It was Dev Patel who introduced Sting, there to perform The Empty Chair, the Oscar-nominated best original song created along with J. Ralph for the closing credits of Jim: The James Foley Story. The documentary honors the life of journalist James Foley, whose life was cut short in Syria when he was killed by ISIS in 2014 after being kidnapped during the course of his reporting there two years earlier.
“In a time when journalists around the world are under attack, Brian Oakes’ documentary that tells Jim’s story,” said Patel, “had a powerful emotional impact on J. Ralph and Sting. Together, they have created a song that speaks to all who feel the loss of a loved one.”
The intro segued to Sting on a largely darkened stage, playing his acoustic guitar under a blue-hued spotlight. As he played the song’s final measure, a quote from Foley appeared on a screen behind him. “If I don’t have the moral courage to challenge authority, we don’t have journalism,” it read as an image of Foley appeared alongside.
It was a song that almost didn’t happen. “I said no at first,” Sting told Billboard in January. “I said ‘This is beyond my powers.’ I curated the song from what [Jim’s] family and friends said about him. It’s their song.”