LOS ANGELES – However riotous the Eddie Murphy stories from Arsenio Hall, Tracy Morgan, Adam Sandler and Russell Brand, the highlight of Spike TV’s tribute to Murphy was the comedian’s duet with Stevie Wonder.
Murphy joined the subject of one of his most classic impressions for a rousing rendition of Wonder’s 1973 hit “Higher Ground” during the taping of the Spike TV special “Eddie Murphy: One Night Only,” which is set to air Nov. 14. The Roots served as the house band.
Jamie Foxx, Tyler Perry, Martin Lawrence, Chris Rock and Keenan Ivory Wayans were also among those paying tribute to Murphy on Saturday at the Saban Theater.
Accompanied by a pretty blonde, Murphy beamed throughout the two-hour program, saying he was touched by the tribute.
“I am a very, very bitter man,” he said with a beguiling smile. “I don’t get touched easily, and I am really touched.”
Morgan called Murphy “my comic hero” and came onstage wearing a replica of Murphy’s red leather suit from his standup show “Delirious.”
“He set the tone for the whole industry a long time ago,” Morgan said before taking the stage. “He inspired me in a fearless way.”
Sandler was still in high school when he first saw “Delirious,” which he described as “one of the most legendary standup specials of all time.”
“Everybody on the planet wanted to be Eddie,” he said. “He’s funnier than us. He’s cooler than any of us.”
Samuel L. Jackson said Murphy “changed the course of American film history” by giving Jackson his first speaking role on the big screen, in 1988’s “Coming to America.”
“If it weren’t for Eddie, we might not have all the wonderful films that I’ve made,” Jackson quipped.
“He is a true movie star,” Jackson continued, lauding Murphy’s performance in “48 Hours and Beverly Hills Cop.” “You became an inspiration for all young African-American actors.”
The program featured clips of Murphy’s standup shows, his film appearances in Shrek and Nutty Professor and his work on “Saturday Night Live.”
Murphy insisted before the tribute that he is retired from performing.
“I’m just a retired old song and dance man,” he said, adding that he only makes rare appearances these days. “That’s what you do when you’re retired: You come out every now and then and talk about the old days.”
The 51-year-old entertainer took the stage at the conclusion of the tribute to say he was moved by the honor.
“This is really a touching moving thing, and I really appreciate it,” he said. “You know what it’s like when you have something like this? You know when they sing happy birthday to you? It’s like that for, like, two hours ... and I am Eddied out.”