Twenty-five years later, Williams, finally free, found himself singing the words, “Don’t let the sun go down on me,” on the stage of NBC’s “America’s Got Talent” show. Contrary to the lyrics, the sun isn’t setting on Williams; in fact, he’s begun a new life.
When Williams sent the letter, he was 12 years into a life sentence with no possibility of parole for a crime he didn’t commit. For more than two decades, the Innocence Project fought to prove that Williams had been wrongfully convicted of a rape and attempted murder that occurred in Baton Rouge, Louisiana — and in 2019, he was exonerated by fingerprint evidence.
Through 36 years of wrongful conviction, Williams said music kept his spirits lifted and his hope alive. Though it’s only been a year since Williams was exonerated and released, he’s wasted no time chasing his long delayed dreams of singing. He has not only successfully auditioned for “America’s Got Talent,” but has also realized his dream of performing at the historic Apollo Theater in Harlem, making it to the semi-finals of the theater’s legendary amateur night last November.
Williams’ beautiful rendition of Elton John’s hit “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me” brought the judges and the audience at the show’s live taping to its feet. Even Elton John was moved by the performance, and personally reached out to Williams after seeing his audition online.
“He called me personally,” Williams told People. “He gave me an invitation to sing on his show when he comes back to the United States. It was definitely a surprise!”
Williams’ performance, which aired on May 26, has now touched thousands of people around the world who have shared its impact on them online — these are just some of our favorite reactions to Williams’ inspiring audition.
I was moved to tears when I heard Archie’s story and saw him perform “Don’t Let The Sun Go Down on Me”. The courage and forgiveness shown by him is truly inspiring. The same spirit that the world found so inspiring with Nelson Mandela. Love, E xx https://t.co/oYxM3IyvWB
— Elton John (@eltonofficial) May 26, 2020
— Brandi Apetsi (@DaBusyB) May 26, 2020
Give #ArchieWilliams a recording contract NOW !!!!
— Smiler (@SmilieFlorida) May 27, 2020
37 YEARS IN JAIL FOR SOMEBODY ELSES CRIME! He deserves a lifetime of happiness. I’m so happy to see that he is free, and thriving, and I wish you all of the success in the world @archieisfree. #AGTPremierepic.twitter.com/45GwfDneS5
— terry crews (@terrycrews) May 27, 2020
— #StripesAndDimples (@MsEmilyM_) May 25, 2020
Damn…gotta go fix my mascara. That was a beautiful performance, and coming from such a disgraceful injustice, #ArchieWilliams sure stood tall on that stage, in front of God and everyone, and knocked that song out of the park, with pure grace. Just brilliant. https://t.co/ddyZsRlxrz
— Annie Swick (@annieswick1973) May 25, 2020
Can’t stop thinking of #ArchieWilliams & all the other innocent black men who have been wrongly imprisoned. He made me cry but loved the fact that he didn’t allow his mind to be in prison too. Kept hope in his heart and had a dream #nevergiveup @SimonCowell https://t.co/KAzZA6pBmH
— Floella Benjamin (@FloellaBenjamin) May 25, 2020
What an unbelievably happy ending to a grave miscarriage of justice. This is one tweet that shall forever be embedded in my mind… A message of hope against all odds, when the ‘sun went down.’ Amazing. This is what inspiration is made of. Archie Williams is a hero. Period.
— John Ogola (@jjogola) May 26, 2020
I never stop and watch #AmericasGotTalent but tonight I did, and man, I cried for Archie. It’s like he was meant to sing that song and his story just got me right in the heart. I wish nothing but the best for him. #AGT #ArchieWilliams
— كايله (@xokaylaaa) May 27, 2020
Grab the tissues…
His name is Archie Williams.
This is his audition on America’s Got Talent.
— FierceWarriorNStilettos (@InactionNever) May 23, 2020
Hands down the greatest story and performance I have ever seen in my life. For this man to even want to be in public after 37 years of betrayal by the country he loves is commendable. Archie Williams will take over the world of music and prove that it’s never been about age! https://t.co/AAli3RaDS0
— Ian Omar (@MrLuquis) May 25, 2020