February 5, 2019

‘Reach out and touch somebody’s hand’

     If you are looking for ugliness, it’s out there. There’s plenty of venom spewing. But if you’re looking for something beautiful, consider the lyrics of this Diana Ross hit:
      Reach out and touch
     Somebody’s hand
     Make this world a better place
     If you can
     Reach out and touch
     Somebody’s hand
     Make this world a better place
     If you can”
     Swaying and singing—with hands joined, black and white—an audience of hundreds brought that song to life. Witnessing that beautiful expression, I thought, “This is a testimony of hope. Together, we can make this world a better place.”
     And what brought this sold-out crowd to the revitalized Elbert Theatre, just off the town’s historic square?
     Motown music.
     Berry Gordy Jr.’s magical touch started putting smiles on the faces of my generation in the 1960s. He gave us the Temptations, the Four Tops, Mary Wells, Gladys Knight, Stevie Wonder, the Supremes, Diana Ross, Martha and the Vandellas, Smokey Robinson, the Commodores, and more.
     Billy Joel isn’t among Gordy’s artists, but the “Piano Man’s” words explain what happened in the Granite Capital of the World on Feb. 2. He said, “I think music in itself is healing. It’s an explosive expression of humanity. It’s something we are all touched by. No matter what culture we are from, everyone loves music.”
     Maybe it’s my age, but I don’t exactly “love” some of today’s music. I am of the Gladys Knight generation. The way the 74-year-old lifted—through the open roof of the Mercedes-Benz stadium—Sir Francis Scott Key’s lyrics to our national anthem was stupendous. And Atlanta teen sisters Chloe and Halle Bailey put goosebumps on millions when they sang, a cappella, “America the Beautiful.” As for the Super Bowl halftime show, well, I repeat: “I am of the Gladys Knight generation.”
     And that generation’s music is what drew us to 100 S. Oliver St. in Elberton.
     Motown tunes brought people to their feet. Some of our generation couldn’t resist. They hit the aisles, dancing and singing along. It was a people-watching fest. Near us, a Triple-X man, wearing a cap, couldn’t stay in his seat, nor could a snazzy-attired lady on the front row. They squeezed fun out of every penny of their $40 tickets, while entertaining us with added value.
     Monday morning, I was still tapping my foot. That’s when I dug up this line from an English composer, the late Frederick Delius: “Music is an outburst of the soul.”
     The performers of the show poured their souls into bringing Motown to Northeast Georgia. Some of the acts were karaoke-like, but the audience rewarded all with thunderous applause and appropriate laughter.
     When the curtain dropped, you could feel goodness flowing toward the exits. Ugliness was absent. Instead, you could hear random humming of “Reach out and touch … somebody’s hand … make this world a better place … if you can.”
     Music can be magic to inspire hope.
     Yes, we can.