If you didn’t see the Verzuz last night, you missed a whole treat. That is it. That is all!
Lemme tell you a secret.
I have loved Patti Labelle since I heard “Lady Marmalade”. I loved Patti Labelle like I loved Dihann Carroll, Dorothy Dandridge and Phylicia Rashad. There is an easy glamour to them which I believe inspired Beyonce to say, “I woke up like this.” So, when I heard that she would doing a Verzuz with Gladys Knight? I thought it was a dream!
You have to understand one thing: I am the oldest child of Baby Boomers. I had the parents that looked over everything I would listen to! I had a Vanilla Ice cassette tape and they insisted on listening to it. I knew they would take it because he cursed in it. You have to understand how hard Tipper Gore made every child’s life after her Parental Advisory campaign! So, I grew up listening to NWA (at my cousin’s house–duh!), Elvis, Stevie Wonder and Duke Ellington (my mama’s favorites). I remember listening to KLOU, the local oldies station on Sunday nights with my father. When I heard Aretha Louise Franklin and Patricia Louise Holte?
THAT WAS IT!
I was happy to have the rasp to my voice, and happy about my alto! And I adopted them both as my imaginary aunties. And I loved Patti Labelle the moment I heard Lady Marmalade. And still do!
This Verzuz was like being in the room when grown folk were talking. I watched it with my sister, Tawanna, and it seemed that every time Patti sang–it hit different. When Gladys sang? It hit different. This is why music is so transcending. When I heard If Only You Knew at 11, it doesn’t sound (read: feel) the same as it does at 39…with some for real life under me.
While reliving childhood memories and hitting that one IF in the chorus of If Only You Knew, and shrieking when she Auntie Patti kicked off her shoes, all I could do was smile. When Auntie Gladys starting singing On & On, I was transported! But the thing that I loved the most about this event was the love that was there. It wasn’t about who won! Although, I told my sister that Auntie Patti was going to win because she was going to be give me everything that I needed! Everything! From the hair, the bougie glass, her blonde bombshell persona and the rack of shoes! Auntie Gladys was regal, and warm and it felt like I was in a front room again. You remember that scene in When Beale Street Could Talk when Tish had to tell Fonnie’s people she was pregnant? Remember all the love, shade and music in that room? Oh, yes! That is what I group up with, it is that love that I try to recreate when I write, or tell a story aloud.
This Verzuz was a hug. This Verzuz was your favorite aunt wiping your eyes and telling you it’ll be okay. It was your Mom or your Dad sharing playlists with your or their vinyl. It was Black Girl Magic becoming the reminder of those who were watching that we come from a stock that can’t help but see us, gotta see us, because they can’t ever be us. The women on that Verzuz have been giving us memories for a combined 130 years! The beautiful thing is how affirming they were to one another. They called to the Queen in one another, reminding each other they would be friends still, and always. This is the gift and jewel of seeing Black women aging while maintaining friendships.
Everything about this was beautiful. And lovely. And I was here for it.
Iggy Azalea will never.