Alicia Keys tells Ellen DeGeneres she had mere minutes to prepare for Kobe Bryant tribute at the Grammys
In an appearance on The Ellen DeGeneres Show on Wednesday, Alicia Keys discussed the behind-the-scenes prep work involved in honoring Kobe Bryant at the 2020 Grammy Awards, held in Staples Center, which Keys called “The House that Kobe Bryant built.”
DeGeneres complimented Keys on striking the right tone and being the perfect person to help pull off what was an emotional night in Los Angeles. Keys admitted that behind the scenes, it was pretty chaotic.
“It was definitely a crazy feeling because literally minutes before we were going to do something else, and we had to really figure out how can we properly honor him in his house on this night,” Keys told the show host, reported The Hollywood Reporter. “And everyone who adores him and loves him so much has been inspired by him and felt so devastated in that moment.”
“We were all freaking out because obviously hearing the news about Kobe and his daughter was so tragic and none of us can still believe it now to this day,” Keys added.
Bryant, his 13-year-old daughter Gianna and seven others were killed early Sunday morning when their helicopter crashed in Calabasas, California.
Keys told DeGeneres that it was important to acknowledge everyone’s shock and pain while they also paid respect to the Lakers icon. The ceremony took place at the Staples Center, where the legendary athlete played with the Los Angeles Lakers for 20 years, until he retired in 2016.
“I was literally backstage, I put on my meditation music, I just was thinking and I called some of my closest people that helped me really find the truth in the moment,” Keys acknowledged to DeGeneres. “It just so happened Boyz II Men was there already that night and we wanted to do something special, create just something that felt like it was the right thing, and we pulled it together and it was just beautiful. It was like that magic that happens when it’s necessary.”
“I was so honored to be able to share that moment with all of us, with the entire world, that we together could go through something that hurts too bad together,” she added. “I feel really honored to have been able to be there … in that time.”
Ken Ehrlich, a Grammy Awards executive producer, told Billboard on Tuesday that it would have been odd to be in the Staples Center and not do or say anything to pay tribute at the Grammys.
“We were at Staples, we were at his house. We’re sitting there looking up at (his) two (retired) jerseys that are on the wall there. So there was no way we could not do it,” Ehrlich said. “He (wasn’t) necessarily that close to a lot of musicians, but everybody looked up to him. You couldn’t go anywhere without seeing number 24.”
Ehrlich said Boyz II Men were already slated to perform with Tyler, the Creator. He said once he told Keys the news, they brainstormed what they could add as a tribute to Bryant.
“We started coming up with a plan and it was basically (Grammy show executives) David Wild, Ben Winston, Garry Hood, who’s my lead stage manager, and myself, and we went into her dressing room. Alicia and I primarily were thinking about songs and we went a little gospel. I never said it, but I was thinking about Boyz II Men,” Ehrlich told Billboard. “I left and about five minutes later I got a call from one of her people saying, ‘Hey, can we find Boyz II Men to do “It’s So Hard To Say Goodbye to Yesterday?”’ We found them and they went into her dressing room. It was about 15 minutes before showtime. They spent probably 10 minutes working it out and then it was there.”