This was the 39th year for “A Capitol Fourth” to be a fixture of Independence Day broadcasting. The PBS primetime special has been a staple on Independence Day for a generation now, through varying hosts, presidents, politics, and tumultuous times for the nation. The pure intent of the production was even more pivotal in the July 4, 2019 edition, considering that the chief executive of the nation inserted himself into the center of an alternate celebration only miles away.

The stars of “A Capitol Fourth,” more than the performers, were the assembled families and fans, proudly adorned in red, white and blue T-shirts, shorts and flip-flops.

They all were there to honor the service and sacrifice of those who protect, serve, and save every day. The full spectrum of military service was seen in the front rows and from the stage. Genuine gratitude, valor, and inclusion were on display without indulgent show.

Carole King, one of the featured performers, described that “we are the real Independence Day show” on MSNBC on July 3. The joy of faces along this particular patch of the Capitol’s green grass graciously confirmed.

Moving from the first moment

John Stamos has assumed the hosting duties for “A Capitol Fourth” for several years now, and this year, the production was more personal than ever for the actor and musician beloved as “Uncle Jesse” on “Full House.” Stamos was palpably choked up in sharing his own immigrant heritage at the opening of the proceedings, introducing his wife Caitlin, and son Billy.

The doting dad and his son played very active roles with the stars onstage, especially the Sesame Street favorites, gathered to honor their 50 years of fostering learning and self-esteem in young children. A running gag began with the first performance of “A Grand Old Flag” with the gang. Stamos proved his fan status with a childhood photo of himself holding Bert and Ernie pals, but kept running off stage for one reason or the other, missing his singing opportunity with the ensemble.

The host stepped up and showed his open heart and true musical chops in a performance of “Chicken Fried” with a group of wounded veterans from MusicCorps, never missing a beat on drums. Stamos frequently tours with the Beach Boys and he was beaming with pride to be part of this band of brothers and battle warriors. Their prosthetic limbs and proven talent exemplified courage.

The loudest applause of the night before the finale was theirs.

True Soul

Country Music singer-songwriter Lee Brice couldn't have picked a more apropos song than his own “American Nights.” The ballad extols joy of simply having “a twenty in my pocket” and feeling like a millionaire because of the people around him, in contrast to the wealthy donors some distance away.

R&B legends, The O'Jays, are tried, tested, and no less tremendous in energy for their years. “Love Train” took the whole crowd for a ride, with every step in sync and no one disinvited.

Gospel icon, Yolanda Adams, honored Aretha Franklin with a moving rendition of “Respect.” Young and old were equally stirred singing every word. The resonance was even more authentic because of the relationship between the two singers and their gospel roots.

Conductor Jack Everly conducted joint groupings of the bands from each military branch, and John Stamos invited wives and military children to lead a tribute to those deployed with lighted phone flashlights. Seeing the raised hands of so many children was unspeakably affecting.

Recent talent competition sensations, Angelica Hale from “America's Got Talent” and “American Idol” winner, Laine Hardy, got spirited receptions, too.

A Capitol Fourth” elicits a sense of respect that escapes the “Macy’s Fourth of July Fireworks Spectacular.” Both traditional specials speak to honor for service, but the big names and the performances taken from concert tours rather than as planned tributes don’t ring as deeply from New York City.

Yes, the fireworks are magnificent, but quiet and sincere gestures of respect have a power all their own.

Violinist Lindsey Stirling has more than two billion total views on YouTube, and she mesmerized the audience with her performance of “The Upside,” backed by illuminated bars. The original singer of “This Is Me” from “The Greatest Showman,” Keala Settle, shone with a light of inclusion and acceptance of personhood in her performance of the beloved ballad. Everything is bigger when it has the backing of the best national bands and Settle brought the house down.

The grand finale was left to Carole King and the new star slated to portray her in Broadway's “Beautiful,” Vanessa Carlton. An entire entourage from the cast took to the stage to portray the music of the songstress’ start.

Before the fireworks started, King and Carlton generated some soulful heat of their own from the iconic catalog. Carlton sang “You Make Me Feel (Like a Natural Woman),” and she and King sang together on “I Feel the Earth Move.”

The earth truly did move on “A Capitol Fourth” after Vanessa Williams sang “America the Beautiful,” and “The Overture of 1812” signaled the start of the fireworks. Perhaps the pyrotechnics weren't up to “spectacular” but even the biggest stars stayed on the stage to sing their patriotism, and everyone was there for the right reasons.