Alicia Keys performed a heartfelt rendition of Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata” for Kobe and Gianna Bryant’s Celebration of Life ceremony at the NBA legend’s old stomping grounds at Los Angeles’ Staples Center on Monday (Feb. 24).
She wore a satin purple suit jacket with rhinestone-embellished puff sleeves during her touching piano ballad and was accompanied by a string quartet. Lakers general manager and Gianna’s godfather Rob Pelinka explained shortly before her performance that Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata” was Bryant’s ultimate love song for his wife Vanessa.
Pelinka shared an anecdote about how one evening while away from his family, Bryant longingly looked out at the moon from his hotel suite’s grand piano bench and promised his close friend that he would learn how to play the classical arrangement for Vanessa as a testament of their love.
“Vanessa brought out Kobe’s romantic side like nobody else in the world could,” Pelinka told the audience. “While he was away, he wanted to live in his love for Vanessa so at night under the moonlit sky, he vowed to teach himself by ear to play the first movement of Beethoven’s ‘Moonlight Sonata.’ When he told me this, I thought, ‘There’s no way!’… That next morning, Kobe called and played me the first few measures. The next morning, more. By the end of the week, he had the entire piece mastered, and he played it for me over the phone without a mistake.”
Keys first paid tribute to the basketball icon when she hosted the 62nd annual Grammy Awards on Jan. 26, the same day Bryant was killed in a helicopter crash in Calabasas, Calif., alongside his 13-year-old daughter Gianna and seven other passengers. He was 41.
“Here we are together on music’s biggest night celebrating the artists that do it best, but to be honest with you, we’re all feeling crazy sadness right now because earlier today in Los Angeles, America and the whole wide world lost a hero,” the singer said during her opening monologue. “We’re literally standing here heartbroken in the house that Kobe Bryant built.”
In an interview with Ellen DeGeneres on Jan. 29, Keys explained how she organized her performance of “It’s So Hard to Say Goodbye to Yesterday” with Boyz II Men for the special Grammys tribute last minute.
“It definitely was a crazy feeling because literally minutes before, we were going to do something else and we had to really figure out, ‘How could we properly honor him in his house?'” Keys told DeGeneres. “It just so happened Boyz II Men was there, already, that night and we wanted to do something special, create something that felt like it was the right thing and we pulled it together. And it was just beautiful, it was like that magic that happens when it’s necessary.”