SALT LAKE CITY — He brought judges and fans alike to tears on “America’s Got Talent” Tuesday night. Now 22-year-old Kodi Lee is the first person to get a golden buzzer on the show this season.
Lee, who is blind and has autism, got a standing ovation from the audience after singing and playing his version of Leon Russell’s “A Song for You” on the piano.
Lee’s performance brought judge Julianne Hough to tears and led Gabrielle Union to hit the first golden buzzer of the season, which sends Lee directly to the live shows in Hollywood.
“Everybody needs a voice and an expression, and I really feel your heart, your passion. Your voice blew all of us away,” Hough said after Lee’s performance.
“What just happened there was extraordinary — I mean really extraordinary,” Simon Cowell added. “Thank you so much for trusting us on this show. I’m going to remember this moment for the rest of my life.”
Lee’s performance has been shared thousands of times on social media by viewers who can’t get enough of it.
“Loved this moment so much,” Oprah Winfrey tweeted. “Stood up and cheered in my living room.”
“Wow!! Kodi Lee you are a superstar,” Utah Jazz forward Joe Ingles tweeted.
“I know how isolating a disability can be and how trapped it can make you feel at times. I'm so glad this man has found such an incredible way to break free of that and share himself with us. Never underestimate or limit those of us with disabilities!” YouTuber Molly Burke tweeted.
Lee’s mom, Tina Lee, who escorted him onstage for his performance, said, “We found out that he loved music really early on. He listened and his eyes just went huge, and he started singing. … That’s when I realized, ‘Oh my gosh, he’s an entertainer.’
“Through music and performing he was able to withstand living in this world, because when you’re autistic it’s really hard to do what everybody else does. It actually has saved his life."