Rising music superstar H.E.R. made a remote appearance on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon on Monday for a chat with the host and a performance of her Oscar-nominated song, “Fight For You”.
During her interview portion, the charismatically self-assured singer, songwriter, and self-taught multi-instrumentalist spoke graciously about her recent “Song of the Year” win at the Grammy Awards for the powerful “I Can’t Breathe”, her early creative successes (she was a published poet by age seven), her recent sit-in with D’Angelo at the iconic Apollo Theater, and more. Fallon even dug up a clip of H.E.R., real name Gabriella Wilson, singing Aretha Franklin‘s “Freeway of Love” onstage at the Apollo when she was nine years old.
H.E.R.’s remote Tonight Show appearance came in support of “Fight For You”, the protest song she wrote for the acclaimed biographical drama Judas and the Black Messiah. The painfully timely film, which portrays the betrayal of Black Panther Party figurehead Fred Hampton by an FBI informant in his ranks and his subsequent killing by law enforcement during a raid of his home in 1969, is up for numerous Oscars this month.
In addition to an Oscar nod for H.E.R. for “Best Original Song”, the film garnered nominations for “Best Picture”, “Best Original Screenplay”, and “Best Cinematography” as well as “Best Supporting Actor” nods for both Daniel Kaluuya (who plays Hampton) and Lakeith Stanfield (who plays the informant, William O’Neal).
As H.E.R. told Fallon about the genesis of “Fight For You”, after being approached by the Judas and the Black Messiah filmmakers to write the theme song, “We had some conversations and I watched the movie in the studio and I told them, ‘I think I can create a masterpiece for this movie.’ And I was so touched by the story and how important it was, but also how much I didn’t even know about Fred Hampton. I knew the name and the association with the Black Panthers, but when I watched the movie I was blown away and kind of sad that I didn’t know the details of the story.”
She continued, “The song was really just representing the themes and what Fred Hampton was about and what he was fighting for. He was not just fighting for the Black Panthers, he wasn’t just fighting for the Black community, he was fighting for social justice and equality all across the board. And I just think it’s what we need to represent now as a people, compassion. … Just the fight and the struggle that we continue to have, and continuing his work.”
“When people hear this song,” she added, “the idea was for them to be hopeful and to know that there is hope for our future. Especially what’s been happening and what we’ve seen in 2020, I think it’s giving people a more positive outlook. It’s a groove. There’s a little bit of beauty in pain, and I think you feel that in this song.”
As the 23-year-old H.E.R. told Fallon about learning about her Oscar nod the morning after her Grammy win, “It’s so crazy! It felt crazy. … It was just like one thing after another. I just felt so blessed. I don’t know, it’s a historical moment, and for me to be so young, I do feel closer to an EGOT, so hopefully I’m speaking that into existence.”
Below, watch the interview with Wilson (including the clip of her singing at the Apollo as a child) and watch her striking live performance of “Fight For You” from The Tonight Show below.
Interview, 9-Year-Old H.E.R. Covers Aretha Franklin at The Apollo – The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon
H.E.R. – “Fight For You” – The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon