Billboard Music Awards

Oscars: 'Alone Yet Not Alone' Singer Dismisses Critics of Surprise Nomination

'Alone Yet Not Alone'

Joni Eareckson Tada says allegations of backroom dealings by the song's well-connected writers are false and insists no one "pushed their influence."

As a mini-controversy develops about an Oscar-nominated song from a micro-budget Christian film called 'Alone Yet Not Alone' that few people saw, the singer, Joni Eareckson Tada, is confessing that she’s as surprised as anyone that the Academy has recognized such an obscure song.

Eareckson Tada is a 64-year-old quadriplegic who runs a charitable organization that distributes wheelchairs to kids in developing nations. She’s a devout Christian who has little to do with the entertainment industry and rarely goes to the movies. She grew up singing hymns but has no professional training. And her lung capacity is just 51 percent of what it ought to be – so weak, in fact, that her husband needed to push on her diaphragm while she recorded the Oscar-nominated song to give her enough breath to hit the high notes. “I’m the least likely candidate to record a song for a movie, I’ll tell you that up front, so it’s amazing,” she tells The Hollywood Reporter. “It’s amazing enough that a family friendly movie with a Christian theme is nominated in any category for an Academy Award. Besides The Blind Side, which was wonderful, it’s just not the norm.”

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The Academy hasn’t said whether it intends on inviting singers of nominated songs to perform during the March 2 telecast, as it has in the past, but even if it does she may turn them down for fear her physical condition would keep her from performing at her best.

As the singer, Eareckson Tada isn’t nominated for an Oscar -- that honor belongs to songwriters Bruce Broughton and Dennis Spiegel – but she nevertheless is aware that there’s a contingency that objects to such an obscure work being nominated alongside songs from big-budget Hollywood productions that audiences saw in the millions, while 'Alone Yet Not Alone' earned just $134,000 during its 21-day release.

“I read some of the blog posts and the negative responses, but I don’t blame those people. I’d be scratching my head, too,” she says. “I don’t even know how this occurred. I don’t know how the nomination process works, but I’m grateful. I think I give a good performance but not a great one, and I think that the Academy recognizing this humble, good little song is rather wonderful.”

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One aspect of the controversy she had been unaware of is that critics charge Broughton’s nomination is somehow tainted because he served on the Academy’s board of governors on the music branch for nine years. One songwriter who didn't get a nomination told THR that the Alone Yet Not Alone nomination was "disheartening to a lot of artists." The Week magazine called the situation "shady." Others who are questioning the Academy's choice include the Wire, Spin and HitFix. And Broughton's involvement is not the song’s only connection to the Academy, as its arranger, William Ross, was the musical director for last year’s Oscar show and he will reprise that role again this year.

But conspiracy theories and sour grapes from those not nominated this year don’t impress Eareckson Tada.

“There are always films up for Oscars that Americans never heard of … and words like ‘allegations,’ ‘clandestine,’ and ‘twisting arms’ aren’t ever associated with those other nominations, so why this one?” she asks. “Yes. it’s unusual, but somebody must have liked the song very much. I don’t know how the process works, but I do know nobody twisted arms or pushed their influence.”

For more on this story, go to THR.com