Contemporary thinking is that legends are born, not made. There is logic in this assertion. Our genetic make up is crucial in both determining physical and mental capabilities. It may dictate rather we are natural visionaries or ticking-time bomb sociopaths. There are many examples, however, of people overcoming adversities of genetics, to triumph, gaining legendary status, no one had believed possible.
Wilma Rudolph was born premature and contracted infantile paralysis (caused by the polio virus) at age four. The 20th of 22 children, few could have surmounted a convincing argument at time of birth, she was destined for greatness. But in 1960, at the Rome Games, a legend emerged This once paralyzed child, who walked with braces until age 12, blew the fastest women on earth off the track, becoming the first woman to win three gold medals at a single Olympiad.
Ray Charles was born without the ability to see, yet became a pioneer in the music industry and one of the wealthiest performers of his generations. But it was his mother’s determined spirit, that he would not accept his blindness as a disability. In direct contradiction to contemporary thinking, Ray Charles’ legendary status, in effect – was made – through the sure will power of his mother.
I am a huge fan of Beyonce. Her music (excluding 4, more on that later) has been undeniably some of the greatest of any recording artist since and including her emergence as lead singer of Destiny’s Child. While her film career has yet to reach the same defining heights, she has achieved a diverse portfolio of performances (Golden Globes Award Nominee, Best Actress, Dreamgirls) and behind the scenes savvy (executive producer, Obsessed). The empire her and her husband have built is not just admirable, but a testament to the changed dialogue from African-Americans being dependent upon society, to becoming creators of wealth, commerce and American stability. And unlike so many other young celebrities, she has rarely, if ever, squandered her talents, money or goodwill of the fans who follow her or the millions of people, who see her as a role model.
The controversy of her lip-syncing the National Anthem is just. Being requested to perform the nation’s song at the inauguration of the President of the United States, denotes one’s importance to and recognition within a country. It is an opportunity only a chosen few will ever get. Unless there were technical issues we are not aware of, lip-syncing has the air of narcissism and self-importance. The nation knows and loves Beyonce. We have listened to her music for years, and hundreds of thousands have seen her perform live. This was not suppose to be the Beyonce show. It was about the President, the country and our ability to transfer, or, in this case, maintain power peacefully. Her over-the-top, lip-syncing performance – much like her album 4 - was an unnecessary demonstration of her skills as a performer, and on-stage persona. It was as if she thought she had something more to prove, and for a brief - but important moment - Beyonce was overwhelmed by an event. Yet all she needed to do was sing.
Four years ago, Aretha Franklin stood at the same podium, singing the same song. She belted out a beautiful, calming rendition, lifting her voice high above the crowd. When she finished, a commentator, I cannot quite remember, said these words “Aretha Franklin, her voice is an American treasure”. No on-stage dramatics, and no controversies to follow. Ms. Franklin’s many accomplishments and her longevity defined it, but it was her awareness of the occasion, and graceful acceptance and honor of the small role she played, that cemented her legendary status.
Beyonce is only 31 years old. Easy to forget with all that she has achieved. She has worked hard at her career, and no lasting baggage should follow. But I imagine, that if she received the same request in a few years time, she would deliver a much different type of performance.
written by Kendall F. Person as the publicblogger