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06 March 2008

Women wake us up - Tracy Chapman

Tracychapman For weeks, I talked about it. I bought tickets the first day they went on sale. They were on my bedside table so I would see them before I went to sleep and when I woke up. (No, I’m not the least bit obsessive and I thank you for asking).

July 29, 2003, was the magic day.

Tracy Chapman was coming to perform in Asheville.

Mr Brilliant has long known of my love for Tracy Chapman, starting with her first album in 1988, a disk I very nearly wore out. For years our car’s CD player had only one inhabitant, and that was a Tracy Chapman CD. I evidently enjoy repetition.

Imagine my delight at finding out she would play here, one of those magical moments when your heart actually skips around in your chest and you feel the tiniest bit breathless, like finding out you’ve won the lottery and can finally, thank the lord, buy that teal Vespa you keep talking about endlessly.

Tess had been born about six weeks earlier, and it would be our first foray into the World of Adults since then, me and Mr Brilliant.

He called around 4pm. “Guess what!” he said excitedly. “Tracy Chapman just left my store!”

I dropped the phone.



“I, um, actually didn’t recognize her,” he said quietly. “I didn’t know it was Tracy Chapman until Andy came over from next door to tell me she had been in his shop looking at shoes.”


“Let me get this straight. It’s the day of the Tracy Chapman concert, the concert I have effectively BEEN WAITING MY ENTIRE LIFE to go to, and on that very day, you see a dark-skinned dreadlocked woman with great arm muscles and HUGE DIMPLES walking in downtown Asheville where (trust me) that is not an everyday occurrence, and you didn’t know it was Tracy Chapman?”

“Um, yeah, I guess that’s what I’m telling you.”

Don’t get me wrong. The man is truly brilliant. He does live up to his name in every single way possible except, evidently, for celebrity sightings. All those years of my reading People magazine (which, by the way, I’ve given up because I could no longer live with the blood of  victims of celebrity like Britney Spears on my hands) have done nothing for Mr Brilliant.

I made up a tri-fold color brochure on the deskjet printer: “HOW TO SPOT CELEBRITIES THAT PATTI ADORES,” and took him a copy. It had pictures of Tracy Chapman, Johnny Depp, Billy Collins (big surprises there), Anne Lamott, Lyle Lovett, and others, complete with descriptions in case the photographs were not enough…just to help Mr Brilliant should the occasion ever arise again. Under Tracy Chapman, the instructions were to CALL IMMEDIATELY if, on the day of a Tracy Chapman concert IN THE TOWN WHERE WE ARE LIVING, a strong-looking black woman with dreads and dimples large enough to hide snacks in should come in. And then I marched right next door to Andy’s store and bought a pair of the boots she had been looking at since, as with my love of Joan Armatrading, I have a secret desire to be her.

I love her look, her dimples, her voice, her music, her messages. It was a fabulous concert. I took Emma with me, realizing that Mr Brilliant wasn’t worthy.

[Oh, stop. I’m not that mean. Wee little Tess was sick and he needed to stay home with her.]

And so, I’m talking about a revolution, Tracy Chapman. She introduces us to issues we turn away from--domestic violence, welfare mothers, poverty. She spurs us to revolution.

By the way, here’s a pairing you don’t see every day: Luciana Pavarotti and Tracy Chapman singing together. And for all those writers and artists out there facing rejection, just know that she once sent a demo tape and got a rejection letter suggesting she tune her guitar.


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Oh, crap. The story I guess is out. Usually I'm good with scouting celebrities who aren't quite, so, celebrity-icious. Don't remind Patti that I had an ice cream with Julia Roberts at a Georgetown ice cream palace, talking about the DC sewer system (and why for god's sake there was water pouring from a manhole cover on Wisconsin Ave at about teh highest elevation in DC??) I didn't think it was she/her 'cause I thought her/she to be bigger--this one was smallish. But it was her in town for filming a movie of some sort.

I'm better at recognizing celebrities who dash in front of my car, to tell you the truth. In my experience in DC I had the distinct opportunities of running over a number of people, including Ralph Nader (who basically jumped in front of me to hail a cab and I really did just about clip him); Teddy Kennedy (who was rolling across the street near the Capitol), and Ed Meese (who hopped out of an old station wagon to go eating at the Georgetown Club, a private (ahem) eating club on the same block as my store. I actually slammed to a halt for him in a brain-over-mind lockdown.
There were some number of others as my driveway for my first store was a hidden bit right around the corner from a **celebrity** (is that celeBRITany?) AA meeting place, and there were all sorts of people who stepped into that driveway without checking it out....
So there you have it--if you're famous I probably won't recognize you unless I see you through my steering wheel with J. Williams' "Jaws" prelude playing in the background...

This was an awesome story ... and that video clip of Tracey Chapman and Luciano Pavaroti was just incredible. Thank you for sharing it!!

Patti, I'm sorry you missed seeing Tracy Chapman in person! Her music is fantastic, yes ! I have to say that I am kind of like Mr. Brilliant in that I don't recognize celebrities right away...I was very impatient with myself when Thierry Henry stopped a couple of feet in front of the table where I was casually having dinner outside (he stopped to talk briefly to the manager of a French café/restaurant in Miami). As I looked up at his face curiously, I thought, "Hmmm, that is so funny. I feel like I know this person. But I can't seem to remember how I know this person?" So I just kind of let it go for a moment and about 30 seconds after he had walked away I realized, "Hello. You know him FROM WATCHING THE FRENCH TEAM AT THE *WORLD CUP* ON TELEVISION RECENTLY!!!" He has one of the most gorgeous smiles you'll ever see and just a very memorable was too late to say hi to him then. :(

oh, man... thankyou! thankyou! thankyou! what a great way to start the day! a cold, gray, gloomy ohio day with the threat of a major snow storm heading straight for us, was just made ever so much brighter! i love, love, love tracy chapman and watching all these videos of her made me smile and just makes me so much happier. and i never would have seen that clip of her with pavaroti if it hadn't been for you. it is really cool! i am going to get out all my tracy cd's right now and put them in my car today.

It was nice to read your funny story (I know, not that funny realizing you missed her in the shoes store) BUT you had an amazing moment at her concert, and her music rocks your world. That's what matters in the end, right?

I read a meditation this morning that asked, "What special thing will you do for yourself today?" I wasn't quite sure. Now I know. I'm going to discover Patti Digh's blog and watch Tracy Chapman sing with Pavarotti. What a treat. Thank you for this wonderful work!

I too share an inordinate fondness for Anne Lamott, Tracy Chapman, Johnny Depp and Billy Collins.I think Lyle might be growing on me too.

Oh, great story. And my hubby would have done the same thing.

Thanks for bringing Tracy Chapman up. You know I always loved her music... but I haven't heard any of her songs for several years. Wow... how could I have forgotten her voice and the truthfulness of her soul.

Have a super weekend!

This is a great line:
"dimples large enough to hide snacks in..."

Fun post! I am a fan of Ms. Chapman, too.

yes! i have adored tracy chapman since 1988 ...though i would have said since 1987 ...... i would swear i bought her album while i was still in college!

I found that recording of Pavarotti & Chapman during a random search for her music. I love it, but not as much as I love "The Promise". :)

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