I'm curled up in my mother's bed, staring intently at my laptop. I'm watching a video of a familiar-looking man wearing a black tuxedo. The video seems to be of a televised award show. The tape is grainy, but the man steps up to the mic and his words are clear:
"Now I'm gonna deal you a queen from the winning hand. Her voice is full like solid gold, with some platinum blended in. Sometimes you'll hear silver when she twists and twirls her notes... but gold is Brenda's metal in this song I wish I'd wrote. Ladies and gentlemen... Brenda Lee."
The camera then focuses on a woman in her late thirties. The music starts, and she's looking down at a framed picture. She's at ease. She is theatrical. And she is beautiful, in a sparkling gown that matches the twinkle in her eye. Lights, camera, action. She starts to sing. That's when you hear the gold, and you watch her as she holds the crowd in the palm of her hand. The performance ends, and the crowd goes wild. The lovely lady graciously takes a bow. She smiles out into the vast darkness, taking it all in with grace and composure. The video ends, and I reflect back on what I just saw. It was a timeless performance, but here are the facts: The year is 1983. The song is "Someone Loves You Honey." The man in the tuxedo is Johnny Cash. And the woman in the beautiful dress with the honey-like voice is none other than Brenda Lee.
Brenda Lee, who was born in 1944 near Atlanta and used her prodigious singing talent to support her family after the tragic death of her father. Brenda Lee, the little girl who took over the music world with chart-topping hits when she was still a child. Brenda Lee, the woman who ushered in a new style of rock & roll and was one of the early musical artists to find her fame through television. Brenda Lee, the artist who later went back to her country roots, proving that she could create classics and break down barriers no matter what genre or category her music fell under. Brenda Lee, the singer who mastered the sound of heartbreak so flawlessly that she made audiences not only identify with her but believe her.
I watch the look on her face as she ends her song and first hears that applause. There's a reason she's been able to move people to their feet for almost sixty years. Brenda Lee is grace. Brenda Lee is class and composure. And when she hears the roar of a crowd, Brenda Lee smiles like she's five years old and receiving her first standing ovation. Brenda Lee is someone I will always look up to because of the way she shines. As Johnny Cash said in 1983, it's almost like she's golden.