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Sting Delivers Stark Performance of ‘My Empty Chair’ at 2017 Oscars Ceremony

Accompanied only by his own acoustic guitar, Sting performed a stark, delicate version of his Academy Award-nominated song “My Empty Chair” during tonight’s Oscar ceremony.

“My Empty Chair” was the lead single from the soundtrack of the documentary Jim: The James Foley Story, which chronicles the life of the war journalist who was kidnapped in 2012 while covering the Syrian Civil War, and beheaded by ISIS two years later.

At the conclusion of Sting’s performance, a large photograph of Foley appeared behind him, along with a quote: “If I don’t have the moral courage to challenge authority.. then we don’t have journalism.”

After being nominated, Sting told Billboard he was initially reluctant to contribute a song to the film. “The stakes are higher when you’re writing about a person who really existed, a person with family and friends you want to honor,” he explained. “I’m glad I found the metaphor of the empty chair. I said no at first [when Ralph asked]. I said ‘This is beyond my powers.’ I curated the song from what [Jim’s] family and friends said about him. It’s their song.”

Pixar’s Piper, which featured an original score by Adrian Belew, also earned an Oscar for Best Animated Short Film. “I am so thrilled to have provided music for such a very special film,” said Belew, who’s worked with the Talking Heads, David Bowie, Nine Inch Nails, King Crimson and Frank Zappa over the years. “It has so much heart.”

This was Sting’s fourth Academy Awards nod for Best Original Song. He was previously nominated for “My Funny Friend and Me” from The Emperor’s New Groove in 2000, “Until…” from Kate & Leopold in 2001 and “You Will Be My Ain True Love” from Cold Mountain in 2003. Unfortunately, it was also his fourth straight loss, as “City of Stars” from La La Land took home the prize this year.

The former Police frontman released 57th & 9th, his first rock-oriented record in over a decade, last November. He is currently on tour in support of the album, and you can get all the dates and ticket information at his official site. Belew, meanwhile, is at work on an album with Stewart Copeland, Sting’s former Police bandmate.

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