’s turn to get his flowers on that legendary stage with the inaugural Legacy Award — one day after the 65-year-old singer, songwriter and hitmaking producer joined the likes of Little Richard, Smokey Robinson and Michael Jackson with his induction into the Apollo Walk of Fame.

“I’m at a loss of words,” said the man famous for writing them for everyone from TLC and Whitney Houston to Bobby Brown and Boyz II Men. Not to mention his fellow honoree Usher.

“I just never saw myself as, like, being on the Apollo stage. I was always the guy behind the scenes and writing for everyone else … I am just in awe to be considered as part of the group.

New Edition’s Johnny Gill performed his hit “My, My, My” in tribute to Babyface, who co-wrote and co-produced the song. Shahar Azran Photography

“People ask me, ‘How am I so humble?’ ” he continued. “Because I never feel like I do it all. I never feel like it’s just me doing it. I feel like it’s not just me, but it’s everybody else. It’s me meeting you, me talking to you, me hearing your stories.”

Then the Tender Lover sat back and watched “The Wiz” actor Avery Brooks, British soul-pop breakout Saint Harrison and two singers who made his songs famous — Karyn White (“Superwoman”) and New Edition’s Gill (“My, My, My”) — pay tribute to him before he broke out that “Whip Appeal” on the audience himself.

Consider us whipped.

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