(Loosely edited) Since my grandmother’s stroke, about 6 or 7 years ago, okay, I really don’t know how long it’s been as my family’s new normal has been constantly evolving. Anyhoo, since her stroke, one of the greatest joys has been the biggest smile she gets when I play the music she loves.
I have vivid childhood memories of my grandparents being tipsy and boppin’ at family gatherings. (Boppin’ was the precursor to Chicago’s partnered dance style, Steppin’.) The synchronicity, harmony, smoothness and stylized intricacies of Black love when Chi-town folk “two-step,” is such a beautiful thing. So yeah, my granny was a Boppin’ guru.
Also, I have vivid memories of her dancing to Diana Ross’s, “The Boss.” That song is, and continues to be her jam! Now, as a stroke survivor when I put that song on, she still gets it in. Her chair-dance game is strong. Grams be moving that body and swinging those arms to the point of wearing herself out—even the side where there’s paralysis gets a jig in.
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Every Saturday morning, in our childhood apartment, there was music and cleaning. My mother would wake me up with music blaring, singing and dancing, and the smell of Pine Sol. Oh, and it would be early in tha mawning. No sleeping in. lol lol lol. My mom, like her mother, had her own Diana Ross jam, she loved many songs from the Supremes and Diana’s solo career but, “It’s My House,” was her shizzznit! Dat’s dat grown womon song! I so understand why as a single mama rearing a girl-child that she’d like this particular song. She also liked “Upside Down.” Mama and I would body roll to that one. “Come See About Me,” was sassy, so we liked that one, and “Mirror, Mirror,” was the groove too. Of course we’d listen to the Supremes classics as well.
And, “THE WIZ”…Chile bye….to know me is to my love of musicals and the WIZ is all things amazing. I’ve watched the movie gazillion times and I’ve seen it live several time. As a child I was afraid of the lion, and I think it was at the old Drury Lane where I first saw the staged performance of the Wiz and I cried when the lion came out. He entered through the audience and when he passed me he roared and scared the mess outta me, but I got over it real fast and was in love with “us people” on stage being so vibrant, alive and telling a story that was reinterpreted for us. And, I used to listen to the Wiz soundtrack every morning at my previous job.
Let’s be clear, I didn’t know about “The Wizard of Oz” until I was older, I thought The Wiz was the original…lol lol lol. For the movie, Diana Ross as Dorothy was everything, and Stephanie Mills voice in the Broadway production, honey chile, bye. And Michael Jackson (MJ) as the Scarecrow in the movie, all kinds of yummy.
To know my mama is to know how much she loved Michael Jackson, who she affectionately calls “Mikey.” Back in tha day she saw the Jackson 5 at the Milwaukee Jazz Festival. Folk be sleeping on Milwaukee, but they’ve always had some good music events.
So, back to Ms. Ross, I cannot mention her without thinking about our close family friends whose house we’d often go over for gatherings. They had Diana Ross’s VHS tapes of her concerts. We’d watch her 1983 Central Park concert almost every time we’d go over there for summer cookouts. One thing I love about that concert is the song, “Family.” To my knowledge she never recorded that song, but it was featured on the movie Dreamgirls . In the Central Park concert she asked the crowd to listen to the words of the song and act accordingly.
I want you to listen to me now
This is being televised again worldwide today
Just calm yourselves, come on, alright, can you feel me?
Yes, this may be the most important moment in my life
There are words in this song that to me are very special, listen
It’s more than you
It’s more than me
No matter what we are
We are a family
This dream is for us
This one can be real
They can’t stop us now
Because of how we feel
It’s more than you
It’s more than me
Whatever dreams we have
They’re for the family
We’re not alone any more then
There are others there
And this dream’s big enough
For all of us to share
So don’t think you’re going
We’re not going anywhere
We’re staying, taking our share
If you get afraid again, I’ll be there
We are a family like a giant tree
Branching out towards the sky
We are a family and so much more
Than just you and I
We are a family like a giant tree
Growing strong, growing wiser
We are, we are a family
I love you
I’m often asked what’s up with my thing for live concerts (and, the arts in general.) It’s framed in my love for “place.” Music instantly places me in my life and my experiences. I experience life through words, lyrics, feelings, sounds and colors. So, to finally see Diana Ross live, I was good guacamole happy. I was just as excited to hear her songs as I was to experience all of her extraness…hair and wardrobe changes. I wanted a SHOW!
