These first days of 2014 unfortunately came with the news of a few prominent celebrity deaths. Among them were James Avery who was best known as Uncle Phil on the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air and Oscar-nominated actress Juanita Moore who starred in the brilliant 1959 remake of Imitation of Life. As expected, their deaths were the catalyst for numerous eloquent eulogies from fans and colleagues alike. Fans especially gushed about their work and posted their favorite clips from the actors’ more popular works.
Rembert Browne a particularly moving tribute to Avery for Grantland that touched on the importance of Uncle Phil beyond just the comedic aspect. After I read that and after I watched Imitation of Life for the 80 millionth time, I thought about how we generally are not very good at telling our living legends (and legends-in-the-making) how much their work means to us.
I’m not talking about just a “like” on Instagram or a retweet, I mean giving that person a sincere piece of your thoughts about how their work impacts you. Of course, you don’t have to get all fangirl like I did with Killer Mike. But it would be nice to share some of that good energy you have when you listen to your favorite singer everyday or when you see your favorite writer’s byline or watch your favorite actor’s movies.
As a writer who occasionally interviews celebrities, I’ve been fortunate enough to tell some of my favorite artists (including Toni Morrison!!) how much I adore their work, but there are some who I have yet to meet and may never meet, so I’ll take this moment to acknowledge three of them. I’m going to tweet the link to all of them (who have Twitter accounts) and I’ll send a link to their managers. So, boom.
1. Stevie Wonder
I love him. Mr. Wonder is easily my favorite artist in the world. I listen to his music everyday. Whatever emotion you’re feeling, Mr. Wonder has a song for it. Whether you’re mad at your man, head over heels in love with your man, angry with the world, high as a kite or soaking up the wonders of the universe, he has something for you. When he played “I Never Thought You’d Leave in Summer” at Michael Jackson’s memorial, I cried real tears. Whew! And my dad always says that “Isn’t She Lovely” is his song for me, so there’s that too. Daddy’s girl till the end. But my favorite song from Stevie Wonder is “As.”
2. Anita Baker
I grew up listening to Ms. Anita Baker. Countless times I bore witness to my mom snapping her fingers and grooving in the car in the kitchen or wherever else to Ms. Baker. So, I’ve always had an appreciation for her work, but it wasn’t until I got married that I really started to understand her music in a more substantive way. And then when I got divorced?? Chile. I had her on repeat during and after all that stuff. If I had her on wax, “Talk to Me” and “Fairytales” would probably have worn out grooves. She. Speaks. To. Me. Now it’s me snapping my fingers talkin’ ‘bout “Gone ‘head Nita!”
3. J. California Cooper
J. California Cooper has such a beautiful pen. She’s one of those writers who adds a touch of magical realism to her work. Just something a little bit out of the ordinary will find its way into her words. One moment, the narration is about a young woman in a room and the next it’s about the thoughts of a spider nestled in a corner and you don’t even bat an eye at this spider having thoughts because it just makes sense. I always end up getting lost in the worlds she creates and that’s a testament to the strength of her writing. It’s layered, it’s textured and it’s engaging, especially for someone like me who is interested in genealogy. Ms. Cooper’s work often revolves around generations of families. Her novel “Some People, Some Other Place” is just downright gorgeous and I often find myself re-reading the stories in her collection “Wild Stars SeekingMidnight Suns.”
Your turn! Who are some of your favorite living public figures and why? Put that good energy into the world!