Granderson: Tracy Chapman’s grey hair represents a lifetime of authenticity

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By Calvin S. Nelson

Sunday’s duet between Tracy Chapman and Luke Combs on the Grammys introduced us a kind of uncommon moments in immediately’s America through which appreciation was louder than criticism. From the illuminating pleasure on her face to the admiration on his, we had been as soon as once more reminded of music’s plain potential to show strangers generations aside into sisters and brothers … if just for a tune.

Opinion Columnist

LZ Granderson

LZ Granderson writes about tradition, politics, sports activities and navigating life in America.

It has been 35 years since Chapman first carried out “Quick Automotive” on the awards present. We lived in a really completely different world then. For context, neither Taylor Swift nor Travis Kelce was alive when it occurred. Neither was Combs.

Right here’s one other solution to measure how way back 1989 was: Among the many different performers that 12 months had been Whitney Houston, Luther Vandross and Melissa Etheridge — all queer, none brazenly so at the moment. George Michael, who gained album of the 12 months for “Religion” that 12 months, was outed virtually 10 years later.

And within the midst of all that Eighties glamour stood an unassuming newcomer, a storyteller with darkish pores and skin, little to no make-up, brief locs and a guitar. Chapman by no means introduced her sexuality — her onetime lover, the writer Alice Walker, did that for her in 2006 — however she by no means pretended to be something aside from the queer Black girl she was.

That’s not supposed to throw shade on the closeted members of the LGBTQ+ neighborhood who had been a part of that night time’s festivities (it’s not like I used to be out again then both). However so as to correctly give Chapman her flowers for Sunday’s efficiency, we should acknowledge the atmosphere through which her story started.

The queer love in Walker’s “The Shade Purple” was controversial when the novel was printed in 1982. It was controversial when the movie by the identical identify was launched in 1985, and sadly, the 2023 musical was additionally met with pushback due to the love between Black ladies on the display. And Chapman, who turns 60 subsequent month, has been her genuine self, performing onstage by all of it.

The one noticeable distinction all through these years has been the colour of her hair, which glistened Sunday beneath the Enviornment’s lights. The jet-black hair of yesteryear now adorned with the grey she has earned.

What does it imply to age gracefully?

I’ve been making an attempt to reply that query ever since my solely little one graduated from highschool practically a decade in the past. On that Grammys stage, Chapman offered us all a solution. It’s not about accepting getting older; it’s about embracing age with gratitude. That’s what we witnessed in her smile throughout the opening moments of her efficiency with Combs — gratitude.

Grey hair is commonly characterised as an intruder that have to be eliminated whereas wrinkles are thought-about deformities in want of restore. Particularly within the leisure trade. Particularly in L.A. The urge to dye our hair in an try to beat back Father Time is a temptation that may be tough to withstand. For years I gave in, not eager to look my age despite the fact that I’ve additionally been making an attempt to stay an extended and wholesome life — speak about a contradiction.

And there stood Chapman, simply as genuine immediately as she was 35 years in the past after we first heard her identify and listened to that tune. Whitney, Luther and George are not with us. Melissa survived most cancers. All reminders that life is fragile. Life is brief. Too brief to spend pursuing what we as soon as had been or what others suppose we needs to be. Too brief to sacrifice who we actually are or changing into what we are supposed to be.

As a result of Chapman was her genuine self — people, Black, queer — she linked with a straight white nation artist from a small city in North Carolina. And collectively they created probably the most talked-about second of their trade’s largest night time. They did it not by avoiding what made them completely different however embracing it. All of it.


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