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In a new interview with GQ, Boyz II Men member Nathan Morris shared how his group and Keys got together to honor Kobe with the Philly R&B group’s 1991 hit “It’s So Hard to Say Goodbye to Yesterday.”
According to the publication, Keys’ manager and retiring Grammys producer Ken Ehrlich approached Boyz II Men’s manager Joe Mulvihill with the idea of performing the song. Morris told GQ the group was in their dressing room rehearsing for their scheduled performance with Tyler, the Creator when they were asked to do the tribute with Keys. Morris said it was “an instant yes from us.”
“We always try to be ready vocally, but I mean, when you care about somebody in this manner, you can be vocally ready, but you may not be mentally ready,” said Morris, who first met Kobe when he was a high school star in Philadelphia. “We sat around and tried to figure it out. Alicia wanted to sing it with us, so we went to her dressing room and created a little something in like 10 minutes.”
He added that the group wore street clothes during the performance because that was the only thing they had to wear. “Kobe deserved a hell of a lot more than what we were able to give him,” he added. “We just gave him what we had. It came from our hearts, and that’s all we could do.”
From her end, Keys discussed how she settled upon the song in an interview on Ellen.
“We were all freaking out because, obviously, hearing the news about Kobe and his daughter was so tragic, and none of us can still believe it right now to this day,” Keys told Ellen. “It definitely was a crazy feeling because literally minutes before, we were going to do something else and we had to really figure out, ‘How could we properly honor him in his house?’ ... It just so happened Boyz II Men was there already that night, and we wanted to do something special, create something that felt like it was the right thing, and we pulled it together. And it was just beautiful, it was like that magic that happens when it's necessary.”
The 1975 Motown hit “It’s So Hard to Say Goodbye to Yesterday” was the second single from Boyz II Men’s debut album, Cooleyhighharmony. It topped the Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart and peaked at No. 2 on the Hot 100.
Also while on Ellen, Keys performed a stripped-down version of her latest single “Underdog,” which is from her forthcoming eighth album, Alicia. The self-titled project is set to release on March 20 via RCA Records.