February 5, 2015
To congratulate someone who’s been working in the music business since 1992 on their success may seem like a misnomer. After all, a 20+ year career would be viewed as a feat in any industry. But for Common, whose massive accomplishments in the hip-hop world have earned him 16 GRAMMY® nominations and two GRAMMY statues, his success was elevated to another level this year following a Golden Globe win for Best Original Song “Glory” from the motion picture Selma along with an Academy Award Nomination® in the same category. And he’s using his new-found global platform to spread a message of love and hope.
For those not familiar, Selma tells the story of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama that led to the signing of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 by then President Lyndon B. Johnson. “Glory” is Selma’s anthem. Not only did Common pen and perform “Glory” with John Legend, he also appeared in the Oscar®-nominated film by Ava DuVernay. Common says, “[Ava and I] had a meeting over Skype and she said ‘Hey I think you’re the guy [to play James Bevel]’ and as an actor, I went in and learned a lot and researched… about the spirit of the Civil Rights movement.” Despite having dozens of acting credits on his resume, playing Bevel was different for Common – he was a real life Civil Rights activist. “You feel a lot of responsibility… and you feel honored to be able to play the character of someone… who lived a life so important. These were the people that were superheroes. They were ordinary people who did extraordinary things.”
The response in the music community to the recording has been overwhelmingly positive.
“Everybody in the industry feels like they can relate to it because it’s a song about the present but it also has a timelessness,” conveys Common. “When you create music, you don’t know what it’s gonna do. You just create it from your heart and spirit. And I’m just grateful to be a part of the song.”
So now that the film is in wide release and millions have heard the song, what is Common’s expectation from both? “My broad hope is that it inspires people to feel the love within themselves, to feel the love of the tradition that we all come from… no matter what color you are. I’m hoping it inspires you to feel like [you] can change the world… like [you] have a Dr. King in [you]. The more active we are in helping each other, the better the world becomes.”
Despite all the recent national attention, he’s still not finished his work in the creative community. In fact, he feels like he has a ways to go. Expresses Common, “I want to grow as an actor, as an artist. If [I] can continue to inspire people and affect peoples’ lives, I want to help create change in the world for the better. There’s still a long way to go. As long as you’re on this Earth, you want to keep growing.”
There is no doubt that Common has reached new heights with the achievement of “Glory” and Selma. And yet, he’s keeping it all in check. Of his most recent success, Common says, “It’s a new level. But you have to thank God for all of it – from the beginning to now.”