Seattle hip-hop duo Macklemore & Ryan Lewis perform their gay-rights hit "Same Love" at the 56th Annual Grammy Awards on January 26, 2014.

  • By Peter Blecha
  • Posted 3/26/2015
  • HistoryLink.org Essay 11050

On the Sunday evening of January 26, 2014, Macklemore (Ben Haggerty, b. 1983) and Ryan Lewis (b. 1988) present their pro-marriage-equality anthem "Same Love" to a massive global television audience at the 56th Annual Grammy Awards at the Staples Center in Los Angeles. The hit tune, adopted as a theme song by the 2012 campaign for Washington's Referendum 74, which successfully enacted same-sex marriage in the state, is nominated for a Song of the Year award.

Best New Artist

"Same Love" -- one of the tracks from the 2012 Macklemore & Ryan Lewis album The Heist -- was recorded in February of that year and issued as a single on July 18, 2012. It soon became the unofficial theme song for the political campaign supporting Referendum 74 to guarantee marriage equality, which voters approved on November 6, 2012, making Washington one of the first three states (along with Maine and Maryland, which did so in the same election) to enact same-sex marriage at the ballot box 

"Same Love" featured Macklemore rapping about various aspects of homophobia and equal rights -- noting that, "If I was gay, I would think hip-hop hates me. Have you read the YouTube comments lately?" -- along with Lewis's musical backing, Trombone Shorty's horn-work, and a beautifully melodic vocal line ("... and I can't change, even if I tried, even if I wanted to ...") provided by lesbian singer Mary Lambert (b. 1989) of Everett. The cover artwork for the "Same Love" single was a photograph of Macklemore's uncle John Haggerty with his male partner Sean. The song entered the Billboard Hot 100 charts on February 7, 2013, eventually climbed to the No. 11 slot, then reached No. 2 on Billboard's Hot Rap Songs charts, sold more than 2 million copies, and also earned a Grammy Song of the Year nomination.

With The Heist a major artistic and commercial hit, Macklemore & Ryan Lewis were honored with a total of seven Grammy award nominations in 2014, of which they they would go on to win four: Best New Artist, Best Rap Album, Best Rap Performance, and Best Rap Song. And so the duo and Grammy award-show producers began secretive and very ambitious planning for their performance. When, just hours prior to the show, word leaked out to the media about the spectacle they'd coordinated, Lewis informed The New York Times that "[This] will be in our minds the ultimate statement of equality, that all the couples are entitled to the same exact thing" (Sisario).

Open Your Heart 

When the hour arrived for Macklemore & Ryan Lewis's moment in the spotlight, they were introduced by New Jersey rap star Queen Latifa (b. 1970), who said:

"When we say 'Music has the power to bring people together at the Grammys,' we mean it. One of the most inspiring success stories in music this past year has been Macklemore and Ryan Lewis -- already four time Grammy winners tonight! This song is a love song not for some of us but for all of us -- and tonight we celebrate the commitment to love by some very beautiful couples ... here is Macklemore and Ryan Lewis and an uplifting song that says 'Whatever god you believe in, we come from the same one -- strip away the fear, underneath it's all the same love'" ("Macklemore & Ryan Lewis Win ...").

Macklemore, Lewis, Lambert, and Shorty kicked off "Same Love" surrounded by an orchestral string section and gospel choir. As the tune wound down, Latifa -- who had earlier been deputized as a commissioner by Los Angeles County officials -- reappeared and began performing a mass wedding ceremony for 30-some gay, straight, and/or interracial couples who had lined up in front of the stage. Adding to the spectacle, Madonna joined Macklemore & Lewis and company (and a marching band's drum line!) as "Same Love" transitioned into her invitational hit "Open Your Heart" from 1986, and then back again into "Same Love," with Lambert and Madonna singing the latter song's hook, "She keeps me warm," together.


Sources: Ben Sisario, "Grammys to Feature On-Air Weddings of 34 Couples," January 26, 2014, New York Times ArtsBeat website accessed March 21, 2015 (http://artsbeat.blogs.nytimes.com/2014/01/26/grammys-wedding-macklemore-ryan-lewis-queen-latifah/?_php=true&_type=blogs&hpw&rref=arts&_r=2); Harriet Gibsone, "Grammy's 2014: Macklemore & Ryan Lewis Win Four Gongs at This Year's Show," The Guardian, January 27, 2014 (http://www.theguardian.com); "Macklemore & Ryan Lewis Win Best New Artist," video posted January 26, 2014, Grammy.com website accessed March 22, 2015 (http://www.grammy.com/videos/macklemore-ryan-lewis-win-best-new-artist); Asawin Suebsaeng, "Macklemore and Queen Latifa's Big, Gay, Multiracial Mass Wedding at the Grammys," January 26, 2014, Mother Jones Mixed Media blog accessed March 22, 2015 (http://www.motherjones.com/mixed-media/2014/01/video-macklemore-grammys-wedding-34-couples-gay-marriage); Nancy Dillon, "Grammys 2014: Queen Latifa Officiates Mass Wedding as Macklemore & Ryan Lewis Perform 'Same Love' with Madonna, Mary Lambert," New York Daily News, January 27, 2014 (http://www.nydailynews.com); HistoryLink.org Online Encyclopedia of Washington State History, "Marriage Equality and Gay Rights in Washington" (by Alan J. Stein), http://www.historylink.org/ (accessed March 21, 2015).

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