There are times a performance can move you to tears, and that’s what happened for many watching America’s Got Talent Tuesday night (June 20) when The Freedom Singers took the stage to audition for the show. The collective, made up of members of the Los Angeles skid row community who have come together through the Los Angeles Community Action Network, transformed the Red Hot Chili Peppers classic “Under the Bridge” into an emotional gospel performance that left many in the viewing audience moved.
“We’re located not far from here in a community called Skid Row,” revealed one of the male members of the group, noting, “Skid Row is in downtown Los Angeles where five people per day die in the streets, houseless people. So for us, freedom singing brings us closer together. It’s that medium that we’ve always used to come together as America.”
The eight-person group consists of either currently houseless, those who have come to transitional housing or those who have lost loved ones that were houseless, explained one of the other members.
“We all are part of the Los Angeles Community Action Network and they have an arts and culture department there and that’s how the core group got together,” said another member, who revealed her own story of being houseless and having city officials come and take away all their personal belongings. “I’m so blessed to have found the Los Angeles Community Action Network because they gave me a voice and an opportunity to rebuild myself. And through this, we are now housed, my mother and I.”
Before starting the song, the group’s featured vocalist plead to the audience, “When we someone on the street, I want to encourage you not to look the other way.”
What followed was an emotionally wrought performance using the Red Hot Chili Peppers classic, which has its own roots in singer Anthony Kiedis’ experiences in downtown Los Angeles, as their chosen song, invoking visually emotional responses from the crowd and judges.
“You have a powerful voice, powerful message. It was beautiful. It gave me goosebumps and made me emotional,” said Heidi Klum, when it came time for the judges to weigh in.
“This was more than just a song, more than just an audition, it was needed for informing and entertaining and blowing the roof off this place,” added Howie Mandel.
“I loved it. I thought it was amazing. You guys are going to go very far in this competition,” commented Sofia Vergara.
“I thought the performance was brilliant. It was raw, it was real. I love the vocals. I loved your chemistry, your friendship. This was a really special audition,” concluded Simon Cowell.
The group then headed backstage after a unanimous vote to push them to the next round, where they were greeted by an emotional Terry Crews. “All your voices together harmonize so beautiful, and I want to thank you,” said Crews, his voice breaking with emotion as he wiped away tears. “I want to thank you so much for what you do for the community, for what you do for so many people. I am completely touched right now.”
The Freedom Singers, “Under the Bridge” on NBC’s America’s Got Talent
More About “Under the Bridge”
Red Hot Chili Peppers released “Under the Bridge” in March 1992 as the second single from their 1991 album Blood Sugar Sex Magik. The song originated as a poem penned by singer Anthony Kiedis that he had written in a notebook that was discovered by producer Rick Rubin, who encouraged the singer to share it with his bandmates. Initially reluctant, Kiedis did share the song with his bandmates quickly finding a backing rhythm.
The vocalist penned the lyrics during a period of reflection and depression, while struggling to come to terms with the isolation and alienation he felt as a sober member of the group after battling heroin and cocaine addiction. In his Scar Tissue autobiography, he said the song was reflective of his relationship with former girlfriend, actress Ione Skye, noting, “The loneliness that I was feeling triggered memories of my time with Ione and how I’d had this beautiful angel of a girl who was willing to give me all of her love, and instead of embracing that, I was downtown with fucking gangsters shooting speedballs under a bridge.”
The deeply personal lyrics connected with listeners, who helped to catapult the song to No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100 Chart and No. 2 on the Mainstream Rock Chart back in 1992. It’s since been certified as a six times platinum single in the U.S.
Red Hot Chili Peppers, “Under the Bridge”
What’s Next for The Freedom Singers?
After receiving a unanimous “yes” vote from the judges, the group will move on to the next round of America’s Got Talent‘s Season 18 competition. New episodes of AGT air Tuesdays at 8PM ET/7PM CT on NBC and stream the following day on Peacock.
You can learn more about The Freedom Singers and the Los Angeles Community Action Network here.
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