The song is a tribute to James Foley, a journalist slain by ISIS in 2014.

By Hayden Wright

Sting walked away empty-handed at last night’s Academy Awards, but not before giving a haunting performance of his Best Original Song contender, “The Empty Chair.”

Related: Sting to Receive Prestigious Swedish Award, Polar Music Prize

The song was written for Jim: The James Foley Story, a documentary that recounts the life and death of war correspondent James Foley, who was beheaded in August 2014. Foley was abducted by ISIS on Thanksgiving Day 2012 and held captive for two years until his death. The song’s lyrics strike a mournful tone and evoke images from Foley’s captivity.

“It’s but a concrete floor where my head will lay/ And though the walls of this prison are as cold as clay/ But there’s a shaft of light where I count my days/ So don’t despair of the empty chair/ And somehow I’ll be there.”

At the close of his set, the quote projected behind Sting read: “If I don’t have the moral courage to challenge authority…we don’t have journalism.” The song lost the Oscar to “City of Stars” from La La Land.

All in all, Sting gave a moving and thought-provoking tribute while celebrating his recognition from the Academy. Watch the performance here:

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