Kenny Sway is a singer from Seat Pleasant, Maryland, best known for the viral videos of his street performances in Washington DC. Seat Pleasant is immediately east of Washington, and is near two of the capital’s metro lines, so it’s no surprise that Sway tends to perform in DC. He became known for singing Adele outside of the Chinatown metro.
An early viral video features Sway holding his infant daughter to his chest while singing. In 2016 a video of Sway singing Smokey Robinson’s The Tracks of My Tears to a hospitalised family friend with stage 4 breast cancer circulated. The touching video below shows Kenny Sway’s kindness to a special needs girl who was captivated by his singing.
As the poster of the video notes, the performance is enough to give you goosebumps. The poster also recommends paying attention to the pause, so as to see Sway “hit Whitney Houston’s iconic High note”. Besides his rich, powerful voice, the viral videos of Kenny Sway are notable for his evident humanity and generosity of spirit. It is these characteristics that prompted Sway to set up a mic and speakers in the midst of the Washington protests near the White House after the death of George Floyd.
The Washingtonian vividly sets the scene: “On Wednesday night, two tense days after the federal government ordered police to tear-gas protesters by Lafayette Square, Kenny Sway turned on his powered speaker and backing tracks, and began to sing on 16th Street, Northwest, with the bell tower of St. John’s church behind him.”. Sway commented that he was trying to bring calm.
The above video was compiled from various snippets “to get as complete a version of this wonderful moment as possible as there didn’t seem to be a fully complete video out there”. Explaining his motivation to the Washingtonian, Kenny Sway said “It took a lot for me to go out there,” He said that watching the protests, he kept questioning what was missing. “There’s no music,” he concluded. “There’s no calmness to the people.” He took it on himself to remedy the problem.
According to Hype Magazine’s, Sway’s performance, “got millions of views and drew a national audience. His rendition of Bill Withers classic Lean on Me melted thousands of protesters’ hearts surrounded by Police and National Guard. All raise lighted cellphones and joined Kenny singing. It’s estimated that more than 5000 people were attending the protest that day”.
At the Washington Protest on 3 June, 2020, Kenny Sway also sang Michael Jackson’s Man in the Mirror and Sam Cooke’s A Change Is Gonna Come, which was a civil rights anthem.
Kenny Sway is no longer primarily a street former. He is a recording artist with a number of singles under his belt and he was featured on a 2019 episode of The Sound, which focused on musicians from Washington DC. He says he continues to perform on the street to bring the solace of music to those that can’t afford tickets for his concerts.