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Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Reminiscing with Taylor Hicks...A Message from Birmingham, Alabama

For most of us, reminiscing is a traditional part of the holidays. The spirit of the season often makes us pensive and reflective of our many blessings. During this wonderful time of the year, Taylor’s Angels wants to bring to you a few of the magical moments shared by the Soul Patrol as we followed the incredible journey of Taylor Hicks, a journey that took him from a struggling musician in Birmingham, Alabama to an internationally known celebrity.

The following is a post that quickly made its rounds to all the major Taylor Hicks fan sites once it was posted in August 2006. It is a story of what I believe (and hope) to be one of the most significant events in the life of Taylor Hicks, for it is the story of his journey back to Birmingham as a hometown hero.

The Significance Of His Homecoming
Being a Birmingham native, I knew Taylor Hicks’ homecoming concert would hold a special significance. However, I did not realize the magnitude of the occasion until the next day. As I drove in to work just 10 hours after experiencing first-hand Taylor’s amazing talents, I was listening to a CD of his AI performances. “Just Once” happened to be playing- the part where he so passionately and earnestly pleads, “can we find a way to finally make it right, make the magic last for more than just one night?”. At that exact moment, I looked to my left and realized I was passing the BJCC, the arena in which we all stood in amazement the night before, watching Taylor pour out his love and make his own magic come alive for us. I found tears welling in my eyes. Why did hearing those words come from his mouth with such emotion, seeing the Birmingham-Jefferson Civic Center and then remembering his emotion in that arena the previous night create a stream of tears that made navigating a busy interstate difficult?

I was suddenly struck with the realization of the magic that had occurred between Taylor Hicks and his hometown of Birmingham, Alabama the previous night. For 10 years, he gave Birmingham every part of himself- is energy, his passion, his presence and his music. He begged us to hear his voice, but his pleas fell on deaf ears. We ignored his amazing artistry. But in spite of our rejection, Taylor continued to persevere as a “broke musician” and to pursue his dream. He continued to entertain night after night, even when he felt the pain of our rejection and needed our comfort. He gave us his all, but we gave him nothing in return.

So he left Birmingham for Las Vegas to try a different tact. He again gave it his all and endured rejection from the likes of Simon Cowell and David Foster. But this time he knew people were actually hearing his voice and “getting” what he was about. He rolled the dice week after week and worked the machine masterfully. And on May 23, 2006, he emerged from the back of the Kodak Theatre in Hollywood wearing a purple jacket, white shirt, snakeskin boots and danced the aisle to center stage. The world knew in that moment his voice had indeed been heard and his life would be forever transformed. When the official announcement came the following evening that Taylor Hicks was indeed our American Idol, he bent his knees in an effort to remain upright and turned to see the masses in his hometown of Birmingham cheering wildly- a site he had not seen during the10 year journey on which he had been.

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(video Soterric)

Birmingham indeed needed to find a way to “finally make it right” for Taylor and to in some small way assure him that we would never ignore his voice again. So on August 8, 2006, it was as though separately, yet in unison, we decided to give him a homecoming to remember. Just as Taylor had done on that magical night at the Kodak Theatre in May, he emerged through the crowd at the BJCC wearing his purple jacket, white shirt, snakeskin boots and again took center stage. As Birmingham heard the beginning of JHR, caught its first glimpse of his silver hair highlighted by beams of white light and realized Taylor’s symbolic gesture- he had saved his beloved jacket for US- the crowd erupted into what can only be described as pandemonium. Each of the 15,000 in attendance was wildly enthusiastic and at times deafening with an intensity that never lessened. Words cannot describe the emotional exchange that occurred between Taylor and his Birmingham audience. He was as genuinely moved by us as we were by him. His face beamed throughout his performance and he flashed one brilliant, heart-melting smile after another.

His performance highlighted the same set to which we have all grown accustomed, but as always with Taylor there were a few twists. After his grand entrance to JHR, he stood jubilantly on stage, waved and said, “Hey, Birmingham, how ya’ll doin’?” His drawl was smooth, Southern and very familiar to us. As we roared to acknowledge that we were fine, he gave his “signature lean” and flashed a huge smile. He yelled Soul Patrol several times, probably feeling the safety net of being among a crowd dominated by Soul Patrollers. A band member reached to hand him his guitar, but Taylor seemed to miss his cue as he basked in the moment. He quickly recovered, though, strapped on the guitar and launched into Hollywood Nights. Of course he changed a line and sang, “Birmingham, Alabama is a long way from home.” Next up was LFTC, during which he danced and grooved, pouted his lips, shook the tambourine, and again poured his entire being into the song.

