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Although Williams was not scheduled to sing at Essence, Friday’s lineup for its nightly concerts at the Superdome include performances by Charlie Wilson, D’Angelo, Trey Songz, Keyshia Cole and The Pointer Sisters.

Wilson said he was excited about his elevation to the night’s closing performance. In previous years, he was among the main stage acts, but had never closed a show.

“This is amazing, the best feeling for me,” Wilson said. “I’m headlining. All the others times were great, but this one, my fifth, is special. Every year I come back and get such an overwhelming response it just fuels me and gives me energy. I perform as if it’s my last, as if I don’t have a tomorrow and I know the fans feel that,” he said.

Essence Fest is one of the premier music festivals celebrating black culture and music. It’s been held every Independence Day weekend since 1995, when it marked the 25th anniversary of Essence magazine. The festival continues through Sunday and also will feature Mary J. Blige, Kevin Hart, Tank, Ledisi, Aretha Franklin, Fantasia, Estelle and others.

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Associated Press writer Chevel Johnson contributed to this report.