John Legend and Common’s song “Glory” was written for the film Selma that was released in 2014. Although the Civil Rights Act of 1964 helped mend segregation in the South, racism and discrimination were still very apparent in areas like Alabama making it nearly impossible for Blacks to register to vote. Moreover, Selma is a film that depicts the Selma to Montgomery, Alabama voting rights marches that were led by Martin Luther King Jr in 1965. In the same year, the marches resulted in President Johnson signing the Voting Rights Act of 1965. As “Glory” was written for this film, the song’s context is quite apparent as John Legend and Common use this song to relate the brutal, racist South back then and the racism that still currently divides our world today. Looking back over 50 years into our nations history, we see that our nation still faces the same issues as John Legend and Common connect both of these time periods in American history and emphasize the similarities of then and now.

John Legend, Common and Rhymefest themselves are the songwriters of “Glory.” Their song falls into the hip hop soul genre of music. More commonly, when it comes to protest anthems, we see the genres of only hip hop and only soul being utilized separately in these types of songs. The context that this specific genre provides is particularly interesting as hip hop and soul are less commonly seen to be meshed together. Since “Glory” is classified as hip hop soul, the way this song is delivered by both Legend and Common shapes and influences how one may approach this song. Legend’s calm, emotional singing provides listeners with a extremely empowering, inspiring and hopeful point of view. On the other hand, Common’s rap verse acts as a voice for those who have been discriminated against, those how face racism and those who battle inequality in their everyday lives, something that might seem so foreign to other groups of people. The way the songwriters have created this dynamic in the song provides people with a sense of ambition and at the same time, something that they can relate to themselves as individuals and empathize with others.

The lyrics of “Glory” portray the association of racism in the mid 1900s and racism in our world today. The song opens with the sound of a piano as the lyrics begin with, “One day when glory comes,” indicating that they have not yet achieved glory and further emphasizing that racism still exists today. Legend continues on, “Oh one day when the war is won,” indicating that the war to defeat racism has not yet been won. Common’s rap verse in this song connects with moments in history as he says, “That’s why Rosa sat on the bus That’s why we walk through Ferguson with our hands up.” Here, he is referring to Rosa Parks and the march on Ferguson. He also includes other moments in history in his rap towards the end of the song as well. Throughout the entirety of the song, Legend repeats the lyrics, “One day when glory comes.” By this, he is providing constant reassurance to people that one day, glory will in fact come, meaning, racial justice will be achieved eventually. Furthermore, Legend’s and Common’s lyrics critique the change that has yet to come.