Politics are all but removed from today”s pop music. If musicians gamble on voicing an opinion in a single, they risk alienating the audience that keeps them afloat. Playing it safe makes them stars. The trepidation is in stark contrast to, say, 1964, when Nina Simone felt assured enough to sing her ferocious protest song “Mississippi Goddam” to a crowd of white Carnegie Hall patrons. Like “Four Women” or “To Be Young, Gifted and Black,” “Mississippi Goddam” was jaunty, raw and incriminating. There was nothing quite like it. That is what made Nina Simone a star.
I mention this because John Legend just released “Glory,” an original song set to accompany Ava Duvernay's “Selma” as it rolls into theaters this holiday season. And, my word, it has that Nina Simone-patented fire.
Mixing vocals by Legend and rapped lyrics by Common, the gospely end credits tune seizes all of Civil Rights history to make a powerful point. The story at the center of film – Martin Luther King”s 1965 march from Selma, Alabama to the state capital of Montgomery – is only one touchstone for the duo, who shout out to everyone from Rosa Parks to current protesters in Ferguson, Missouri. “Glory” doesn”t hold anything back.
“Glory” was written by John Stephens, Lonnie Lynn, Che Smith and marks Legend's second screen-specific musical project. In 2013, he performed and produced spirituals on the “12 Years a Slave” soundtrack. “Glory” is eligible for Best Original Song and would be Legend”s first nomination if it cracks the category.
You can hear the full song below: