Dust Bin Yes Way, Jennifer Holliday!
posted by January 30 at 12:30 PMon
I know this is very en retard and à l’esprit de l’escalier and Why the fuck am I using French unnecessarily?, but since I discovered this on YouTube yethhhderday, I have played it just under 10 times for myself, once for my boyfriend, and once for my girl(_space_)friend.
Because the records that existed in my household as a child can be found in the following array: (The Sound of Music, The Man of la Mancha, Amy Grant’s Age to Age), I am missing about 20 years (and a good part of the history) of standard/mainstream pop music. But something that absolutely did not escape my attention was a true and real discernment for an excellent soul/R&B/gospel singer. Was it because I was a budding heaumeau or because I am Mexican and all my friends and I were obsessed with Video Soul on BET? Whatever. Anyway…
I knew of Jennifer Holliday back in those early ’90s primarily as a sort of old-school songstress—one who would give me a taste of what singing was like when it came up out of the earth. But she always stayed in periphery. I was into more graceful stylistic devices when it came to singing—Minnie Riperton, Terry Ellis of En Vogue (mostly because they, unlike Mariah Carey, took their above-the-staff pitches in full voice, without post-prod tidying).
So nothing—NO WAY—could have prepared me for this—a live performance on the 1982 telecast of the Tony Awards of a scene from Dreamgirls. No, not that tired-assed movie that’s in theaters now; the original Broadway version, in which Jennifer Holliday created and played the role of Effie (now taken by the drab and unremarkable Jennifer Hudson). After the two-minute-plus setup, Holliday launches into her solo—her signature song hereafter, “And I’m Telling You (I’m Not Going).” This is at least one of the greatest performances of the 20th century. Holliday has a stentorian voice which she loads up, fires off, dampens, twists, stretches, and burns. To match: a masterfully shaded, pained, and powerful facial expression for every word. Her size helps her to create a character, a persona, and a performance that conjures every spirit of the theater dark and light. If you do not recognize the greatness of her gift and of this artifact, you may give up every endeavor you have ever dreamed because you have no seed and no soul. And if you do not watch her ending, you will have missed the prize altogether.
Now Mizz Hudson can be Oscar-nominated till the end of time, but remember, she recorded her performance in a studio, where you can just yell “Cut!” and try it again, both musically and dramatically. But Jennifer Holliday did this live, several performances a week, for four years. Think Jennifer Hudson could do that? In your dreams, girl.