Sunday’s duet between Tracy Chapman and Luke Combs on the Grammys introduced us a kind of uncommon moments in right this moment’s America by which appreciation was louder than criticism. From the illuminating pleasure on her face to the admiration on his, we had been as soon as once more reminded of music’s plain skill to show strangers generations aside into sisters and brothers … if just for a tune.
It has been 35 years since Chapman first carried out “Quick Automotive” on the awards present. We lived in a really totally different world then. For context, neither Taylor Swift nor Travis Kelce was alive when it occurred. Neither was Combs.
Right here’s one other strategy to measure how way back 1989 was: Among the many different performers that yr had been Whitney Houston, Luther Vandross and Melissa Etheridge — all queer, none brazenly so at the moment. George Michael, who received album of the yr for “Religion” that yr, was outed nearly 10 years later.
And within the midst of all that Eighties glamour stood an unassuming newcomer, a storyteller with darkish pores and skin, little to no make-up, quick locs and a guitar. Chapman by no means introduced her sexuality — her onetime lover, the creator Alice Walker, did that for her in 2006 — however she by no means pretended to be something aside from the queer Black lady she was.
That’s not supposed to throw shade on the closeted members of the LGBTQ+ group who had been a part of that evening’s festivities (it’s not like I used to be out again then both). However to be able to correctly give Chapman her flowers for Sunday’s efficiency, we should acknowledge the atmosphere by which her story started.
The queer love in Walker’s “The Shade Purple” was controversial when the novel was revealed in 1982. It was controversial when the movie by the identical title was launched in 1985, and sadly, the 2023 musical was additionally met with pushback due to the love between Black ladies on the display screen. And Chapman, who turns 60 subsequent month, has been her genuine self, performing onstage by way of all of it.
The one noticeable distinction all through these years has been the colour of her hair, which glistened Sunday beneath the Crypto.com Enviornment’s lights. The jet-black hair of yesteryear now adorned with the grey she has earned.
What does it imply to age gracefully?
I’ve been attempting to reply that query ever since my solely baby graduated from highschool almost a decade in the past. On that Grammys stage, Chapman offered us all a solution. It’s not about accepting getting older; it’s about embracing age with gratitude. That’s what we witnessed in her smile throughout the opening moments of her efficiency with Combs — gratitude.
Grey hair is usually characterised as an intruder that have to be eliminated whereas wrinkles are thought of deformities in want of restore. Particularly within the leisure business. Particularly in L.A. The urge to dye our hair in an try and keep off Father Time is a temptation that may be tough to withstand. For years I gave in, not desirous to look my age although I’ve additionally been attempting to dwell an extended and wholesome life — speak about a contradiction.
And there stood Chapman, simply as genuine right this moment as she was 35 years in the past once we first heard her title and listened to that tune. Whitney, Luther and George are not with us. Melissa survived most cancers. All reminders that life is fragile. Life is brief. Too quick to spend pursuing what we as soon as had been or what others suppose we needs to be. Too quick to sacrifice who we actually are or changing into what we are supposed to be.
As a result of Chapman was her genuine self — folks, Black, queer — she linked with a straight white nation artist from a small city in North Carolina. And collectively they created probably the most talked-about second of their business’s largest evening. They did it not by avoiding what made them totally different however embracing it. All of it.