John Legend and Common led a spectacular live rendition of their Oscar-winning song “Glory” from the movie “Selma,” complete with an image of Selma’s famed Edmund Pettus Bridge as a backdrop with a multicultural cast of symbolic marchers.
The signature song won the 87th Academy Award for Best Original Score, not surprising since it had garnered a number of awards other awards including a Golden Globe in the same category.
The stirring rendition brought a flood of tears to the face of David Oyewelo, who was overlooked in the nomination for a Best Actor award for his portrayal of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., in the movie. Actor Chris Pine and others in the audience were also brought to tears and to their feet in a standing ovation after the duo’s performance.
Just as he had done at the Golden Globes where he said working on the movie “affirmed his humanity,” Common, 42, gave a stirring acceptance speech:
First off, I’d like to thank God that lives in us all. Recently, John and I got to go to Selma and perform “Glory” on the same bridge that Dr. King and the people of the civil rights movement marched on 50 years ago. This bridge was once a landmark of a divided nation, but now is a symbol for change. The spirit of this bridge transcends race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, and social status. The spirit of this bridge connects the kid from the South side of Chicago, dreaming of a better life to those in France standing up for their freedom of expression to the people in Hong Kong protesting for democracy. This bridge was built on hope. Welded with compassion. And elevated by love for all human beings.
Legend also added to Common’s themes:
Nina Simone said it’s an artist’s duty to reflect the times in which we live. We wrote this song for a film that was based on events that were 50 years ago, but we say Selma is now, because the struggle for justice is right now. We know that the voting rights, the act that they fought for 50 years ago is being compromised right now in this country today. We know that right now the struggle for freedom and justice is real. We live in the most incarcerated country in the world. There are more black men under correctional control today than were under slavery in 1850. When people are marching with our song, we want to tell you that we are with you, we see you, we love you, and march on.
The song and sentiments come at a time of high civil rights unrest over the shooting deaths of unarmed black men by police, more attention focused on biased prison sentencing, and income inequality, particularly among African Americans in relation to the general population.
Their speech, the song and the movie come at a time when the Selma commemorates the 50 year anniversary of “Bloody Sunday” and the Selma-to-Montgomery march for voting rights in 1965. The U.S. Supreme Court in 2013 gutted a key provision of the 50-year-old Voting Rights Act and protections under the law have not been restored by Congress.
See and hear the duo’s post-Oscar comments in the press room in the video below: