This moment, labeled as the greatest last-second substitution act in Grammy history, comes to you from legendary vocalist Aretha Franklin, who stepped in for famed opera singer Luciano Pavarotti at the 1998 Grammy Awards.
It's a moment I remember watching as a very young child and so felt it the best way to kick off this blog and the very first #MomentMondays. As little me sat on the floor in our living room, I and I'm sure the rest of the world were not aware of the history that we were about to witness. If you know anything about the great Aretha Franklin, you know that by no easy path, has she been given the accolade of legend. From years and years of trying to find her genre, going from label to label, fighting to be heard in a male dominated world of music who didn't always understand her and being an open target to the harsh critiques of her wonderfully womanly figure. Her road has been filled with its set of challenges.
So on this evening in 1998, when she walked onto the stage, her head held high, even with all her hit records, awards and fame, she knew she had to leave that all behind and simple be the voice behind one of the most powerful arias of all time. Nessun Dorma, the title of this aria, is from the final act of Giacomo Puccini's opera Turandot and one of the best-known tenorarias in all of opera. It is sung by Calaf, il principe ignoto (the unknown prince), who falls in love at first sight with the beautiful but cold Princess Turandot. However, any man who wishes to wed Turandot must first answer her three riddles; if he fails, he will be beheaded. In the aria, Calaf expresses his triumphant assurance that he will win the princess.
When you hear this version, it is imperative that you remember, that Aretha filled in for Pavarotti at literally a moment's notice, as presenter Sting points out in this clip (https://youtu.be/SVC9vzL0jUk). I mean think about it. The Queen of Soul, as she is fondly known, stepped in for possibly the world's most recognizable opera singer and she did it at the last minute! If that is not legendary, then I don't know what is. By doing this, she changed every possible notion the world had, of what a soul singer could do. As all eyes were on her, she managed to break boundaries, and broke out of the box that contained the music she had always been expected to sing.
We know that music can travel across continents, as we've seen with different genres born in one part of the world, then found and beloved thousands of miles away in places you would not expect. In this grand and unforgettable moment, Aretha Franklin, showed us that it is sometimes the most unexpected moments, that change history for the better and stay with us forever.
Little me, gazing up at the television, was captured by this performance and thought even if just for those few minutes in time, that maybe there were no limits to what I could do. I've chosen to share this moment with you all because there are times, many times, when I'm in need of that reminder. So by pulling up this performance, I can transport myself right back to that little girl in the living room and most importantly right back to that moment.
My hope, is that you'll save this performance for the days when you yourself, need to be reminded that you can do anything.