Archie Williams: From wrongful conviction and exoneration after 37 years to ‘America’s Got Talent’

Most of the time “America’s Got Talent” is a crowd-pleasing, rip-roaring good time, but every so often a contestant’s personal story is so moving that we as an audience are brought back down from the clouds to the realities of earth. That was the case on the season 15 premiere of “AGT” on May 26.

For singer Archie Williams, his reality for 37 years was being housed in one of America’s “bloodiest” prisons for a crime he didn’t commit. He was released in March of 2019 after DNA evidence obtained by the Innocence Project exonerated him of a rape and murder for which he’d been convicted in 1982. That verdict came despite an overwhelming lack of evidence against him at the time. For his audition he sang a gut-wrenching and powerful rendition of Elton John‘s ballad “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me.” Go get some tissues and then watch above!

Archie’s performance may not be the most technically proficient vocal we’ve seen in reality competition TV, but it is certainly one of the most moving. He chose a great song that encapsulates his story of perseverance, faith and dignity. But the judges’ votes to send him through to the next round are grounded not in wanting honor his triumph over his trauma, but rooted in the fact that Archie was able to tap into his own personal connection to the lyric and by delivering a vocal that can be felt. If you watch closely during the judges’ commentary, you might even catch ‘Big Brother’ champ Kaycee Clark cheering Archie on!

SEE ‘America’s Got Talent’ judges rankings: All 13 judges ranked from worst to best

With four YES votes from the judges, Archie will sing again in the Judge Cuts later this summer. The format will be the same this year as last, with “America’s Got Talent” airing initially just on Tuesdays with the first six weeks devoted to the auditions that took place around the country. Then there will be four weeks of Judge Cuts beginning in July, followed by the series of live performance shows and results episodes.

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