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Since 2008 – Progress Through Politics

“Glory” is Glorious

I did not watch the 2015 Academy Awards ceremony.

I was disgruntled by the Academy diss, and certain media punditry about the film “Selma,” which I wrote about in “Black and female eye on the Oscars .”

No matter. Music carries a powerful message and “Glory” is simply glorious.

“Glory” is a song performed by American singer-songwriter John Legend and rapper Common. It was written by Legend, Common and Che Smith. The song was released on December 11, 2014 by Columbia Records as the theme song from the 2014 film Selma, which portrays the 1965 Selma to Montgomery marches. Common also co-starred as 1960s Civil Rights Movement leader James Bevel in Selma.

Commercially, the song peaked at No. 92 on the US Billboard Hot 100. A music video for the song was directed by Paramount Pictures and was released on January 12, 2015. The song won the award for Best Original Song at the 87th Academy Awards (2015) and the 72nd Golden Globe Awards (2015).


[Produced by John Legend]

[Chorus: John Legend]

One day when the glory comes

It will be ours, it will be ours

One day when the war is won

We will be sure, we will be sure

Oh glory

[Verse 1: Common]

Hands to the Heavens, no man, no weapon

Formed against, yes glory is destined

Every day women and men become legends

Sins that go against our skin become blessings

The movement is a rhythm to us

Freedom is like religion to us

Justice is juxtapositionin’ us

Justice for all just ain’t specific enough

One son died, his spirit is revisitin’ us

True and livin’ livin’ in us, resistance is us

That’s why Rosa sat on the bus

That’s why we walk through Ferguson with our hands up

When it go down we woman and man up

They say, “Stay down”, and we stand up

Shots, we on the ground, the camera panned up

King pointed to the mountain top and we ran up


[Bridge: John Legend]

Now the war is not over, victory isn’t won

But we’ll fight on to the finish, and when it’s all done

We’ll cry glory, oh glory, ohhh

We’ll cry glory, oh glory, ohhh

[Verse 2: Common]

Selma is now for every man, woman and child

Even Jesus got his crown in front of a crowd

They marched with the torch, we gon’ run with it now

Never look back, we done gone hundreds of miles

From dark roads he rose, to become a hero

Facin’ the league of justice, his power was the people

Enemy is lethal, a king became regal

Saw the face of Jim Crow under a bald eagle

The biggest weapon is to stay peaceful

We sing, our music is the cuts that we bleed through

Somewhere in the dream we had an epiphany

Now we right the wrongs in history

No one can win the war individually

It takes the wisdom of the elders and young people’s energy

Welcome to the story we call victory

Comin’ of the Lord, my eyes have seen the glory


[Outro: John Legend]

When the war is done, when it’s all said and done

We’ll cry glory, oh glory

The Oscar performance is notable not only for the song and performance, but for the staging and choreography, and then, after the song took the Oscar, for the acceptance speeches.

The cut-away shots of audience members with tears streaming down cheeks and watery eyes as the standing ovation took place said a lot about the power of this song, which will be remembered long after the controversy is but a memory.

From The Griot

The award was given to composers Legend and Common under their legal names, John Stephens and Lonnie Lynn.

“Nina Simone said it’s an artist’s duty to reflect the times they live,” Legend said, referring to the singer and activist. “Selma is now because the struggle for justice is right now.” Legend cited voting rights and the incarceration rates of black men.

Backstage, he said there was still a lot to be done. “When you think about equality and freedom and justice, we’ve got more work to do,” he said. Common, who also had an acting role in the film based on the historic 1965 march, said it was their duty to speak out, given the stage and setting of the Oscars. “How could you not say anything, especially representing a film like ‘Selma’,” he said.

Tears covered the face of actor David Oyelowo who starred in “Selma” as Martin Luther King Jr. and stood with the rest of the crowd for a standing ovation after the pair’s performance.

Common credited Oyelowo with ensuring “Selma” was made by getting director Ava DuVernay on board and involving Oprah. The singer said he had called up Legend while he was on tour in London inquiring about collaborating.

