“I Can’t Make You Love Me” is a song written by Mike Reid and Allen Shamblin and recorded by American singer Bonnie Raitt for her eleventh studio album Luck of the Draw (1991). It was the single 62-year-old Ronee Martin planned to audition with for America’s Got Talent’s eleventh season. But it wasn’t the song that ended up moving an audience to their feet.
Ronee Martin was born to sing. She was featured on Tom Scott’s “One Day/One Night” album. She sang as a background vocalist for big-name artists like Wynton Marsalis, Patti Labelle, and others. She even co-wrote a song, “This is Love”, which ended up being performed by Gladys Knight. Martin has even lent her voice to audiobooks! (1)
But in spite of her many achievements as a vocalist in the background, Ronee Martin was determined to make it to the big leagues.
Ronee Martin was also open about her long-time desire to get married and have children of her own, as well as make a career out of her singing talent. “Over the years, I realized that this wasn’t going to happen for me, so I just went back to my 9-5, which is where I’ve been for the last 22 years.” By day, Martin works as an assistant in a law firm, but in hopes of perhaps changing that, she bravely auditioned in front of Simon Cowell and others in America’s Got Talent 2016. “I was close, close, close, close, close… and it just didn’t happen” she explains about nearly having a record deal to the judges.
“Before I lose it, I need to get it!” she exclaims, proudly before her audition. It’s clear this woman is ready for success! “At 62 years old for my singing career to come back to life sort’ve balances out what didn’t happen,” She says.
But when Martin began to sing “I Can’t Make You Love Me”, something was missing. Her voice was clear and soulful, and her pitch was perfect. But the judges faces all suggested they weren’t convinced she had what it takes to move on in the competition.
Before she’s able to continue her rendition of the song even to the chorus, Simon Cowell stops the music. He simply says, “Ronee, uh, I don’t think that song was right for you. What else have you got?”
Well, Martin certainly got Aretha Franklin’s “Natural Woman”- did she ever! Just watch the clip below to see for yourself how well she pulled off the iconic song.
Of course, long-time viewers of the show can probably recognize that Simon Cowell’s decision to switch Martin’s song choice in the middle of her performance wasn’t exactly a “surprise”, but it definitely does attest that he has an ear for music entertainment and good judgment for great TV storytelling too!
Martin went on to the Judge Cuts performance round, singing Dusty Springfield’s “You Don’t Have To Say You Love Me”. She was then voted by the judges to continue to the Quarterfinal performances where she sang Bill Withers’ “Lean on Me” to standing ovations. Ultimately, Martin failed to garner enough audience votes in the Dunkin’ Save round to push her on to the next level, but we’re sure her music career dreams got a huge boost from the show. Nicely done, Ronee!
Watch her rendition of “Lean on Me” here: