‘American Idol’ Contestant’s Special Song for His Grandfather Is a Tear-Jerker [Watch]
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A very special audition for the new season of American Idol had a major emotional impact on the judges.
There was a special energy in the air when 21-year-old Jon Wayne Hatfield stepped up, holding a guitar and ready to audition. As soon as he said his name, judge Luke Bryan giggled and said, "There's no doubt you're from the country!"
Katy Perry asked Hatfield to tell the judges about himself, and his life story is one that tugs at your heartstrings. His mother struggled with addiction, and his grandparents raised him starting at the age of 5. Hatfield says his grandmother was basically his mom, and his grandpa was his best friend.
He auditioned with an original song that he wrote for his grandfather, Ray, called "Tell Me Ray," and he brought his grandfather in to see his audition after the judges insisted he should be there.
When Hatfield's grandfather, Ray, entered the room, he was already in tears as he sat down at the piano. Jon explained that his grandmother died a few years ago, and watching his grandpa go through that loss of his best friend was really tough.
"He wouldn't talk to anybody for about the first year-and-a-half. Not even me," Hatfield shared. "I got mad at myself, 'cause I couldn't fix it, and he wasn't ready. And I understand that. I didn't see what he was actually going through."
Finally, Ray sat Jon down and told him that he was gay.
"I just wanted to put that out there right away, like, 'Hey, don't think that's gonna change a damn thing between me and you, because you're my best friend and my dad," Hatfield states.
He wrote "Tell Me Ray" after his grandfather came out to him, encouraging him and others that they can "open up without judgment."
Hatfield belted the song out in a very powerful vocal performance, accompanying himself on acoustic guitar as his grandfather watched, frequently wiping away tears. Judge Lionel Richie gave him his handkerchief afterward, telling him how special it was that his grandson had written such a powerful song for him.
"What I love about being a part of this show is, people come in and bare their souls in front of us, and people at home that may be dealing with the same stuff get to realize that they're not alone," Bryan tells Hatfield, going on to praise his musicianship.
"You really showcased the right foundation of what we're looking for," Bryan says before all three judges vote to send him on to the next round.
"You're going to Hollywood!" they exclaim in unison.
American Idol airs each Sunday and Monday night on ABC.
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