My September Evening with Patti Labelle and Gladys Knight
The highly anticipated Evening with Patti Labelle and Gladys Knight was, indeed, a night to remember. From the moment the two superstars walked on the set and began talking to each other not realizing the cameras were rolling, I knew I was witnessing something magical. The event did not disappoint. I sang, I danced, I smiled, I laughed, I reminisced, and there were even a few points where my eyes started sweating. LOL.
Most noteworthy among the many enjoyable and memorable moments I had throughout the evening were the moments I literally felt the wisdom radiating from the stage. And as I thought about wisdom and where it comes from, my admiration for these two legends magnified greatly. Their wisdom was granted by experiences fans aren’t privy to— like the mistakes they’ve made, the regrets they’ve had, the pain they’ve experienced, and the hurt they’ve felt; the insecurities with which they’ve struggled, the opportunities they’ve seen pass, the love they’ve lost, and the losses they’ve survived; the awards they’ve won, the people they’ve collaborated with, the artists they inspire, the food they’ve cooked, the children they’ve raised, the grandchildren they love and the memories they cherish...
Wisdom doesn’t automatically come with age. It's some godstuff that comes from the lessons we learn, the tests we pass, and the truth we apply as we matriculate through the university we call the Universe and the classification we call Planet Earth. So when Patti said, “There is over 150 years of experience on the stage” (and over 230 years of experience when Dionne Warwick surprised them toward the end) it hit me—they’ve seen so much, lived through so much…survived so much— and that “so much” is wrapped up in the essence of who they are. That “so much” is expressed in their stories, their smiles, and most noticeably in their soul-stirringly soulful voices.
I have always heard that music is the soundtracks of our lives. But last night, as memories were recalled and feelings surfaced with each song that was played, I developed a greater appreciation, not only for my parents and their generation, but also for the media and cultural influencers that infused Gladys and Patti’s music into television shows like A Different World, and The Oprah Winfrey Show. To relive the classic episode from A Different World when Jaleesa Vincent and Whitley Gilbert entered the school-wide competition to sing backup for Gladys Knight when “I’ve Got to Use My Imagination” and “Love Overboard” played was everything. And to consider how Patti Labelle was cast to portray Dwayne Wayne’s mother further expanded my deep respect for the impact that Black television has had in shaping the culture of my generation. I know, as a producer myself, how intentional Oprah, Bill Cosby and Debbie Allen and others were in bridging generational divides and educating the day's youths by continually exposing them to the greats from their adult worlds.
For me, like so many others, watching the event last night was a transcendental experience. And to experience this with so many other celebrities in the chat... I mean, knowing that Jill Scott, Brandy, Mariah Carey were singing while I was singing and that Snoop Dogg and Lil Duval were laughing while I was laughing, and that I was dancing with Dawn Lewis and Jasmine Guy, and crying with Michelle Obama and Oprah Winfrey, made it all the more awespiring. While I’m sure there will be more memes and gifs created from the inevitable antics that occur when you get two world renowned Divas together, I take from this immeasurable moment the energy generated on stage between longtime friends; the admiration I felt as I witnessed the grace and class and sophistication with which these two Queens carried themselves; the wisdom they imparted by sharing their stories, their advice, their smiles, and their presence; I will not soon forget the hope I gathered upon seeing how they supported each other, how they celebrated each other, and how they genuinely respected each other as a women and powerhouse talents.
They were honest. They were vulnerable. They were funny. I was moved. I was touched. I was inspired.