All of these musicians – each one especially revered for her/his unique and extraordinary voice – were born in January.
Elizabeth Cotten – January 5
Elvis Presley – January 8
Joan Baez – January 9
Janis Jopin – January 19
Huddie Ledbetter – January 20 or 23
Richie Havens – January 21
Sam Cooke – January 22
Etta James – January 25
As you read those names, did you hear them sing?
However memorable and unquestionably worthy those musicians are, today I wanted to celebrate two voices from this past January. Two voices that made my spirits soar and left me as awestruck as any I’ve ever heard.
On the morning of Inauguration Day, January 20, 2021, poet and activist Amanda Gorman took her seat on the Inaugural Platform on the West Front of the United States Capitol Building, looking out across the National Mall in Washington, DC.
Amanda was the day’s Inaugural Poet, chosen at the recommendation of Dr. Jill Biden. At 22 years old, she was the youngest Inaugural Poet in U.S. history.
Holding the large black binder containing the manuscript of her poem on her lap, Amanda watched as Kamala Devi Harris was sworn in as Vice President and then Joseph Robinette Biden, Jr. was sworn in as President – #46 – of the United States of America.
When finally the time arrived – after President Biden delivered his Inaugural Address and Garth Brooks sang “Amazing Grace” – Amanda Gorman took her place at the podium. At 12:18 pm ET, she began reciting her Inaugural Poem, “The Hill We Climb.”
That evening, 71-year-old singer/songwriter Bruce Springsteen waited at the western end of the National Mall, lightly strumming his well-worn Takamine six-string acoustic guitar. He stood before a microphone, in an oval ring of white light on the upper platform before the last row of steps leading up to the Lincoln Memorial.
Bruce was the opening act of “Celebrating America,” the primetime television special hosted by actor Tom Hanks that would “represent the rich diversity and extensive talent America offers” and cap-off the festivities of the Biden-Harris Inauguration Day.
At 8:30 pm ET, Bruce got his cue, welcomed his audience and introduced his 1998 song “Land of Hope and Dreams.”
Try as I might, I simply do not have the words to adequately describe how I feel about those two performances.
(I can tell you that having a new President and Vice-President feels absolutely FANTASTIC!)
I was fortunate enough to be able to watch each performance as it happened: Amanda Gorman on my iPad during my lunch break at work and Bruce Springsteen on my TV at home, standing in the living room with my arms around my wife.
I’ve watched them again online several times over the days since. I found and read the text of “The Hill We Climb” and I figured out how to play and sing “Land of Hope and Dreams” just the way Bruce did that night.
(JTLYK: Bruce’s guitar is in an open-G major tuning, but with the sixth string dropped down to C. It is capoed at the second fret thus sounding in Key of A major.)
I hope you took the time to watch and listen to these extraordinary Voices of January.
I know that I will, many times again.