John Legend performed a heartfelt tribute to the Ukrainian people during the 2022 Grammy Awards ceremony. To give the segment a palpable dose of reality, it was introduced by Volodymyr Zelenskyy himself, the President of Ukraine, who delivered a personalised, pre-recorded speech about keeping up the opposition to Russia’s illegal invasion of his country.
Following on from President Zelenskyy’s speech, Legend performed ‘Free’, the new song she released, yesterday, April 3rd. For the performance, Legend was joined by the Ukrainian musicians Siuzanna Iglidan and Mika Newton as well as lauded Ukrainian poet Lyuba Yakimchuk. After the tear-jerking performance, the audience were directed to a donation page to help Ukraine sustain itself in the face of stubborn Russian brutality.
“It can be paralysing to see war being waged by big nation-states with expensive weapons,” Legend elucidated on Twitter after the performance. “I wrote FREE after a week of seeing the horrific images of the senseless, brutal invasion of Ukraine by a regime with no moral justification—no right to kill, dominate and subjugate the Ukrainian people, no right to silence the will of the people in a democratic nation.”
He continued: “I know I can’t end any wars with a song, but I had to write this song as my prayer, my contribution to the chorus of voices calling for peace and freedom for all people. I hope each of us can find our own way to contribute to this chorus. May we drown out the voices and forces of hate, bigotry and authoritarianism. May we make our world truly FREE.”
Legend is a 12-time winner at the Grammys, although he wasn’t nominated for any awards for his music. However, he did receive an honour for his extra-musical work. At one of the many Grammy week events, he was honoured with the Recording Academy’s maiden Global Impact Award, which was presented by the Black Music Collective.
The co-president of the Recording Academy, Valeisha Butterfield Jones, said in a statement: “John is one of the most important artists of our time, someone who leads by example and pushes important boundaries consistently across music, philanthropy, and activism. His contributions and impact to music and our culture are unparalleled.”