Seated alone at his piano, isolated and with no extravagant or theatrical production equipment behind him, John Legend delivered a stirring version of "Motherless Child" during the "Hope for Haiti Now: A Global Benefit for Earthquake Relief" telethon.
The song is derived from the classic Negro spiritual "Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child," which dates back some 200 years ago. Legend included the number on an independent project he released in 2004 prior to his debut album, Get Lifted.
His elegant and emotional rendition struck a chord with the audience.
"Who's got a shoulder when I need to cry/ I feel restless and I don't know why," Legend sang. "Cry for help, but still feel alone/ Like a motherless child a long way from home, lord I'm lost I can't find my way/ I'm dealing with the struggles in my day-to-day, my soul is weak and I wanna be strong/ I try to run away, but I've been running too long."
When George Clooney, who partnered with MTV Networks to produce the charitable effort, spoke to MTV News prior to the event about the musical performances, he singled out Jennifer Hudson and Legend as artists who had the ability to transcend the one-time event into an enduring drive to help survivors of the Haiti earthquake.
"We're gonna have 18 songs, and you're gonna get to hear Jennifer Hudson sing a song you never heard her sing before," Clooney said of Hudson's performance of the Beatles' "Let It Be." "John Legend is singing 'Motherless Child'; it's just great. We're gonna have some amazing performances, and I think that's gonna make it last a little longer than just a telethon."
iTunes customers can exclusively pre-order the "Hope for Haiti Now" full-performance album ($7.99) and the full two-hour video telecast ($1.99). Pre-orders will be delivered in the days following the telethon. Individual audio performances will also be available for purchase and download for 99 cents each in the days following the telethon. Apple, the record labels and the artists will donate their share of the proceeds to Haiti relief funds managed by "Hope for Haiti Now" charities, including the Red Cross and Wyclef's Yele Haiti foundation. Performances will also be available for purchase in the days following the event through Amazon's MP3 service and Rhapsody, through distribution provided by INgrooves.