The song, with music by J. Ralph, was featured on the soundtrack of Jim: The James Foley Story, a documentary which chronicles the story of American journalist James Foley who was captured in Syria and became the first American citizen to be killed by ISIS when he was beheaded in 2014. A respected war correspondent, Foley had been covering the Syrian Civil War for Agence France-Presse and GlobalPost, and had previously been held in captivity while working in Libya.
Dressed in black and clutching an acoustic guitar, Sting sang the lyrics which recount the absence from a deceased loved one from a family gathering. Sting previously performed the song at Sundance 2016’s ASCAP Music Café with Foley’s family in attendance. The performance ended with a photo of Foley and the aptly-timed quote, “If I don’t have the moral courage to challenge authority… we don’t have journalism.”
“The stakes are higher when you’re writing about a person who really existed, a person with family and friends you want to honor,” he told Billboard. “I’m glad I found the metaphor of the empty chair. I said no at first [when Ralph asked]. I said ‘This is beyond my powers.’ I curated the song from what [Jim’s] family and friends said about him. It’s their song.”
Watch video of Sting’s moving tribute below and donate to James W. Foley Legacy Foundation here.