It wasn’t easy for anyone to accept the death of Kobe Bryant this past Sunday (Jan 26), especially those who had to attend the 62nd Annual GRAMMY Awards just a few hours after news broke. It proved to be particularly hard for soul siren Alicia Keys, who was tasked with opening the show as the host for the night. However, the Songs In A Minor singer pulled it off effortlessly and was even able to give the Black Mamba a fitting tribute with help from equally soulful R&B legends Boyz II Men. We now have a better idea of how it all came together with such short time to prepare.
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As group member Nathan Morris recently told GQ, the guys actually found out just one hour before showtime. They were originally there to just sing background alongside Charlie Wilson for GRAMMY-winning rapper Tyler, the Creator’s stage-rocking performance. However, following the shocking news of Kobe’s fatal helicopter crash, the guys immediately agreed to sing their 1991 hit “It’s So Hard to Say Goodbye to Yesterday” with Alicia joining as well after her manager contacted theirs to ask if they’d be down. “We were in the dressing room rehearsing the actual song we had come to the Grammys to perform,” Morris confirmed, adding a more extensive breakdown by stating, “The show wasn’t too far from starting, and we got the call asking if we wanted to do ‘It’s So Hard to Say Goodbye to Yesterday.’ We always try to be ready vocally, but I mean, when you care about somebody in this manner, you can be vocally ready, but you may not be mentally ready. We sat around and tried to figure it out. Alicia wanted to sing it with us, so we went to her dressing room and created a little something in like 10 minutes.”
Even their attire was completely unplanned, as Nathan also told GQ that they guys wore their street clothes onstage because they didn’t have anything else to wear given such short notice. Alicia gave a similar recollection during her visit to The Ellen Show, telling the talk show host they were all “freaking out” due to having something completely different planned for the show opener. “We had to really figure out how could we properly honor him in his house on this night,” she said in reference to the Staples Center being the home of Kobe’s former LA Lakers team. With meditation music and a minute to think, Alicia tells Ellen that she wanted to do something special with Boyz II Men and that it was comparable to magic. We couldn’t agree more.
Watch Alicia Keys’ full breakdown of her tribute to Kobe Bryant alongside Boyz II Men during the 2020 GRAMMYs below, and continue to keep Black Mamba, his daughter Gianna and everyone who perished in that tragic accident in your prayers: