Legend said the tune was inspired by the spirituals and hymns of his African-American ancestors who were enslaved and oppressed.
The 2022 Grammy Awards stage was set ablaze by John Legend on Sunday night (April 3) as he performed his new song, “Free.” He was joined by a series of Ukrainian artists, including Odessa, Ukraine-born Siuzanna Iglidan, playing a traditional Ukrainian instrument, and Ukrainian singer Mika Newton.
With a reading from Ukrainian poet Lyuba Yakimuchuk, who fled her home country days earlier, the rousing performance of the ballad that interpolated bits of the spiritual “Go Down Moses” neared its conclusion. Legend shared a series of tweets explaining the emotional origin story of his plea for peace and tribute to the human spirit on Monday morning (April 4).
“‘FREE’ was inspired by the spirituals and hymns of my enslaved and oppressed African-American ancestors, who were inspired by the Old Testament story of Moses leading his people to liberation from slavery,” Legend explained. The singer went on to call the ballad a “prayer… for peace throughout the world. A prayer for all the dispossessed and dislocated. The refugees of every nationality, religion and skin color, longing for a safe place to live and flourish. Those who are left aside and forgotten.”
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“Lay down soldiers/ Lay down those weapons/ Let peace rush in,” Legend sang at the Grammys. “Let it wash through the valley, soar through the mountains/ Fall in the deepest blue sea/ Let it fly ‘cross the sky in a banner so high/ That even the rockets will see.”
Legend continued, saying “FREE” was also written as a tribute to those who are “unjustly languishing in our jails and prisons. Those suffering from what Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., called the three greatest evils: poverty, militarism and racism… Those who are boldly speaking out against these evils, despite the threats to their lives or livelihoods.”