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Michael Kiwanuka — Hero (2019)

What inspired Michael Kinavuku to create the heroic song...

Song Story: Michael Kiwanuka - Hero

One of the most popular songs that was difficult for the artist Michael Kiwanuka... Even though the lyrics are entirely by Michael Kiwanuka, the artist confessed in an interview that it was "the hardest job of his life"! By the way: impregnated with reverb, the composition instantly crashes into the mind, leaving no chance to skip ahead to the end of the track!

Michael Kiwanuka
Michael Kiwanuka

The story of "Hero" by Michael Kiwanuka

Michael Kiwanuka already had music, which he had written long before the release of the track, together with Dj Danger Mouse and the British producer Inflo. For several years Michael could not think of words, or rather he could not find such words that would accurately reflect the essence of his thoughts...

As is often the case, the inspiration was spontaneous! One day Michael was flipping through photos of civil rights activist Fred Hampton. The 21-year-old chairman of the Illinois chapter of the Black Panthers had been shot and killed by police in his own bed in 1969. Kiwanuka thought about how young Hampton was when he was killed... It also prompted him to think about some musical icons who also died in the prime of life...

Later, the artist shared:

"...And I thought: to be a hero, you must first become a martyr? So, you're going to bring good into the world, and you're going to get shot in your own bed! And it doesn't matter if you're Fred Hampton or John Lennon or whatever... At that moment all my thoughts were mixed up and I realized I finally had something to sing about!"

"Am I a hero?
Am I a hero now?
Yes!"

Michael during a live performance...
Michael during a live performance...

Michael came up with the opening lyric reflecting on what it takes for a person to become a full-fledged musical legend...

"...I asked myself: do you have to create an alter ego or make a character a brand, like Elton John or David Bowie, for people to really want to listen to this music?"

But the thought of finding an alternate persona didn't appeal to Michael. "The last thing I wanted to do was try to come up with this new character!" - he shared with reporters.

"I began to learn more about Baldwin's life and work, and I also became seriously interested in Gordon Parks - his films, and especially his photography of the civil rights movement, his portraits of poor black families in the South..."

Fashion photographer Gordon Parks...
Fashion photographer Gordon Parks...

"Fred Hampton was the link that helped me put the phrases together and write this song! For almost a few years I couldn't get any further than the chorus... But thinking about Fred and his movement - the lyrics just poured out of me!"

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