Grammy-winning singer Jennifer Nettles shines a subtle, yet impactful, spotlight on a timely subject with “King of the City,” an emotionally charged ballad that was inspired by the story of an immigrant window washer who perished in the September 11th, 2001 attack on the
The tune is both a heartfelt tribute to one man and a reminder of the ideals of the American dream, which began in earnest for countless immigrants when they first arrived on American shores. With the current political climate and the recent announcement that President Trump would rescind the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which has allowed some 800,000 people who came to the U.S. before age 16 to live, work and go to school without fear of being deported, Nettles, who lived in Mexico and studied Spanish and anthropology in college, knows the song’s simple message is also a timely one.
“I want to humanize the immigrant story as an American story, and allow people a different narrative from what they might be seeing on the news or in their communities,” says the singer, whose New York apartment overlooks the Freedom Tower site.
“King of The City” is the poignant first-person narrative of Jose, an immigrant who went from delivering pizzas to a window-washing job where his “throne sits downtown in the air.” A witness to the moment the first plane hit the World Trade Center tower, he laments, “that day on my perch, I made it a church / And I prayed for each soul to fly home.”
This summer, the singer and actress returned to the stage in a production of Mamma Mia! at the Hollywood Bowl, where her co-star, Latin superstar Jaime Camil, first proposed the idea of her performing “King of he City” on the Spanish-language network, Univision. Her goal with “King of the City” was not only to remember all the victims of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, some 21 percent of whom were born outside the
“The places I want to address are places of pain, to say, ‘Where does it hurt? Let’s talk about that’ – and we are hurting as a country,” Nettles says. “So I hope that within the Latino community, people feel validated and seen with this song, and I hope that within the country at large it sends a message of unity.”