In My Write Mind
R & B Defined...
At first, when I heard the news on that first day of July, I said I wasn't going to create a post. I mean really...what could I say that no one else would? In my ever-churning brain, I always look for ways to be different, to get my point across in a way that will affect people.
I had nothing.
Then, as the week went on, I read so many tributes, including here, here, here and here, and decided that I definitely didn't have any powerful lyrics to add their hearfelt, soul-filled, powerful songs. I made some comments here and there, but really, everybody has their own stories or favorite songs, right? Right. It would be pointless for me to sit here and rattle off all my favorite songs and where I was when I first heard them or what I did while listening to them. Right? Right. I didn't have anything powerful enough that warranted a post.
Today, I watched the funeral on television. Let me say that again. Today, Saturday, July 9th, I watched Luther Vandross' home going celebration. On television. Without the benefit of closed circuit links or special permission. Nope. It was on New York's N.Y1, broadcast in its entirety, without commercial interruption.
And that, along with the broadcast itself, is why I posted today. Complete coverage of funerals on television is reserved for dignitaries like presidents, popes, British royals or for someone famous who died as a result of an extraordinary circumstance. Otherwise, we are never allowed complete access to people's final celebrations or mournings. And African Americans?!?!? Coverage of their funerals rarely happens, as much because of their frequency as because of the general apathy of the nation.
Luther Vandross meant something. His life, his voice affected so many people, transcended race and musical genre. He was powerful enough to be deemed worthy of that final tribute, that final remembrance. With all of his fans right there--peeking in, sharing. We know of his discography, his catalogue, his charm. Today, and yesterday when the funeral was carried live, the world got to see his depth, his reach, his cache.
Patti LaBelle, Cissy Houston, Dionne Warwick, Stevie Wonder and Aretha Franklin all paid tribute to their friend, with Patti calling the day a celebration and reading a poem penned by Luther's mother. His long-time composer Nat Adderley, Jr., strode to the baby grand set up near the front of the Harlem church's main auditorium, strode past the pews that held so many of Luther's family and friends...so many of his fans. To say he tickled the ivories would be a disservice. His final public tribute to his good friend, a haunting, tender, powerful rendition of the classic "A House is Not A Home" had me glued to the screen, drew a powerful standing ovation from the hundreds in attendance. And near the end of the televised, two hour celebration, a throng of celebrities and friends including Freddie Jackson, Alicia Keys, Usher, Franklin, Wonder, Warwick and LaBelle joined in with an emotional, fitting version of Luther's "Power of Love/Love Power."
His best friend Fonzi Thornton, whom he grew up with in the Bronx, who was with him from the beginning, spoke of how Luther was always focused on music, how he was arranging vocals and studying dance steps way back in junior high. He also shared that Luther was well aware of the title he had as the "love man," referring to his allegedly being responsible for many a baby being made. He didn't want to accept that, though, according to Thornton. Didn't want to be known for that kind of power. Luther wanted to be remembered as the premiere soul singer of his generation, if not of all time.
He had that power. That love power. That longevity power. Being remembered for your greatness and talent, being celebrated for the mark you made on the world...THAT kind of power. Hell, he gave me the power to compose this post, to add to the chorus of tributes that will undoubtedly continue. And N.Y1? They made a powerful statement by broadcasting it live, and then showing it again today. Giving all fans of Luther Vandross a chance to peek in, to share. Luther made his mark. Luther left here as the greatest, went home as the best.
And you know what? That is indeed the greatest power of them all.
R.I.P. Luther Ronzoni Vandross. 1951 - 2005
scribbled by Will at 7/09/2005 07:09:00 PM
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I write entirely to find out what I'm thinking, what I'm looking at, what I see and what it means. What I want and what I fear. (Joan Didion)
The Write One
Will. Lefty. Since Summer 1971. Over the next six months, I'll be saying some hellos, some goodbyes. Living, laughing, growing. Don't.miss.a.word.
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