Arsenio Hall dedicated his show last night to Nelson Mandela, who died yesterday at 95. During the program, R. Kelly also paid his respects, performing “Soldier’s Heart” and talking about how the South African president had inspired him. “I sang for Nelson Mandela in his home, out in Africa, during the time when I was doing the  World Cup,” Kelly told Hall. “And I sang a special song for him on his piano. I’m just blessed to know that I walked in his presence . . . and being around him inspired me to even go further in my life in my walk and my career and everything, man. He’s just an incredible power.”
Kelly also performed the song solo at a piano, wearing sunglasses, while Hall watched from the audience, nodding along as R. Kelly sang about how “he stood on the frontline.”
When he was done, Hall asked Kelly if he remembered Mandela’s reaction to the song. Kelly said, “He just nodded his head, man. He was very happy and very honored, as I was being in his presence. When I started performing the song on his piano, it was an unbelievable moment for me, man, as it is now.”
Kelly released the song under the title “Front Line” on his 2005 compilation My Diary. He premiered the tune in 2002 under the “Soldier’s Heart” title, according to MTV, and released it as a benefit single in honor of America’s armed forces.
The singer appeared on the show to promote his latest album, Black Panties, which is streaming now. The album signals a return to form for Kelly, whose two previous releases paid tribute to classic soul and R&B. Black Panties features appearances by Ludacris, Kelly Rowland, 2 Chainz Jeezy and more.