Backstage at the Oscars with John Legend & Common
"To be a storyteller," Common told the press, "you got to be able to speak the truth, you've got to be able to absorb life and take in life and be able to interpret it in a way that anybody in this room could say, 'Man, that's my story, I can relate to that.' And it's just finding the humanity in the stories and the creativity in the stories. That's what it means to me.
"The fact that we have an opportunity to get to a stage like the Oscars, I mean how could you not say anything, especially representing a film like Selma, representing the song "Glory," and just honestly being an artist that cares. Beyond what we have done on this song, John has always made music about love. He's been doing things for education for a long time. He stands up for issues. I feel it's our duty."
Added Legend, "Some of the things I spoke about today, about the rolling back of some of the Voting Rights Act is real and people feeling that around the country, what I spoke about regarding incarceration is real and it's destroying communities and it's a waste of our national resources to put so many people in prison, and it disproportionately affects black and brown communities. And so when we think about equality and freedom and justice, we know we've got more work to do. And we're going to do that work, we want to do that work, and we hope that our song is inspiration for those who want to do that work as well."
Legend also explained the genesis of "Glory." Common had the initial conversations with director Ava DuVernay then called Legend and gave him some ideas for the title, one of which was "Glory.""My thoughts were that the song should sound triumphant but also realized that there was more work to do," Legend said. "So when I said, 'One day when the glory comes,' that means we still have more work to do. And then Common wrote incredible verses that tied Dr. King's movement to what's happening in America today.
"I think that film is so poignant and urgent and current even though the events it depicted were 50 years ago. I think all of that is helping us to think about how we interact with each other, how to live for the spirit of love and not a spirit of fear, and hopefully we'll take those lessons and continue to learn from each other, recognize each other's humanity and try to strive towards a love that is public which Dr. Cornel West said, 'Loving in public is what justice is,' and so we're focused on justice because that's what it means to love people that you don't even know and fight for their rights and see the value in their lives, and hopefully we're able to spread more of that love."