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2015 Academy Awards: Common Thanks God For Oscar Win, John Legend Move Audience to Tears with 'Glory' Performance

( [email protected] ) Feb 23, 2015 03:22 PM EST
Rapper Common thanked God after receiving an Oscar Award for the emotionally-charged song, "Glory."
Common (L) and singer John Legend (R) accept the Oscar for Best Original Song. ABC/A.M.P.A.S.

Hip Hop artist Common didn't hesitate to thank God after winning an Academy Award along with singer/songwriter John Legend for the civil-rights anthem, "Glory" during Sunday night's 87th annual ceremony.

After performing a stirring rendition of the ballad, which was featured in the Martin Luther King Jr. biopic Selma, the two musicians were presented with an Oscar for Best Original Song, receiving the longest standing ovation of the night.

"First, I would like to thank God, who lives in us all," Common told the audience of celebrities, filmmakers, and writers. "Recently, John and I got to go to Selma and perform 'Glory' on the same bridge that Dr. King and the people of the civil-rights movement marched on 50 years ago. This bridge was once a landmark of a divided nation, but now is a symbol for change. The spirit of this bridge transcends race, gender, religion...and social status. 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 the people in Hong Kong protesting for democracy. This bridge was built on hope, welded with compassion and elevated by love for all human beings."

In his speech, Legend quoted Nina Simone, saying it's an "artist's duty to reflect the times in which they live. We say Selma is now." He pointed out issues such as voting rights and the number of imprisoned African-Americans. "The struggle for freedom and justice is real," the "All of Me" singer said, "when people are marching with our song, we want to tell you we are with you, we see you, we love you, and march on. God bless you."

The pair's performance, which was backed by a full chorus in a recreation of Dr. Martin Luther King's march on Selma, Alabama, brought many in the audience to tears, including media mogul Oprah, actor Chris Pine, and the star of Selma, U.K native David Oyelowo, who played the part of Martin Luther King Jr.

Less than a month ago, the duo received high praise for their performance of "Glory" at the 2015 Grammy Awards, which was introduced at the time by R&B singer Beyonce with an emotional performance of the Gospel anthem, "Precious Lord, Take My Hand."

"This is what I live for," Common told Rolling Stone before the Grammys. "This is what I want to do as an artist. This is who I want to be as a person - to be able to speak up and say things that can impact people's lives, and things that can be inspiring to human beings."

Despite the success of "Glory, Selma was famously accused of being snubbed at this year's Academy Awards, drawing condemnation from many in the film industry. One of the most vocal critics was prominent director Spike Lee, who argued that problem had to do with the make-up of the Academy Award's voting body being 94 percent white and an average age of 63 years old.

"Let's be honest. I know they're trying to become more diverse, but when you look at the Academy and 'Do the Right Thing' or 'Driving Miss Daisy,' are they going to choose a film where you have the relatively passive black servant, or are they going to choose a film with a menacing 'Radio Raheem?'" Lee asked in an interview with The Daily Beast. "A lot of times, people are going to vote for what they're comfortable with, and anything that's threatening to them they won't."

Lee also argued that awards ceremonies shouldn't hold as much value as they once did. "You can't go to awards like the Oscars or the Grammys for validation," he said. "The validation is if your work still stands 25 years later."