“That word really inspired me,” Legend said of “Glory”. “The song should sound triumphant.”

The mention of Nina Simone brought tears to my eyes. Here’s hoping that the younger generation will be curious and explore her music. I was shocked to find out my students had never heard of her, when I play some of her songs in women’s studies.


In his acceptance speech, Common linked the civil rights movement to similar movements in France and Hong Kong. “The spirit of this bridge connects the kid from the South Side of Chicago, dreaming of a better life, to those in France standing up for their freedom of expression, to those in Hong Kong, protesting for democracy,” he said. “This bridge was built on hope, welded with compassion and elevated with love for all human beings.”

John Legend got more explicitly political in his speech. “We say that Selma is now, because the struggle for justice is right now,” he said. “We know that the Voting Rights Act that they fought for 50 years ago is being compromised right now in this country today. We know that right now, the struggle for freedom and justice is real. We live in the most incarcerated country in the world. There are more black men under correctional control today then were under slavery in 1850.”

“We are with you, we see you, we love you and march on,” he concluded.  



  1. I had links to the speech saved off and wanted to watch it. Now it will be easier to find. :)

    There are a lot of stories this year about the 50 year anniversary of the 1965 marches, protests, murders, and the Voting Rights legislation. But as I read about it, and then read about the dustups over the accuracy or inaccuracy of the movie “version” of the history, it seems important to point out that “Selma” is not Selma. Here is a story I read yesterday:

    On February 18, 1965, James Orange, an organizer with Martin Luther King’s Southern Christian Leadership Conference, was arrested in Marion, Alabama, thirty miles from Selma, after leading young people in a voter registration drive. Word spread through the black community that Orange would be lynched that night in the county jail off the town’s main square.

    Two hundred civil rights activists gathered at Zion United Methodist Church to hold a rare night march to the jail, where they would sing freedom songs outside. The congregation included 26-year-old Jimmie Lee Jackson, a deacon and woodcutter who had tried to register to vote five times in Perry County, where only 265 of 5,202 eligible black voters were on the voting rolls.

    When the marchers stepped outside, hundreds of policemen and state troopers in riot gear surrounded the church. They brutally beat the civil-rights activists and attacked the reporters who were covering the demonstration. As a result, there is no photographic or video record of the tragic events that night.

    Jackson, his mother Viola, and his 82-year-old grandfather, Cager Lee, fled for safety at nearby Mack’s CafĂ©. State troopers stormed in and began beating Jackson’s grandfather and mother. When Jackson lunged to protect his mother, an Alabama state trooper shot him point-blank in the stomach. He was sent to Selma’s segregated Good Samaritan Hospital, where Col. Al Lingo of the Alabama Department of Public Safety served him with a warrant for assault and battery with the intent to murder an Alabama state trooper, even though the police had been the clear aggressors. Jackson died eight days later. Historian Taylor Branch called him “the first martyr” of the Selma voting rights struggle.

    On February 15, 2015, civil-rights activists gathered at Zion United Methodist Church in Marion to honor Jackson on the fiftieth anniversary of his death. King aide C.T. Vivian, who spoke in Marion on the night of February 18, 1965, attended the ceremony, as did Congresswoman Terri Sewell, Alabama’s first black congresswoman.

    Sewell presented Jackson’s sister and niece with a framed copy of remarks she made on the House floor honoring him. “No floor speech, no medal, can bring back Jimmie Lee Jackson,” Sewell told his family. “But please know he didn’t die in vain. I walk the halls of Congress because of his death.

  2. I had chills watching and listening to the song.

    This: “Justice for all just ain’t specific enough ”

    And this:

    Now we right the wrongs in history

    No one can win the war individually

    It takes the wisdom of the elders and young people’s energy

  3. Diana in NoVa

    Read it with great interest, even awe, because there is so much I hadn’t known before. I’m a person who follows the news more than the average citizen. The fact that this hasn’t been covered in the trad. media just shows you the importance of bloggers in bringing the truth to light.

    This just knocked me back:

    “There are more black men under correctional control today then were under slavery in 1850.”

    How the hell can this situation exist?

    And what can we do about it?

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