Nearly six years after Eric Garner uttered his last words, “I can’t breathe,” while being choked to death by New York City policeman Daniel Pantaleo — and sparked by the murder of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis officer Derek Chauvin during which Floyd repeated those same, harrowing words — the phrase has returned as a rallying cry for protesters around the world calling for an end to police brutality and systemic racism against the Black community.
As demonstrations continued, after many celebrities have leveraged their platforms to support activists on the ground, Grammy-winning singer-songwriter H.E.R. joined the conversation, honoring the painful words that propelled a passionate and necessary movement with an emotional performance. On Wednesday (June 10), she debuted the new song, “I Can’t Breathe,” which described as “very painful” and “very revealing,” during iHeartRadio’s Living Room Concert Series.
“These lyrics were kind of easy to write because it came from a conversation of what’s happening right now, what’s been happening, and the change that we need to see,” H.E.R. said, speaking from a Brooklyn studio with an acoustic guitar in hand. “I think music is powerful when it comes to change and when it comes to healing and that’s why I wrote this song, to make a mark in history. And I hope this song does that.”
Keeping the beat with mid-tempo strumming, H.E.R.’s raw vocals take center-stage. She sang: “What is a gun to a man that surrenders / What’s it gonna take for someone to defend her / If we all agree that we’re equal as people / Then why can’t we see what’s evil?” Then, Floyd’s words reverberate throughout an explosive chorus: “I can’t breathe / You’re taking my life from me / I can’t breathe / Will anyone fight for me?”
Watch the singer’s powerful iHeartRadio performance, kicked off by “I Can’t Breath,” below.
As reported on MTV.