Ukrainian President Delivers Powerful Message at the Grammys, Inspires John Legend Performance of “Free”

Videos by American Songwriter

Videos by American Songwriter

Political leaders are not usually the people that viewers expect to see at the Grammys. But Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky had a touching message for the musicians and viewers at the 64th Grammy Awards on Sunday (April 3).

Zelensky appeared at the ceremony via video, begging people not to stay silent about his country’s ongoing war with Russia. 

“The war. What is more opposite to music?” he began. “The silence of ruined cities and killed people. Our children drew swooping rockets, not shooting stars.” His message was a glaring reminder that even amongst the glamor and excitement of the Hollywood awards season, we must not forget to speak up for those in need around the world. 

Zelensky explained that Ukrainian musicians have still been using their gifts to help boost morale and bring light to such a dark situation. He expressed hope that the artists at the Grammys would do the same, in whatever way they can—anything but silence.

“The war doesn’t let us choose who survives and who stays in eternal silence,” he said. “Our musicians wear body armor instead of tuxedos. They sing to the wounded in hospitals, even to those who can’t hear them. But the music will break through anyway. We defend our freedom to live. To love. To sound.”

While many feel powerless against the war, Zelensky noted that musicians have a unique power to share messages of hope and freedom through their art. He asked them to continue telling Ukraine’s story through music.

“Fill the silence with your music. Fill it today to tell our story. Tell the truth about the war on your social networks, on TV, support us in any way you can any, but not silence. And then peace will come to all our cities the war is destroying. Chernihiv, Kharkiv, Volnovakha, Mariupol, and others. They are legends already. But I have a dream of them living, and free. Free like you on the Grammy stage,” he said.

Following Zelensky’s message, John Legend gave a powerful performance of “Free,” accompanied by Ukrainian artists Mika Newton, Lyuba Yakimchuk, and Siuzanna Iglidan.

Photo Credit: Cliff Lipson/CBS

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