One of the best things about music is its ability to change, combine, and meld elements from entirely different genres. The new creations make the oldest songs seem new again and enhance our understanding of music, creativity, and even life.
This miraculous quality has become even more relevant now that channels like YouTube show us performances we would never have seen otherwise while storing them for all time to be discovered later.
One such incredible performance came courtesy of jazz singer-songwriter Gregory Porter. He was invited to sing at the Polar Music Prize Ceremony in June 2017. The Polar Music Prize was founded in 1989. Each year a prize is awarded to one classical musician and a contemporary one. The ceremony itself has been expanded to honour the accomplishments of a range of musicians and others also perform.
He chose the song It's Probably Me, which Sting and Eric Clapton originally recorded for the movie Lethal Weapon 3. The original was very much in the rock genre, but in keeping with his own style Gregory injects notes of soul and funk into his version. The video shows he is performing to a packed house, and when he begins to sing, the crowd goes wild. They cheer and yell before he even reaches the first chorus.
The crowd’s reaction must be reassuring for Gregory as Sting himself is sitting in the audience listening to his rendition. Sting was on the list of honorees that night, and this was Gregory's way of paying tribute to his talent. Sting can be seen tapping in time to the song and seems to love it. No wonder it's been viewed 38.5 million times so far.
Gregory Porter was born in California in Sacramento, but he was raised in Bakersfield. He's part of a big family and has seven siblings! Sadly his father, Rufus, was never really in the picture except for a few days here and there while he was growing up. His mother, Ruth, was a minister and responsible for his early interest in singing. He sang at her church every week.
He went to Highland High School, and when he graduated, he appeared to be destined for life as a footballer. He received a full scholarship from San Diego State University, but sadly, a shoulder injury in his third year put an end to this dream. He also experienced another tragedy around this time; his mother passed away from cancer. She set the path for Gregory's life from her deathbed. She begged him, "Sing, baby, sing!"
Following his mother's death, Gregory and his brother Lloyd moved to Brooklyn. Gregory began working as a singer at St Nick's Pub, Sista's Place and Solomon's Porch. He also performed and supplemented his income working as a chef at Lloyd's restaurant Bread-Stuy. His time at St Nick's Pub allowed him to build his touring band.
Over the years that followed, Gregory released a total of six studio albums: Water, Be Good, Liquid Spirit, Take Me To The Alley, Nat King Cole & Me and All Rise. He was also nominated for a total of seven Grammy Awards and won two. They were both for best jazz vocal album for Liquid Spirit and Take Me To The Alley.
He has performed at a number of big venues and shows, including Glastonbury, Hyde Park, The Graham Norton Show, The Royal Albert Hall and on Jool's Annual Hootenanny. He makes time for a private life too. He and his wife Victoria have two sons, Demyan and Lev. The family lives together in the city where he was brought up, Bakersfield. As his net worth is around $3 million, he must live a comfortable life with the people he loves. I think it's safe to say he's made his mother proud.