Remembering Kobe Bryant: Usher sings “Amazing Grace”, Lakers’ pregame ceremonies

Remembering Kobe Bryant: Usher sings "Amazing Grace", Lakers' pregame ceremonies | NBA.

February 2, 2020 by Jessie Mendoza

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[Image credit: ESPN]

To open up the Lakers’ pregame ceremonies, Usher performs a rendition of “Amazing Grace” as the Lakers and the NBA show reactions to Kobe Bryant’s death from around the league on the videoboard.

Usher is an American singer, songwriter, actor and dancer. He was born in Dallas, Texas, but raised in Chattanooga, Tennessee until moving to Atlanta, Georgia. At the age of 12, his mother put him in local singing competitions, before catching the attention of a music A&R from LaFace Records. He released his self-titled debut album, Usher (1994) but rose to fame in the late 1990s with the release of his second album My Way (1997). It spawned his first U.S. Billboard Hot 100 number-one single, “Nice & Slow”, among top-two singles “You Make Me Wanna…” and “My Way”. 8701 (2001) produced the number-one singles “U Remind Me” and “U Got It Bad”, as well as top-three single “U Don’t Have to Call”. It sold eight million copies worldwide and won his first two Grammy Awards as Best Male R&B Vocal Performance in 2002 and 2003.

Confessions (2004) established him as one of the best-selling musical artists of the 2000s decade, selling 20 million copies worldwide. Bolstered by its four consecutive Billboard Hot 100 number one singles—”Yeah!”, “Burn”, “Confessions Part II” and “My Boo”—it has been certified Diamond by the RIAA. Here I Stand (2008) and Raymond v. Raymond (2010) both debuted atop of the Billboard 200 chart and respectively produced the number-one singles “Love in This Club” and “OMG”. The EP, Versus, produced top-five single “DJ Got Us Fallin’ in Love”, before releasing top-fifteen single “More”. Looking 4 Myself (2012) also debuted atop the Billboard 200 chart with the top-ten single “Scream”. The R&B ballads “There Goes My Baby” and “Climax” received Grammy Awards in 2011 and 2013. “I Don’t Mind” also reached the top-fifteen in 2014, while Hard II Love (2016) peaked at five on the Billboard 200 chart.

Usher has sold 23.8 million albums and 38.2 million digital songs in the United States. Internationally, he has sold 75 million records worldwide, making him one of the best-selling music artists of all time. Usher has won numerous awards and accolades including eight Grammy Awards and 18 Billboard Music Awards. At the end of 2009, Billboard named him the second most successful artist of the 2000s decade, the number-one Hot 100 artist of the 2000s decade, and ranked Confessions as the top solo album of the 2000s decade. Billboard also placed him at number 6 on their list of Top 50 R&B/Hip-Hop Artists of the Past 25 Years. Usher has attained nine US Hot 100 number-one singles. Considered an icon and sex symbol, he has had TV and film appearances and seen inductions into the Georgia Music Hall of Fame and Hollywood Walk of Fame. He owns the record label Raymond-Braun Media Group (RBMG), a joint venture with talent manager Scooter Braun that includes Canadian singer Justin Bieber.

Usher was born in Dallas, Texas, the son of Jonetta Patton (née O’Neal) (from Tennessee) and Usher Raymond III. Usher spent the majority of his young life in Chattanooga, Tennessee. His father left the family when Usher was a year old. Usher grew up with his mother, then-stepfather, and half-brother, James Lackey (born 1984). Directed by his mother, Usher joined the local church youth choir in Chattanooga, when he was nine years old. There, his grandmother discovered his ability to sing, although it was not until Usher joined a singing group that she considered he could sing professionally. In the belief that a bigger city would provide greater opportunities for showcasing his talent, Usher’s family moved to Atlanta, Georgia, where there was a more conducive environment for beginning singers. While in Atlanta, Usher attended North Springs High School.

At age ten, Usher joined an R&B local quintet called the NuBeginnings, which was organized by local music promoter, Darryl Wheeler. Usher recorded ten songs with the group in 1991, and the ensuing album, Nubeginning Featuring Usher Raymond IV, was only made available regionally and by mail order. However, Patton took him out because, according to her, it was a “bad experience”. The album was re-released nationally in April 2002 by Hip-O Records.

At age 13, Usher met A.J. Alexander at a local talent show in Atlanta. Alexander, who at the time was Bobby Brown’s bodyguard, would take Usher around and have him perform in parking lots and talent shows. Alexander invited Bryant Reid, an A&R representative from LaFace Records to see Usher perform on the television talent show Star Search. Following the performance, he arranged an audition for Usher with L.A. Reid, the co-founder of LaFace; Reid signed Usher on the spot to a contract with the record company after Usher sang Boyz II Men hit record “End of the Road”. Usher’s mother left her job as a medical technician to manage his career. Usher was introduced to the public on “Call Me a Mack”, a song he recorded for the soundtrack album to the 1993 drama-romance film Poetic Justice. During this time period, the young Usher first met Chilli of TLC, his label-mate whom he would later date. [ref]

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