Friday, March 25, 2011

March 7, 1985

Earlier today I was at Body Works chugging away on the elliptical machine in sync with my Couch to 5K ipod app.  I'm on Week 1-Day 3.   My "walking" song is, "bumbum..BUMP bumbum..BUMP bumbum..BUMP  bumbum..BUMP WE-WILL WE-WILL ROCK YOU!"  I walked.  I ran.  I walked.  I ran.  Then, came the cool down stroll with my cool down song.  As the melody slipped from my iphone through the cords of my earbuds and into my brain, I was taken back to the exact time and place that I first heard the song.  The memory was so sweet, that I closed my eyes and went there.

It was Thursday morning.  March 7, 1985.  I was wearing a new preppy blue dress with tiny white pinstripes and a starchy white collar.  The morning felt giddy with promise because I knew that the song was coming.  The weeks leading up to the release of it were filled with "teasers."  The ever swelling hype was equivalent to the mounting curiosity in the weeks leading up to July 29, 1981 when at last, Lady Diana stepped from her royal carriage giving the world it's first glimpse of her silk taffeta wedding dress.  As I drove to school that morning, Ron Chapman began the radio countdown, "OK, folks!  Only ten more minutes until you hear this song for the first time on KAAAAY VEEEE EYYYYYYE ELLLLLL!"  The chorus followed in three part harmony, "KAAAAAAY VEEEEE EYYYYYYE ELLLLLL!  STARE-E-OH ONE-OH-THREEEeeeeeee!"  

As I pulled into the parking lot of Bradfield Elementary, I glanced at the clock on the dashboard of my blue Nissan Sentra feeling a twinge of running-behind-lateness even though it was only 7:50 in the AM.  A creature of habit, I liked to be sitting at my desk lining up my pencils at 7:45.   Fidgeting, I weighed the pros and cons.  Stay and hear the song or feeling off kilter all morning?  What to do?  What to do?  Ron continued to draw me into his world, "You will always remember where you were the first time heard the song that's coming up in......six short minutes!  Suzie, how's the traffic looking today!?"  

Convinced that hearing the song for the first time on the way home from school would be totally anticlimactic and just plain wrong, I began to organize my things - purse, sack lunch, graded papers - in my lap so that I could make a dash to the building the minute the song was over.  I waited.  And waited.  And, then it began.  Softy...light tinkling of bells...a deep subtle "gonnnnnnnnng."  Enter the brass and piano.  Then, as soothing as a thick, velvety blanket, Lionel Richie began, "There comes a time...when we heed a certain call..."  Enter Stevie Wonder, "When the world...must come together as one."  

I closed my eyes and fell headlong into the moment as I began to recognize some familiar voices.  I heard the tender gravel of Kenny Rogers who was followed by...uh...that guy...then, the sultry  rasp of Tina Turner, "We are all part of...God's great big family!"  I begin to sway side to side in my bucket seat.  Then, the big moment.  Michael Jackson softly - almost timidly - premiered the chorus that would be on the lips of millions by nightfall, "We are the world...  We are the children..."  By now, I had forgotten that the morning school bell would soon ring at Bradfield Elementary on Planet Earth and twenty two 5th graders would begin tumbling into my unmanned classroom.  I was "in" for the duration.  I was a teacher.  I was all about children.  Sing on!

The beautiful and talented Diana Ross gracefully entered, "There's a choice we're ma-a-kin'...we're savin' our own lives!"  Michael Jackson joined her, "It's true we'll make a better day...just you and me!"  The song was passed from American Idol to American Idol as it swelled in intensity.  Willie Nelson brought it down home as only Willie could with his wiggly twang, "As God has shown us, by turning stone to bread..."  (His parole officer was probably standing by the door of the studio.)   Then, the big crescendo as The Boss' rugged voice commanded the mike, "WE AH THUH WORL...WE AH THUH CHILDRIN!"  The drums began to build up the beat!  I held up my Bic lighter and continued to sway.  Oh, yeah.  Smooth it out, Kenny Loggins!  Oh, yeah.  "When you're down and out, there seems no hope at all," Michael Jackson sang out leading the pack over the bridge.  Huey Lewis ground it in with a little " But if you just believe...there's no way we can fall!"  Then...wait for it...wait for it...  Cyndi Lauper screams out, "Well...Well...WELL.....LET US re-uh-lize that a CHAY-AYNGE can only come..." Then it's Lauper and Kim Carnes and Huey Lewis on the  big build up, "WHEN WE STAND TOGETHER AS WUUUU-UUUUUN!"

As the choir of icons lifted its voice to sing the chorus, tears welled up in my eyes.  I sat there in my Sentra in the parking lot of Bradfield Elementary at 8:00AM on a Thursday with tears slowly rolling down my cheeks singing along with Lionel Richie, Tina Turner, Michael Jackson, and company.  As the choir softened, the chorus was punctuated by Bob Dylan's halting wail, "Thez a choice we're maakin'.  We-ah savin' OUR own lives.  It's true.  We'll make a betta day.  Jus you.  An me."  Then, the song swirled into the key change as the whole group joined in!  Four minutes into the seven minute song, I was swaying, singing, waving my Bic, and crying softly.

Yes.  I had my moment in the car that day.  The minute the song ended, I missed it.  I longed to hear it over and over until I could sing along - mimicking all the distinct voices which swam together in the vast sea of the thing.  Instead, I quickly checked my eye makeup in my visor mirror before stepping out of my music studio into the light of day.  Children were bouncing towards the school building as if nothing profoundly great had just happened. La-le-la-le-la.  I went through my day of spelling words, divisors and longitudes feeling distracted.  I remembered the feeling I had as a little girl in my jammies all fresh from my bath sitting in front of our big black and white TV waiting for the Ed Sullivan to introduce the Beatles.  There was an electricity that came through the airwaves and made my wet hair stand on end.  That's what it was.  It was a Beatles moment.  It was a tiny piece of history that I witnessed and thoroughly, completely enjoyed.

Thanks, Quincy.  Thanks, Michael.

You didn't think I would just leave you there hanging, did you?

Soloists (in order of appearance)
Stevie Wonder, a middle-aged African American man with his hair tied in a ponytail, dark sunglasses and stubble on his face. He wears a plain white tee-shirt and a grey jacket.
Stevie Wonder was a featured soloist on "We Are the World".

Bob Geldof, a Caucasian man in his mid-thirties, is on stage, singing into a microphone and playing a left-handed acoustic guitar. He wears a white shirt and a dark green jacket.
Bob Geldof sang as part of the chorus.

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