A Hollywood movie couldn’t have scripted it any better. On Thursday (Jan. 15) — on what would have been Martin Luther King Jr.’s 86th birthday — Common accepted best song at the Critics’ Choice Movie Awards for “Glory,” his and John Legend‘s sweeping track from the MLK biopic Selma.
“Today is Dr. King’s birthday, so I want to receive this award in his honor,” the rapper said when he hit the stage.
Selma director Ava DuVernay set a high bar for the song, given the epic emotions of King’s story, and Common rose to the challenge — eventually.
“When Ava first heard ‘Glory,’ the first draft, she was like, ‘That’s good, but I need something bigger, like “We Are the World,”‘” he recalled. “I said, ‘”We Are the World”? You’re talking Stevie Wonder, Michael Jackson, Bruce Springsteen, Paul Simon, “We Are the World”? 20 million copies, “We Are the World”?’ No pressure — right, Ava?
“Well, we knew the spirit and intention of that song, and we knew the spirit and intention of Selma and what Dr. King is about, and that’s love and that’s justice and that’s freedom for all people,” Common continued. “So we created ‘Glory’ in that spirit, and I thank you, Ava, for motivating us to get to that place.”
Common also managed to shout out two of the Selma players – DuVernay and leading man David Oyelowo – for their Oscar snubs earlier in the day, though Common and Legend were included in the final nominations. “Thank you Ava DuVernay, for making the first feature about Dr. King so beautifully,” he said, later adding, “David Oyelowo, you are incredible. You sparked it.”
“Glory” also won for best original song at Sunday’s Golden Globes.
Common finished up his speech on a personal note, thanking his late father. “I want to dedicate this to my father. The last words he said to me was that I would feel an angel wrapped around my shoulders, and I feel that angel right now. Thank you dad, I love you. God bless.”
“Glory” beat out Lana del Rey‘s “Big Eyes” (Big Eyes), Tegan and Sara‘s “Everything Is Awesome” (The LEGO Movie), Keira Knightley’s “Lost Stars” (Begin Again) and Lorde‘s “Yellow Flicker Beat” (The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1) for the prize.