I’m a bit late on this I know, but I finally got to watch Sunday’s concert at the Lincoln Memorial. I have to say, performances were sloppy – jarringly loud guitars in Mellencamp’s band; uneven levels among James Taylor’s backup singers; hoarse and at times sloppy vocals from both Bono and The Edge of U2.
And, at the inauguration itself, fluttering melismas from Aretha Franklin that seemed, at least to me, to wander a bit too far off pitch at times.
And I loved every minute of it.
Taken together, the performances seemed to capture the rich history of the inaugural events – not the politicized, blue-over-red version (a la Barbra Streisand) but the inarguable national redemption that the acendency of an African-American president suggests.
I could hear it in Bono’s high-B scream — “In the name…” (though I’d have preferred “Beautiful Day” to “City of Blinding Lights.”) In the soul-folk elegance of James Taylor/John Legend/Jennifer Nettles version of Taylor’s “Shower The People.” And in the inspired, genre-mix-and-match of Will.i.am, Herbie Hancock and Sheryl Crow doing Bob Marley’s One Love (Let’s Get Together).
But the Queen of Soul provided the real highlight of the extended event. At the Capitol during the inauguration itself, Franklin sang “My Country ‘Tis Of Thee”, immediately evoking two other moments – black opera singer Marian Anderson’s legendary 1939 performance at the Lincoln Memorial (after the Daughters of the American Revolution refused to let her perform at Constitution Hall because of her race) and, of course, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s exhortation from the song: “Let freedom ring!”
In the end, it was PASSION that made the performances special.
So what’s the lesson for the rest of us?
Simply, passion overrules perfection. Meaning transcends technical excellence.
To truly succeed, we must be passionate about what we do. Of course technical prowess counts. Sloppiness is to be avoided. But passion must be the true driver.