The Empty Chair

Album: Jim: The James Foley Story (2016)
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Songfacts®:

  • Sting performs this song for the end credits of the documentary Jim: The James Foley Story. The film tells the story of James Foley, the American photojournalist who was murdered by ISIS in Syria in 2014.
  • Sting wrote the song after American composer Joshua "J" Ralph had composed a hymn-like elegy for the end of the movie. He asked Sting if he could come up with something to fit the tune, but the English singer-songwriter was initially reluctant - feeling he wasn't up to the task.

    However, sitting down for Thanksgiving dinner, Sting began to think about how he would honor a lost relative, and decided he would leave an empty chair. This gave him the imagery that inspired the song.

    "Twenty-four hours later, he sent the lyrics and melody back to me," J Ralph said at the Oscars pre-show. "I was like, 'Come on, can't you at least make it look hard?'"
  • The song was among the five finalists for best original song at the 2017 Oscars. Sting was previously nominated in 2000, 2001 and 2003 for songs he wrote for, respectively, The Emperor's New Groove ("My Funny Friend and Me"), Kate & Leopold ("Until") and Cold Mountain ("You Will Be My Ain True Love.") Ralph previously received nods for "Before My Time" from the 2012 documentary Chasing Ice and "Manta Ray" from 2015's Racing Extinction.

Comments: 1

  • Adriana from NapaI have to share a story about this song. My mom passed away last Friday morning, i booked a last minute flight for that evening from San Fran to FL to arrange her funeral. Being a redeye, i wished flight not be packed so could spread out and rest. I arrived and they announced a completely full flight. As we boarded and I took my window seat, there was someone in the aisle. As the boarding door closed, i realized the only "empty chair" on the flight was the seat next to mine. I didn't realize the meaning at the moment, but when i told the story to the Rabbi and included in my eulogy, this song was brought up, the Rabbi read the lyrics and not a dry eye as we lowered her casket. I a writing this as i fly back and once again the "empty chair" is next to me. This song wil forever hold a place in my heart and the words are so powerful. Thank you.
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