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Gladys Knight and Faith
Gladys Knight would be in town and the concert was free. I was going. She would appear with a choir from the Mormon Church of which she is a member. The singer was a model of success and endurance. When I was a teenager, she had hits in the era of the Detroit Motown sound.
This event was not about Gladys but a concert to get people to join the Mormon Church. The purpose may have been to proselytize but me and many others that packed the room where there because of the Grammy winner. She conducted the choir that filled the room with joy and contentment. And the speeches by the ministers and her husband were not preachy or overbearing but comical and genuine.
Gladys told her reasons for converting to the faith. She said that people said that she had sold out. And because of this, some of her fans would not buy anymore of her records. And she seemed to apologize for not being like the rest of the blacks. But she should not have to explain because even though a human being is a collective, the human soul is individual and its needs are unique to one.
I wondered why anyone would stop appreciating her musical contribution because she was no longer a Baptist. But a black person is considered a trader if they join another denomination besides the Baptist church. A black Mormon would certainly raise eyebrows and twist some lips.
Are blacks so narrow as to not accept the decision of a successful and talented woman to determine her spiritual path? Besides admiring her talent, I respect her for being open enough to find a faith that has made her happy and spiritually fulfilled. There was no doubt that she had found her calling as she sang with the choir made up of all ethnic people. She fit right in with the diverse group that moved the audience to stand and shout their appreciation. And her voice is still strong and in good form.
I remember when the Mormon Church leader had a ‘vision’ about allowing blacks in the church. And when I traveled across country, I had an experience with the old Mormon Church in Salt Lake City that was unwelcoming. All things change and with change come forgiveness.
I met a Mormon woman that procured tickets for me to attend the Gladys and her choir concert. I would not have known or gone if it was not for that one time meeting. I came away not only with tickets but an understanding of another woman’s experience. An experience that I am seeking. The white woman said that she does not live in the big Utah cities but in a small town. A town where people do not gossip or judge you, but a town that if someone asked about you or bought attention to your name, it is to find out information that will lead them to help you.
I can see why that small town love and charity would appeal to someone, even a famous singer. The only thing that I regret was that I did not get to meet Gladys and give a shameless plug for my new music. I would have asked, “Gladys, do you like jazz?”