The Devastating Story Behind Alicia Keys’ “Moonlight Sonata” Performance At Kobe Bryant’s Memorial Service

Alicia Keys’ piano rendition of Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata” moved her audience to tears in 2020, performed at a Los Angeles memorial service for the late NBA star, Kobe Bryant, who lost his life in a tragic accident at the start of the same year.

Backed by a string quartet and a passionately expressive conductor, Alicia’s rendition saw Beethoven’s masterpiece unexpectedly sliced in two, with the first half repeated to fill the four-minute slot. Despite missing a crucial note the first time around, Alicia’s heartfelt performance saw Kobe’s widow, Vanessa Bryant, tearfully bow her head in remembrance as images of the long-standing couple played out on screen.

Composed in 1802, “Moonlight Sonata” has preserved memories for generations. Kobe had even tweeted in 2013, “Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata calms me down when I reach my breaking point #relaxandfocus.” For Kobe and Vanessa Bryant, Beethoven’s classic was just one thread in the vibrant tapestry of their relationship.

As Kobe’s manager and close family friend, Rob Pelinka told the audience, “Vanessa brought out Kobe’s romantic side like nobody else in the world could. While he was away, he wanted to live in his love for Vanessa so at night under the moonlit sky, he vowed to teach himself by ear to play the first movement of Beethoven’s ‘Moonlight Sonata.’”

Kobe had learned to play the piece in under a week, surprising Vanessa with a perfect rendition over the phone.

Born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Kobe Bryant’s fame stems from his illustrious 20-year career with the Los Angeles Lakers, players in the National Basketball Association. At 6’6”, he’s gone down in NBA history as one of the greatest players of all time, starting his basketball career straight out of high school and keeping the ball rolling from 1996 all the way up until his 2016 retirement.

Kobe met high school senior Vanessa at a music video shoot in 2000, during Kobe’s short-lived stint as a rapper. It was love at first sight, as Vanessa revealed; only six months later, they were engaged and, less than a year later, the iconic couple were married. Together, they welcomed four daughters: Natalia, Gianna, Bianka, and Capri. Despite allegations of sexual assault against Kobe in 2003 and teetering on the cusp of divorce in the early 2010s, the couple reconciled their evidently strong relationship.

The Bryant household was met with tragedy in 2020. Kobe (aged 41) and daughter Gianna (13) were amongst the nine people killed in a helicopter crash above Calabasas, California. A freak accident is an understatement — Kobe was a notorious helicopter passenger, opting for choppers to cut through the Californian traffic on his way to the L.A. Staples Center — home of the Los Angeles Lakers, where Alicia Keys would later perform “Moonlight Sonata” in memoriam.

This touching moment has amassed over 8.5 million YouTube views in four years, keeping the memory of Kobe Bryant alive for all. If you would like to hear more from this talented artist, you can subscribe to her YouTube Channel, follow her on Facebook and Instagram, or visit her Website.

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