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This Mother And Son Turned Their Grief Into Two Different Grammy-Nominated Albums

Nenenna Freelon and her son Pierce are both nominated for albums about loss.

Jazz vocalist Nnenna Freelon and her son Pierce Freelon are both nominated in separate categories fo...
(@NnennaFreelon / Instagram)

Nnenna Freelon, a jazz musician from North Carolina, is up for her sixth Grammy nomination for Best Vocal Jazz Album. Pierce Freelon, her son, just received his first Grammy nomination in the Best Children’s Album category.

Although two separate projects, both albums predominantly deal with the grief over the loss of Phill Freelon, Nnenna’s late husband and Pierce’s father, who passed away in 2019. The mother-son duo considers their nominations a “beautiful coincidence.”

It’s the first time in the history of the Grammys that a parent and child have been nominated for different awards in the same year.

“You can’t make this stuff up,” Nnenna told Randi Richardson for TODAY. “There’s been music in the household all along. But this moment is so special. For us, we’re both sort of moving on our path, doing our thing, creating a record around family, and around the importance of family, and that both projects be nominated in different categories in the same year is astounding.”

Nnenna also recalled how her music was always the way she tapped into her “mothering energy,” and her late husband would always join in and jam with her and their three kids.

“You know there’s the bath time ritual — getting in the tub and getting all lathered up … and then a story, and then a song. Man, he’s the youngest. There are three kids. Didn’t each one of them want their own story? ... It was like a performance every night,” she said.

Nnenna’s album, Time Travel, was something she used to grieve. “There is no freedom if you don’t grieve. There’s no freedom in pretending your heart isn’t hurting, but what to do … with all that feeling. You got to do something with it,” she said.

Pierce agreed, adding that “creativity became healing for us,” and that ultimately, grief is “an extension of love.” His album, Black to the Future, features archival audio recordings of Pierce’s father, along with tracks of other family members.

“I want Black children to see themselves as children and to celebrate their childhood,” he said. “They deserve the opportunity to sit in their joy and their silliness and their goofiness and to see themselves as people who can grow up and thrive,” he says.

The two plan to attend to the awards show together, along with Pierce’s wife.