Glory – John Legend and Common
Since watching the Grammy’s on Monday I can’t stop thinking about and listening to one song – Glory by John Legend and Common.
The rap and soul combination track was written for the film Selma and documents the struggle for black civil rights in the past and still today. It’s tells a powerful tale of tragedy, bravery and revolution. It is one of the most chilling songs I have heard in a long time, not just because of it’s topic but because it’s written, produced and performed beautifully. I’m not at all surprised the song has picked up a nomination for the Academy Awards for Best Original Song and already won the same award in the Golden Globes.
It’s magic was reinforced for me when I watched Legend and Common perform it as the closing act of the Grammy Awards. What an incredible show they put on. Legend’s rousing piano playing forms the basis of the song, that alone is hair-raising. Add to the mix his faultless vocals and he’s electrifying. Legend has to be one of the best soul artists we have ever seen and the words and melody he has written for Glory emphasises that more than ever.
I’ve always found Legend’s live performances remarkable, but this one was that much more special because of Common’s contribution. Firstly I have to say this man has struck gold with his lyrics. Each time I listen to them I discover another reference to an incredible story in the fight for black civil rights in America. He talks not only of the Selma to Montgomery voting rights march the film is based on but about other struggles. My favourite line makes reference to an historical leader in the civil rights fight before flipping to an example of the stereotypes people are still working to change today in US towns like Ferguson:
“Truant livin’ livin’ in us, resistance is us
That’s why Rosa sat on the bus
That’s why we walk through Ferguson with our hands up
When it go down we woman and man up”
It gets better yet, forming a backdrop behind the two artists is a choir of gospel singers. We all know how effective a gospel choir can be but I find today they’re often overused in songs without enough meaning behind them. This obviously is not the case in Glory. The chorus completes what is already a brilliant track by adding a sense of power as it represents the faith seen in the stories told in the song.
At the end of their Grammy’s performance the pair walked from their microphones to stand together side by side. They stood still staunchly in a haunting display of pride. It was such powerful symbolism. Every time I listen to the song now I picture this moment and Glory once again takes on new meaning. What a phenomenal song.