In an effort to bring awareness to the effects of the ongoing war between Russia and Ukraine, the singer’s tribute performance opened with a speech from Ukraine’s president Volodymyr Zelensky. In his pre-recorded video, Zelensky spoke about the ongoing humanitarian crisis in his country and urged artists and viewers to help and support through song and however else they can.
“The war—what is more opposite to music? The silence of ruined cities and killed people,” he said. “We defend our freedom. To live. To love. To sound. On our land, we are fighting Russia, which brings horrible silence with its bombs—the dead silence. Fill the silence with your music.”
Legend appeared before a grand piano as he soulfully sang, “That there is a god / And I’m just sayin’ / Lawd Rain down freedom / Rain down ‘til we’re all Freeeeeee Freeeeeee Free.”
The EGOT winner was joined by three Ukrainian artists: Siuzanna Iglidan of Odesa, who played the bandura, a traditional Ukrainian folk instrument; singer Mika Newton of Burshtyn, who sang a verse in Ukranian; and poet Lyuba Yakimchuck of Donbas, who delivered a bit of spoken word.
The moving performance also featured a choir singing before a collage of images of Ukraine’s war crisis, before ending with a call to donate and #StandUpForUkraine.
Over the weekend, John Legend was awarded the Recording Academy Global Impact Award by the Black Music Collective for his personal and professional achievements and contributions to the music industry.
Later this month, Legend will kick off his 24-show Love in Las Vegas residency at Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino’s Zappos Theater.