Live — ‘Alright, This is It!’

Photo by Adenike A. Harris

“Alright, this is it!” the woman shouts into the pulsing silence as Donny Hathaway resolves his rubato prelude on electric piano.

Before Donny plays the next note, folks begin clapping in time to a song that hasn’t technically even begun yet.

Donny is then, like, ushered into his song The Ghetto by clapping SO. ON. BEAT. that the ecstatic audience morphs from paying customers into a magic carpet of rhythm for Donny’s velvet voice and exhilarating piano solo.

I can just think of this musical moment on Donny Hathaway Live, and I emanate a sense of joy! In fact, on a recent walk, while listening to this recorded moment, I smiled so fiercely that a dude walking toward me blossomed as he smiled when we got close enough to make eye contact and exchange a head-bobbing nod.

Such moments remind me to keep radiating on my journey, because at some point in every day I can shout, or feel, ‘alright, this is it!” as a prompt to work harder to resolve personal drama, as a prompt to work with more savvy to help constructively shape society’s atonality.

Alright, this is it! Remember to … be a better family member!

Alright, this is it! Remember to … do my part for social justice and ethical living!

Alright, this is it! Remember to … LIVE SO. ON. BEAT. that I provide a magic carpet of rhythm for some kind of new world symphony!

Awight, awight! I’m busted again, savoring another one of my imprinting cultural classics. And I truly DO wish my life was as synchronized as the perfect set list, the perfectly meshed medley of my favorite songs.

What is life but a quest for synergies? Sacrosanct moments strung together into a rosary made from our own liberating memories?

But go ahead choose what awes you into consciousness.

What keeps me awed?

That I persistently choose to live with the sensitivity and poise of an anonymous woman whose voice was recorded in the early 1970s, a witness listening so intently to Donny Hathaway’s music that she could hear the on-coming locomotion of the Love Train.

She shouted all aboard — so seamlessly in time, within the silence between notes — that she became a timeless catalyst.

Where were you when you just KNEW that history was being made? When you just KNEW that unconditional love was unveiling itself in your presence?

In whose presence were you when a needed revelation knocked you to your knees?

Who made you cry with testimony sounding like a hymn to your mother?

When did you feel healing write a song for you?

What makes you shout, ‘alright, this is it?’

And you know the answer to another of Donny’s elemental questions: Where is the love?

And you raised a glass in synch and celebration with Madam Shirley Horn’s gentle toast: Here’s to Life?

BONUS EXCERPT from my book, Black Man of Happiness: In Pursuit of My ‘Unalienable Right’: “…I’m on, like, a Drive About to the Giant Sequoia National Monument in Kern County, about 200 miles north of LA…. Was in between jobs. Bank account was on life support. My nerves were frayed. Worry was my lover. I needed nature. Read in the AAA mag about Sequoia Monument’s majestic ability to rejuvenate. No cell phone service. A drive into peace of mind…. Now I was on the final stretch toward the park. Mountain road. Mountain vistas. No other vehicles. CD playing Shirley Horn’s “A Time for Love.” I’m driving up this hill as the song begins to resolve in an amazing Johnny Mandel arrangement. Strings shimmer in crescendo, joined by Shirley Horn’s piano and Wynton Marsalis’ trumpet, just as I reach the crest of the hill. Oh my God! The view expands and the horizon is filled with rolling, cloud-covered hills. The music fades. I burst out laughing. I burst out crying. Turn off the player and continue my drive in grateful silence. Circumstances back home hadn’t changed. But I have. I’m a witness to a commanding serenity. I’m uplifted by a commanding serenity. I’m humbled by a commanding serenity. Go head on, brother, it promised. Maybe not triumph, just yet. But go head on and see what the end’s going to be….”

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