(video Soterric)

While introducing DIMYP, he told us he was doing this tune for Birmingham and for the troops. His vocals were wonderful, and yes, he nailed the glory note! The crowd sang the song with him and it was as though we all knew every line. Oh, except Taylor! He forgot the words to the second verse and had to ad lib, but we helped him out and were very competent back up artists I might add. He changed the last line of the song, and ended with “Birmingham, do I make you proud?”. Of course, more deafening applause erupted and seemed to last an eternity. Our message of “yes, Taylor, you do make us extremely proud” resounded throughout the arena.

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He then all too quickly vanished through the stage doors as the crowd continued to roar, pleading for his return. When the doors finally opened again, he triumphantly emerged sporting a dark shirt and launched into TI2TS. He sang it with every fiber of his soul, twirling, dancing and dropping to his knees wailing the harmonica. He then pulled a “sneak attack” and brought out a camera and told us to “smile”! Flash after flash illuminated the arena as he captured this momentous occasion for all eternity.

As his face was shown on the jumbo screen, we were able to discern a message he was relaying to us. Not having a microphone in hand, he pointed to himself and mouthed, “I love”, then pointed to us and said “YOU”! To insure we understood, he repeated these gestures several times and his expressions were genuine and humble. It was at that moment that I realized Taylor had received as much from us as we had him. It was as though all was forgiven and Birmingham had finally found a way to make it right in a way that would certainly make the magic last for more than just this one night. He pumped his arm in the air and signaled that Birmingham was #1. And then, once again all too quickly, he was gone.

(video mmmeverclear)

He returned to direct Living In America and shouted out Alabama cities with which he and everyone was familiar- Anniston, Mobile, Gulf Shores, and Birmingham. While front and center stage, he bumped “onions” with Kat and had the cutest grin on his face. It was the face of a naughty little boy who knew he was way too cute to be scolded! He gave kudos to all the other idols and to the band. And then, they clasped hands, raised them in unison and ended triumphantly.

Birmingham had warmly and graciously welcomed each idol and genuinely acknowledged their talents. But the night clearly was Taylor’s to enjoy, to treasure and to hold in his heart. From attending his first concert as a young boy at the BJCC (remember the Tina Turner and Lionel Richie concert with the now too tight t-shirt?) to his triumphant return to headline a show in that same arena, Taylor had taken a road less traveled, often rocky and sometimes painful. But through his journey, he touched hearts and souls, stirred emotions, evoked passions and gathered converts.

Taylor, Birmingham has indeed heard your voice and we love you for it. We hope you heard ours last night. May God bless you with PEACE!

Written and edited by Tina (DidNotExpectThat)

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RagsQueen said...

Ah! What a great memory to have & share! My one regret in 2006 - not going to that show. But then again, I was off my memories of my own! Thanks for sharing a beautiful moment with us!

Anonymous said...

It was very emotional for me to see this look back. This was such an incredible time for him. It was written beautifully. Thank you!!!


maryann1 said...


It was nice to relive the memory of when I first this last year.

Very beautifully written and now as it was then, it brought tears to my eyes, thinking of how Taylor must have felt to be back in his hometown and how wonderful it was for his hometown to welcome him.

Thank you for once again sharing this beautiful moment with all of us.

mary ann

Taylor's Angels said...

Ahhhhhh, this brings back a flood of memories of listening to cellcerts of the entire AI show, then of the LMBO shows, going to the AI concert in Nashville..... so many good times!
I can't imagine the thrill that Birmingham had though when Taylor came back to play for them!
Thank you, Tina, for sharing this with us!

KarinP said...

Tina, you have succeeded in telling the story the way it should be told. The descriptive words and the videos had me sitting here wondering how I could smile and yet have tears in my eyes at the same time.

The finest moment besides the overwhelming welcome for Taylor was the DIMYP performance. I can't imagine how the audience felt although it was clearly shown on the video. Can you imagne what a magical moment it was for Taylor?

The fact that he was able to perform the song which evoked so much emotion from the audience and himself proves that he is the "ultimate" performer.

Thank you once again for turning another page in this beautiful book of memories.