Music News

Why Justin Timberlake chose the Stax Museum for his 'Celebrating America' performance

Mark Nguyen

Justin Timberlake chose the Stax Museum of American Soul Music his hometown of Memphis, Tennessee as the backdrop for his and singer-songwriter Ant Clemons‘ inspiring rendition of “Better Days,” on Wednesday’s Celebrating America special honoring the inauguration of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris.

The pair also invited students and alumni of Stax Music Academy’s music education and youth development program to perform alongside them with a band led by Emmy-nominated musical director Adam Blackstone who provided the live production and arrangement for the performance version of the song.  They were also joined by 16-time Grammy winner Kirk Franklin.

The Stax Museum of American Soul Music, which is close to Justin’s heart, is the world’s only museum dedicated to preserving and promoting the Stax Records legacy and the Memphis Sound, which boasts artists such as Otis Redding, Isaac Hayes, the Staple Singers, Sam & Dave, Al Green and Aretha Franklin.

Timberlake has often cited the music of Memphis and Tennessee, including The Memphis Sound, and how the artists of Stax Records, heavily influenced him as a kid and as an artist.

Timberlake’s relationship with Stax Music Academy began in 2019, when he and Timbaland were among a group of artists to surprise students with a two-day songwriting workshop as part of the Levi’s Music Project.

During a taping of The Ellen DeGeneres Show a few months later, Timberlake surprised one of the students with tickets to the Grammys, a full scholarship to the Grammys camp and $50,000 on behalf of the Green Dot bank, which also made a $250,000 donation to the Academy.

By George Costantino
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