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Saturday: July 15, 2017
The Venue at Horseshoe Casino
Concert day was a dense day for me; I was at the United State of Women, Galvanize Program all day—no time to even go home and change, I was gone ALL day. Which, I usually like to go the Horseshoe, Venue early to have dinner, and watch the people arrive. I love love love seeing Black folk showing up for us and being us.
For this show though, I got there a song into Rhonda Ross opening up for her mama. Rhonda is definitely her child, she got the Diana-esk thing going on. I’d read about Rhonda’s story awhile ago and it tripped me out, she wasn’t told she was Berry Gordy’s daughter until she was 12-13 y/o. Ms. Ross was married to Tracey Ellis-Ross’s dad at the time.
After Rhonda’s set, I appreciated the quick set change. The crew was on it and Mama Diana’s band got on stage quickly. Let me tell you bout ole skool folk, they know how to do tha damn thing and do it efficiently. Then it was time for Lady Di, cos she is our Lady Di.
She comes out in all her glory and greatness, being all the extra I needed her to be. She sashays out with the hair and wearing this big poofy aqua tulle over-cover thingy, and underneath, she had a deeper aqua-colored, more like teal, sequin dress talmbout “I’m Coming Out.” Yaaaasss she was coming out and I was ret for her to bring it. She looked good and she was giving us good juju and in return, the audience was servin’ her some extra special lovin’ in return. She even noted how great the audience was, and she kept having “warm fuzzy” moments. It was crute.
She gave us a few songs and then she’d scurry off stage to change again—3 wardrobe changes, each having an over-cover thingy. Her band/background singers would take good care of us while she was preparing to wow us with her next sequined number. And check-it, you had to pay attention cos if you didn’t, it mighta seemed like each dress was the same, but in different colors, but they weren’t. And for the red ensemble, she had a matching handheld folding fan.
Her band though, they sounded good. One of the best sounding bands I’ve heard in this particular concert space. Her percussionist was giving me life, and the horn playa too. He was getting his salsa on and his musicality was duly noted.
This concert felt good. BUT, it was too short. It wasn’t that she didn’t give us the goods, but it was short. From what I heard from others who’ve seen her this year in other cities, I discovered that she didn’t give us the “jazz set,” which would have added the needed 15-20 mins to the show. Wait, so Auntie D didn’t give us the Lady Sings the Blues set? Pooey on her.
But on the real, I didn’t feel cheated with quality, just with the length of the show.
Her set-list included, and I may be missing somethings:
- I’m Coming Out
- More Today than Yesterday
- Stop In the Name of Love
- Come See About Me
- You Can’t Hurry Love
- Love Child
- The Boss
- Upside Down
- Take Me Higher
- Ease on Down the Road
- Endless Love
- Aint No Mountain High Enough
- I Will Survive (Odd and gangsta that she ended with a song that’s not her own.)
Now, if she’d done anything from “Lady Sings the Blues,” “Everybody Rejoice,” “Reach Out and Touch,” “Love Hangover,” and/or “Mirror Mirror,” I would have totally lost my bird.
About Lady Di, Auntie D, she is sistagirl. She has Diana from Tha D (Detroit) tendencies, fasho. She checked security and told them, “If I ask them to come up on stage with me, don’t stop them, don’t push them away.”
Overall, it was fantastical show, well worth the longggggggggg day and finally, I saw our Lady Di, live and in concert.