Madonna paid tribute to Aretha Franklin at the MTV Video Music Awards and described her as “one of the greatest soul singers that ever lived”.
Some of the biggest names in music gathered in New York on Monday for the annual awards show that saw performances from Ariana Grande, Nicki Minaj and Jennifer Lopez.
Organisers had promised a tribute to revered soul singer Franklin, who died aged 76 on August 16, and megastar Madonna took to the stage and delivered a powerful eulogy.
She told the audience it was a performance of one of her songs that launched her career.
She said she was living in Detroit with “35 dollars in my pocket” and was repeatedly being rejected from auditions for “not being pretty enough”. Then, during an audition as a backing dancer for a French disco performer, she decided to sing Franklin’s (You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman.
This led to her going to Paris and acted as a launchpad for her career. She said, “none of this would have happened, could have happened without our lady of soul”.
Madonna added: “Thank you Aretha for empowering all of us. Our R-E-S-P-E-C-T. Long live the queen.”
The awards show, one of the biggest nights in music, ended with Franklin’s Respect playing.
Elsewhere on the night, Cuban-American singer Camila Cabello was the big winner, scooping both Artist Of The Year and Video Of The Year, the two biggest prizes on offer.
The ceremony was opened by Cardi B, who led the way in nominations with 10. She appeared on stage cradling an object wrapped in a towel, teasing fans with a first glimpse at her daughter.
She gave birth to her first child, a daughter named Kulture, with Migos rapper Offset in July.
But the towel held a Moonman, the statue awarded to VMA winners. On the night, Cardi B won Best New Artist and Best Collaboration.
An emotional Grande won the Best Pop prize for No Tears Left To Cry, her first single after a suicide bomber killed 22 people at her concert in Manchester in May last year.
Accepting the award, Grande, 25, thanked her family, fans and fiance Pete Davidson, who was seated in the audience.
Lopez thrilled fans with a medley of some of her biggest hits, including Jenny From The Block, Love Don’t Cost A Thing and All I Have.
Her career was then honoured with the Michael Jackson Video Vanguard Award, a prize whose previous winners include David Bowie, Kanye West and Britney Spears.
American rapper Post Malone won Song Of The Year for Rockstar, his collaboration with 21 Savage while Minaj won Best Hip-Hop.