How ‘Selma’ Oscar Winners Common and John Legend Use Fame as a Platform

“I feel like, ‘to whom much is given, much is required,'” says Common, who co-wrote “Glory” with Legend

Musicians Common and John Legend defended their politics-heavy speech backstage after winning the Oscar for Best Original Song on Sunday, though they stopped short of calling out other artists who shy away from being so outspoken.

On stage, Legend directly referenced current political issues he feels mirrored the themes of “Selma,” the Martin Luther King, Jr. biopic he and Common wrote the Oscar-winning song “Glory” for.

“We say that ‘Selma’ is now, because the struggle for justice is right now,” he said in his speech. “We know that the Voting Rights Act that they fought for 50 years ago is being compromised right now in this country today. We know that right now, the struggle for freedom and justice is real. We live in the most incarcerated country in the world. There are more black men under correctional control today then were under slavery in 1850.”

Backstage, Common fielded a question on how he feels about other artists who choose not to use their fame as a platform to discuss issues they care about.

“I feel like ‘to whom much is given, much is required,’” he said. “How could you not say anything? Especially representing a film like ‘Selma.’ Just being an artist that cares. Like beyond what we have done on this song, John has always made music about love. He’s been doing things for education for a long time. He stands up for issues… So yes, I feel it’s our duty. And I don’t hold any other artists accountable, but it’s our duty, if you recognize that, to do it.”

The duo received a standing ovation when they performed the song live during the ceremony, leaving “Selma” star David Oyelowo in tears, and another ovation when they won their category. The film was also nominated for Best Picture, although it lost to “Birdman.”