Thursday, March 18, 2010

Out of the Ordinary

Most of the time, I live a very ordinary life. Every once in a while, I get to do something extraordinary. One March, when most of my days were spent driving back and forth to preschool and play-dates, I had one of those extraordinary moments: attending the induction ceremony of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Most years, the induction ceremony is a raucous show that I don't even bother to watch on TV. But the ceremony my husband and I attended was a perfect alignment of stars - Billy Joel, Bruce Springsteen, and Paul McCartney, among others, would be inducted. All three would be together on one stage!

The ceremony is held in the ballroom of the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York City. Going to an event there would be exciting in and of itself, quite a break from my ordinary routine. My husband and I tried to act nonchalant during the security check-in and cocktail hour. I am most certainly not the starstruck type, but it was quite a sight to see celebrities subjected to metal detectors and handbag searches. Glancing around, I was pretty sure I was the only woman there in a dress bought off the rack at the mall.

We were seated at a large table in the back of the beautiful ballroom, pretty far away from the main stage. But that didn't matter - we were in the same room with all the luminaries of popular music. At one point during a lull in the festivities, my husband threw caution to the wind and approached Billy Joel's table. He returned, triumphant, with Mr. Joel's signature on the cover of our copy of The Stranger.

After dinner, we watched a parade of performers make speeches about the inductees: Ray Charles, Bono, Bonnie Raitt, Elton John, Eric Clapton. The highlight of the induction ceremony is always the musical jam session at the end. That night the house band was led by Paul Schaffer, David Letterman's bandleader. The star-studded jam session featured songs by all the new hall of fame members. Bruce Springsteen reunited with the E Street Band to perform several of their hits, before Bruce surprised the audience by bringing out Wilson Pickett to perform "In the Midnight Hour."

By the end of the night, which was now the wee small hours of the morning, a lot of the industry crowd had left, so my husband and I were able to wander up right in front of the stage. From that vantage point, we saw Bono take the lead on inductee Curtis Mayfield's "People Get Ready." This turned into a huge singalong for all the performers in attendance. I was sure that would be the grand finale, and what a way to end the night, when I saw Paul Schaffer mouth something to Billy Joel, at the piano.

At Schaffer's suggestion, Joel launched into the opening notes of "Let It Be," and the whole ensemble spontaneously joined in. My husband and I watched and listened, mesmerized, standing only a few feet from Sir Paul as he sang one of the Beatles most well-known anthems, surrounded by musicians we'd grown up listening to. We hated for the night to end.

Twelve hours later I had taken a train home and was back at my ordinary routine, driving my daughter to a doctor's appointment, my coach having turned back into a pumpkin (or in this case, minivan), my black-tie gown having been replaced by jeans and a T-shirt. I smiled at the memory of my extraordinary night even as I carried my beautiful daughter into the doctor's office and went on with my so-called ordinary life.


  1. Fantastic! And I really mean that - being a fan of all 3 of those inductees. Such a pleasure to read your description of one extra-ordinary evening. Love the photos, too.

  2. A perfect alignment of stars, for sure! The list of inductees is quite something--including Dusty Springfield, a favorite in our house. Great story, and the photos are perfect!

  3. Your evening certainly would have rocked my world. The sing alongs are indeed food for the soul. I can personally attest to that after my 02/11/10 third row center experience at the Blaisdell Arena in Hawaii.

    If you can find any YouTube videos of your evening, that may give you a chance to slip back into the "coach" for a spell!

    Wonderful post!

  4. Look what I found! (See bottom of post . . .)

  5. Now that's what I'm talking about RA. I wasn't there and I am still getting chicken skin!

    Wide Open Spaces, can you hear your voices or see yourselves in the crowd?

  6. WOW - That was amazing to see again, thanks for posting! I think my husband may have it on tape somewhere, but who knows. I was on the right, as you look at the stage - in a black dress, so not much chance of picking myself out. Most of the crowd shots seem to be left and center. (And oddly there were more people there than I remember. It really felt intimate that night).

    It was such an emotional night - Linda McCartney had passed away just months ago, Dusty Springfield had died just days before, and Curtis Mayfield was unable to attend last minute. I thought the version of "People Get Ready" gave me the chills, when they started in on "Let It Be" and dragged Paul out.

  7. A great read! Thanks, Joan.

  8. JC,
    I'm glad you captured the miracle of the moment in the writen word. This is one that you will be telling the grandchildren!


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