After the lights dim in Chicago’s United Center, she quietly walks out on stage and begins to hum softly. The almost-full audience rises in wild applause as though everyone felt as I did, “she’s a famous singer I’d love to see but it’ll never happen.”
For over sixty years her mezzo soprano (and three octaves) voice has been the center of her music and political/social views. Hot/cold feelings about her are quickly drawn. (Rarely would you hear a “cool” comment about her.) At work I said I was about to see her to a group of young Black employees and one said to me, “She a Jewish singer.” I replied, “Close enough.”
Anticipating August 9 is as much fun and energy-expanding as the event. An experience doesn’t need to occur because of its growing anticipation. (And, can’t our mind’s anticipation be more exciting and real than the event?) However, it was that Tuesday night in 2016 that fueled those slower than normal days and weeks during July.
It’s early July and a friend passingly says to me that she’ll be in Chicago in August. I say, “Oh, wow, I didn’t hear that.” Ten seconds later in my reflective mind I’ve already ordered the tickets, saw her perform and returned home smiling. Her concerts are rare. There was even a twenty year gap. That night, I reserved two seats for my sister and me. I called my sister moments later and told her that she owed me a lot of money. “Oh, how come?” I said because we’re going to see her perform in Chicago. “Great,” she said.
I hang up the phone (that’s a lie, it’s an cell phone and you just click the red button) and I thought had that person not make that comment to me, I would not have seen her. I’d feel regret because Chicago is only ninety minutes away. I have her CD’s but now I will soon see her live barring a loose limb or death.
In the weeks that follow my every other thought wanders to 8/9. My sister has a party and her neighbor-friend and 17-year-old daughter hear about my “8/9 wish come true” and wish to come with us. I say, “Cool,” as I order two more tickets in front of them with my phone.
Traveling from Milwaukee to Chicago for an 8:00 p.m. concert is tricky so my sister books a SUV and driver which takes away our travel troubles. 8/9. It’s now the four of us who enter the SUV at 3:50 p.m. with my anticipation running slightly higher than my heart beats. Neighbor-friend brings a picnic basket full of munchies (and alcohol) for our carefree trip and we talk and laugh our way through Chicago’s thick afternoon traffic. I tell the 17-year-old that in thirty years, she’ll be talking with friends about famous singers (divas) and they’ll all laugh at those by-gone starlets. I told her that she’ll be able to say, “I saw one of the best.” Her friends will laugh and say, “No, way.” I told her to just smile back at them and hum a few bars of “Happy Days Are Here Again.”
Chauffeur-guy wishes us well as he waits 2 1/2 hours for us soon to be “song-filled” people to return. Walking through the metal detectors, I asked the guard if he expected any trouble tonight. He replied, “Are you kidding!” Pretty much White and well over 50 was our assembling crowd.
She hums the beginning of “The Way We Were” as the orchestra behind her gradually chimes in. We all jump up and applaud with the same acclaim as a Chicago Bulls victory. She performs for us standing stationery with a solitary confidence and a voice as strong, if not fuller for her 74 years. Two hours. Three encores. New songs, old songs and her standards. The next day at work, employees asked me who her warm-up act was. I said, “Are you kidding! None of us needed warming-up!”
With due respect to the Christian’s “BC” and “AD” measurement of time, I now mark 8/10 as AB and 8/7 was BB.
She dropped one of the three “a’s” in her first name in to stand out. She didn’t need to do that. She’s been belting and mellowing her “melting butter” voice into our hearts for generations and, well, I get to tell everyone that I got to see her.