Ron Onesti: R-E-S-P-E-C-T for YouTube
Many of us who were teenagers before the internet, cell phones and VCRs, are the first ones to remember “The Good ‘Ol Days”. Technology has become an impersonal approach to daily life. Even calculators took away my norm of adding things up by writing the numbers on a brown paper bag from the corner store. But I must say, the ability to pull up videos of performances from the past has made it all the computerized activity worthwhile for me! Each morning, before I get up, I check out videos of past performances of my music heroes. And once you click on one, others follow automatically, and it is interesting to see how they are all connected.
When Aretha Franklin passed away, I searched for her performance of “Natural Woman”. That is my favorite Aretha song, and a great video from a Christmas special in 1967 came up. The set was all orange and pink and she had that beehive hairstyle typical of the late sixties. When that was done, another Aretha/Natural Woman Video came up. She was doing a “Diva” concert, performing that classic number with Mariah Carey, Celine Dion, Shania Twain, Gloria Estefan and the legendary writer of that classic song, Carole King. It was an incredible presentation as each superstar “Diva” handed off a “you make me feel,” to one another. I can only imagine what it was like backstage for that one!
After that one, a 1987 duet between Aretha and James Brown came on. It was an on-stage, full band rendition of James’ “Please, Please, Please,” with Aretha joining in. So much soul on one stage, I am surprised it didn’t collapse from the weight! So that fabulous historic performance ended. Only to be followed by another James Brown concert in 1983. James is doing a show, one of his typical extravaganzas, and then calls a timid Michael Jackson out of the audience who is just watching the show, to join him on stage. Michael reluctantly made his way to Mr. Brown, then gave a few musical, “I Love You’s” to the crazed audience. At that same show, James brought another innocent spectator to the stage…PRINCE! It wasn’t long before Prince took off his sunglasses (and his shirt), did a few splits and gyrated a fabulous guitar solo backed by James’ legendary band.
This was really getting to be fun. The next video was a 1975 episode of The Cher Show. It was her with a funky hairstyle, sequined pant suit flanked by The Jackson 5. A seventeen-year-old Michael Jackson led the “I Want You Back” medley, and Cher joined the guys in their unmistakable choreography. I forgot just how cool the Jackson 5 were! Then, another Aretha came on! It was her performance at The Kennedy Center Honors of “You’ve Got a Friend” in honor of Carole King. It was a moving performance, bringing even President Obama to tears.
The next video was another Kennedy Center Honors presentation of Ann and Nancy Wilson of the rock band HEART, performing “Stairway to Heaven” in tribute to award recipients Led Zeppelin. Their rendition brought chills to the back of my neck!
The next YouTube video was Ann Wilson of Heart again, AT THE ARCADA THEATRE! She was doing a salute to Carole King! It made me jump right out of bed! So watching these videos was mesmerizing. Seeing many of these legends perform with other superstars brought a level of entertainment that was indescribable! And when The Arcada performance came up, it all came full circle for me. Its like the six degrees of separation thing with Kevin Bacon. I somehow became connected to a 1967 Aretha Franklin by way of The Arcada.
I have a hauntingly real feeling about Aretha on our historic stage. I could see her, with James Brown, Michael Jackson and Prince, loving the music, singing their hearts out. Maybe The Arcada is a place for musical souls. I can tell you, I feel it every time I step on that magical stage. I do believe in ghosts, especially those that love music as much as I do!