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Oscar Nominated Best Song: Diane Warren and Common Stand Up For Something

February 22, 2018 | By


Common and Diane Warren. The photo credit is by Rochelle Brodin

Common and Diane Warren. Photo credit is by Rochelle Brodin.

Written for the movie Marshall, the genesis of the Diane Warren and Common collaboration, Stand Up for Something, began with two lines that “just popped” into Warren’s head: “It all means nothing, if you don’t stand up for something.”

“It’s so simple, but it’s profound, because it’s really the truth,” stated Warren. “If you can really write that. If you can make that into a song…” Warren wanted a song that was both classic and modern. The story is based upon the first case fought by young civil rights lawyer, Thurgood Marshall, the first African American Supreme Court Justice. To get into the period of the film, Warren went to her office and listened to Sam Cooke’s A Change is Gonna Come and other soul records of the 60s.

The chorus “literally wrote itself” in one pass. Warren felt that it sounded as if it had lived there forever. The first verse was easy for her, but the second verse took time. She loved the first verse, and not only wanted to write something as good for the next verse, but wanted to write something better. “I wanted to transport myself back to that time to write a stirring call to action, not just a protest song, but something that makes you want to change the world when you hear it. It almost sounds like it could have been written in 1966,” revealed Warren. “Then I was thinking, like, what if you put a rapper on it? And what if it was Common who’s the best and socially conscious and so eloquent? If you put someone like that on the song, it becomes this mash-up because you would never have heard that in that era.”

Less than a week later, Warren was on a plane to Sundance and coincidentally Common was in the seat right behind her. She was so excited, she sang him the chorus. He loved it. “I was just moved and inspired. I was like, wow this is a great song,” said Common. “It motivated me. It was the type of art I really want to be a part of.  Something that has the quality and the soul of what I love in art, but also has a higher purpose and bigger meaning that can effect and change society and better the world. When I heard it, I felt that.”

Common played the song over and over and called Warren multiple times the next morning. She missed the calls and was surprised to see on her phone logs the number of attempts he had made to contact her. According to Common, when he really loves something, he will fight to be a part of it. Warren said he didn’t have too fight hard. “Once Common was on it, I got so inspired,” shared Warren. “It lifted the song to a whole different place.”

The music world is a small community, so the pair had met before, and were even up against each other for an Oscar, but they had never spent as much time together as when they teamed up on this song. Common loves great writers and considers Warren one of the greats. “There is a poetry in what she wrote in this song that resonated with me. It’s a gift to be able to make something simple, and say something profound. That’s what Thurgood Marshall, that’s what Curtis Mayfield, that’s what Martin Luther King did. That’s what Oprah does in speeches,” remarked Common. “When I heard this song, and I heard the lyrics, ‘You do the best, to do the best that you can do,’ that’s a mantra.”

Common wrote the rap interlude in the song, and said he tried to “fall in line,” with what Warren had already created.  Because he felt the lyrics already said a great deal, he looked to find a way to add on and take part in sharing the message of the song to stand up and be better human beings. With this kind of song, Warren wanted a singer who sounded classic as well as contemporary. Warren was a fan of Andra Day, who she considers one of the all-time great singers despite being relatively new. Day was her number one choice to sing the song for the film. In another coincidence of fate, Warren did not realize Day had a part in the film as a Billy Holliday-esque lounge singer until the song’s demo was in the movie.

Although Warren usually prefers to write alone, she and Common were obviously happy with their collaboration. “Diane has a real authenticity and will speak her heart. She’s a compassionate, passionate person,” commented Common. “I love the raw element of Diane. It reminds me of the great artists and human beings I have worked with. It was a fun combination. I come over with my Kumbya stuff…” Warren interrupted, laughing, “We’re a great combo. Because I’m like…” She searched for the words. “We’re like class and crass. Common is so eloquent and speaks so beautifully and I’m like, ‘fuck it.’”

This is Diane Warren’s 9th Oscar nomination, and Common’s 2nd, having previously won the Academy Award for Best Original Song, “Glory” in 2015, for his work on the feature film, Selma.



“Stand Up For Something”

You can have all the money in your hands

All the possessions anyone can ever have

But it’s all worthless treasure

True worth is only measured

Not by what you got, but what you got in your heart

You can have, you can have everything

But what does it, what does it mean


It all means nothing

If you don’t stand up for something

You can’t just talk the talk

You got to walk that walk, yes you do

It all means nothing

If you don’t stand up for something

And I’ll stand up for you

And I’ll stand up for you

Yes I will, yes I will


You do the best to do the best that you can do

Then you can look in the mirror

Proud of who’s looking back at you

Define the life you’re living

Not by what you take, but what you’re giving

And if you bet on love, there’s no way you’ll ever lose

Take a stand, make a stand for what’s right

It’s always worth, always worth the fight


It all means nothing

If you don’t stand up for something

You can’t just talk the talk

You got to walk that walk, yes you do

It all means nothing

If you don’t stand up for something

And I’ll stand up for you


Self respect, dignity

If that’s all you got

Then you got all you need

And without that you don’t have a thing



Rise up, love, lift your hands

I stand with you cuz I understand

Ain’t here to judge, just to take a stand

The greater plan’s the Creator’s plan

Let’s all rise up like the day began

Reach out and touch with the Savior’s hand

On rock we stand like this native land

Let the ways of love be the ways of man


It all means nothing

If you don’t stand for something

You can’t just talk the talk

You got to walk that walk, yes you do

It all means nothing

If you don’t stand up for something

And I’ll stand up for you

(Stand up, stand for you)

I’ll stand up for you

(Stand up)

And I’ll stand up for you

(Stand up, stand for you, stand up)

Stand up for you

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