Springtime in high school is a magical thing. The sludge of winter gives way to rainbow-colored tulips, the days grow longer and the promise of summer—those glorious months of freedom, riding bikes to neighborhood pools, whiling away the hours poring over fashion magazines and gossip and tangerine nail polish and boys—looms bright.
I was fourteen, in love and uninhibited in my visions of life. I could be anything, do anything, go anywhere, meet anyone. Music was my window to the world—past, present and future—it energized and humanized and carried with it infinite possibility. In 1998, downloadable options like Napster and Limewire hadn’t yet gone mainstream; we had CDs, cassettes, and the good old fashioned radio to rely on. We also had records—in my case, hundreds of my parents’ records dating back to the sixties and even fifties, spanning all varieties of rock: folk, classic, hard, soft, arena, you name it, they had it.
My mother played the classic rock channel from the little black radio in the kitchen the better part of ten hours a day. From the time she popped a slice of Home Pride Wheat in the toaster to the time we went to bed, the small FM radio dutifully cranked hits from the sixties, seventies and eighties, sending Mom to a place of peace. I’d heard Fleetwood Mac songs on the radio for years, but that first time I slid the record from the Rumours sleeve, placing the needle just at the edge of the record, letting it crackle, I felt something different and new. It was as if I’d been transported to another time and place, floating effortlessly backwards with no particular destination. The music was all-consuming—I lost myself in it—and I knew in that moment this is what my mother felt, too.
It seems incomprehensible to me now that in 1998, just over twenty years had passed since the album’s release. The nineteen seventies seemed to me then as distant as the dinosaur age; that I was born in eighty-three, a few short years after the decade’s conclusion, seemed of relative unimportance in this equation.
A decade or so later my sister and I took my Mom to see Stevie at DTE Energy Music Theatre, also known as Pine Knob, only known as Pine Knob to Michigan Boomers and Gen Xers. The downside of the handicapped seating section is it sits at the top of the covered amphitheater, with a bar in front of it and the main thoroughfare directly behind it. At the time, you could still smoke on the lawn section, so this meant people from the amphitheater seats would plant themselves directly behind us to puff various substances before trotting back down to their seats. The upside was that for the same price as lawn seating, which was substantially cheaper, you had a closer seat, a better view, and pavilion coverage in the event of rain, which for folks in wheelchairs and power chairs is a necessity.
A hush fell over the crowd in anticipation of Stevie’s debut. When the ethereal strings and drum beats of “The Chain” kicked in, the crowd went insane. Ever-unconventional, Stevie descended upon the crowd not from the front stage but from the back—a vision in black, descending the stairs of the pavilion in a billowing chiffon winged dress and and the feathered hairstyle that defined a generation. All around me, women of all ages dressed in boho chic just like Stevie twirled and clapped and sang their hearts out, and continued that way throughout the entirety of the performance. That evening quickly became one of the most powerful, energetic, invigorating experiences of my life—an evening of infinite possibility, an evening in which all was right with the world, an evening of childlike wonder despite the many challenges in the throes of adulthood: mystical, magical, transcendent.
(Photo credit: Sam Emerson here)