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See How The “Brilliant” Freedom Singers Transformed This Red Hot Chili Peppers Track
The Skid Row-based group of once-unhoused singers met at the Arts and Culture department of an organization aimed at combatting poverty, they told America's Got Talent.
Being houseless is an ongoing crisis in America, but one group of formerly unhoused singers hoped their time on America’s Got Talent would make a difference.
Not only did The Freedom Singers give an angelic performance of a song that directly showcases a Los Angeles devoid of glamour, but it garnered four enthusiastic yeses from the Judges and brought AGT Host Terry Crews to tears.
Who are the Freedom Singers?
The Freedom Singers are comprised of eight singers from Skid Row, a neighborhood in downtown Los Angeles. The group’s core members came together in the Arts and Culture department at the Los Angeles Community Action Network (LA CAN), an organization aimed at helping the impoverished.
“Skid Row is in the heart of downtown Los Angeles where five people per day die on the streets, houseless people,” said one of the male singers. “So, for us, Freedom Singing brings us close together; it is that medium that we’ve always used to come together as America.”
One of the female singers described her and her mother’s “traumatizing” experience of being unhoused on Skid Row, explaining how city officials came and took all their personal belongings and left them with nothing.
“I’m so blessed that I found the Los Angeles Community Action Network because they gave me a voice and the opportunity to rebuild myself,” she said, explaining that it was because of LA CAN that she and her mother now have a roof over their head.
LA CAN represents not only the unhoused but also those who are in transitional housing and individuals who have lost people on the streets, according to The Freedom Singers.
“When we see someone on the street, I want to encourage you not to look the other way,” another female singer told the Judges.
What Song Did The Freedom Singers Sing?
The Freedom Singers chose the 1992 hit single “Under the Bridge” by Red Hot Chili Peppers for their song. Its lyrics, originally a poem written by RHCP lead singer Anthony Kiedis, described Kiedis’s connection to Los Angeles during a time of depression and alienation formed during his substance abuse recovery.
The certified-platinum single became something of an anthem, with lyrics such as: “It’s hard to believe that there’s nobody out there. It’s hard to believe that I’m all alone. At least I have her love, the city, she loves me. Lonely as I am, together we cry.”
For their performance, The Freedom Singers gave a chilling rendition of “Under the Bridge,” featuring pitch-perfect harmonies and jaw-dropping solos. Accompanied only by the piano and spectators clapping and snapping to the beat, the cover brought Judges Howie Mandel, Heidi Klum, Sofia Vergara, and Simon Cowell to their feet.
Here’s what the Judges had to say about the Freedom Singers
“You have a powerful voice, a powerful message,” said Klum. “It was beautiful. It gave me goosebumps.”
Klum congratulated The Freedom Singers for giving such an “emotional” performance. Mandel agreed, touching on the message of the song.
Mandel said it was “more than” just a song and an audition, but a performance that was “needed.” He thanked The Freedom Singers for “blowing the roof off this place.”
Vergara called the song “amazing,” adding she believed the group would go “very far” in the competition “because this is what AGT is all about.”
“I thought the performance was brilliant,” said Cowell. “It was raw, it was real, I loved the vocals, I love your chemistry, your friendship. This was a really special audition.”
And while The Freedom Singers wowed the Judges enough to earn four yeses, AGT Host Crews had the most visible reaction to their performance, as seen after the group returned backstage.
“All your voices together harmonize so beautiful, and I want to thank you,” said a tearful Crews, his voice breaking with emotion. “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.”