What do you call it when you get Diana Ross, Chaka Khan, Patti LaBelle and Gladys Knight together on one stage on the same day? They called it Divas with Heart and they couldn’t have picked a better name for it. This phenomenal, unprecedented show was put together to benefit the Masonic Medical Research Laboratory and to acknowledge the Lab’s 50 years of noteworthy heart research.
4 legends that sprung one of the greatest musical advances in this country all united and gave their fans 2 sold-out shows on a beautiful day in May. Unmatched by most these living musical wonders dazzled the crowd with their extraordinary talents, explosive, yet charming, personalities and music worthy of all the attention their received over the decades. Those, who are unaware of the significance of this event might not be quite as dazzled. Those, who recognize the magnitude of this day might much rather enjoy the narrative script. So here it is.
American Theater Orchestra played slow and melodic tunes to warm up the grand theater of the Radio City Music Hall for the stars about to shine. Bernie Williams (yes, the ex-Yankees player) opened it up with a guitar solo. Then Gladys Knight stepped on the stage and opened it with The Way We Were. Then she reminded everyone that it was time to dance and shout with Shake Your Body. Reminiscing on the past she sang a song from her New York debut at The Apollo many years back and admitted to it being her first time at the Radio City Music Hall. ‘Slow dancing was in back then’, she remembered, ‘you held on to your partner’. ‘If you wanna make things right just join hands and move on’, she encouraged. She capped it with End of the Road.
Ain’t Nobody but… Chaka Khan came out next and took it over in one legendary tune. Her voice was soaring high as if this was a girl’s debut, not a musical legend’s benefit show. ‘All we need is our health and our name’, she reminded. ‘Just say no to haters’. Bringing class with her she also brought some street with her. Shaking her booty and laughing she reminded more of a kid having fun, than a grown woman with decades of number 1 hits. Doing her Through the Fire she reminded where Kanye got that track from. ‘You know what? God got your back baby.’ Happy, encouraging and shining she reminded everyone that she stays active with a new song, Angel, from her upcoming CD. She wrapped it up with I’m Every Woman thou. Still every woman, still in her prime, every woman’s admiration, every man’s dream, every music lover’s dream lover she didn’t skip a single beat.
Patti LaBelle came out next. Bringing more personality than a stand-up pro she poured her music and her emotions onto everyone. At times it seemed that she talked more than sang but that’s what mesmerized the crowd and made it such a unique experience. ‘I’m 63 years young,’ she said. ‘I got diabetes but it don’t got me. Got this thing called menopause.’ Then she got back to music and praised her fans: ‘I’ve been singing for 47 years. I don’t got as many hit records as Chaka Khan but whenever I come out you act like I do. Thank you.’ Then just so the fans remember that she carried plenty of hits with her she went right into Someone Like You. Then back to interacting with her fans Patti kicked off her shoes and began talking of high hills and acting playful. Of course the talk of high heels turned into the talk of the long road traveled. Then she dedicated a song to those who were no longer around. ‘My sisters died of cancer, my mom died of diabetes at 44…’ She also added other musical legends to this dedication like Luther Van Dross, James Brown, Ray Charles and many others. Then just so people don’t take mistaken her emotions for weakness she stuck it to a security guard who threw her shoe carelessly back on stage when it fell off. Then she got inspirational with her 2 Steps Away: ‘We are 2 steps away from love, no racism, justice for Sean Bell and the right person in the White House.’ She even talked of bringing our soldiers home. Then she brought her sisters from the Bluebelles on stage. ‘These are my ladies from 35 years ago, Sarah and Donna,’ she proclaimed proudly. With all that energy it was only logical that she constantly talked to her fans individually, brought one of them on stage to dance with her and went into the crowd at the end.
When it seemed like the night reached it’s culminate moments more than once already and the fans felt beyond satisfied from the amazing performances the super special treat was served and it was dished up just the right way. Through the crowd from the back of the theater, Dianna Ross came in all of her shining glamour and beauty. There was no end to her celebrated and glamorous hits. From Upside Down to Why Do Fools Fall in Love to Baby Love to Stop In The Name of Love and many more it seemed like it would never end. Bringing people on stage with her to share in their love for one of the most significant and wondrous stars in music she changed her outfits, dazzled everyone with smiles, played the baby she will always be and sang her heart out all in the endless and yet very short 40-minute set.
The money from this event may have benefited the Masonic Medical Research Laboratory but the experiences and memories from that show were the ultimate prize for thousands of lucky people. Those divas brought something with them for that one day to remind everyone that music triumphs above all and with that made the show an instant artifact.