Twenty years ago I was a high school freshman who was just starting to come into my own in terms of musical taste.
As a kid born in the inner city I used to listen to my Mom’s Motown records on vinyl. Some of the older kids at our church were into Run DMC and the Fat Boys, but I was too young for that, so our turntable played “We Are the World” and Lionel Richie (as well as the occasional Kenny Rogers–I knew all the words to “The Gambler” by the time I was 5 years old…and even sang it in front of our little all-black-except-for-me-and-my-sister-and-a-few-old-ladies church. True story.)
Then in 1st grade I got my first cassette tape–Michael Jackson’s “Thriller”. I played that sucker non-stop. I even dressed up as Michael Jackson for Halloween that year–sequined glove and socks, but minus the jheri curl. [For what it’s worth, my cassette was mislabeled and the A side was really the B side…so I grew up thinking that the album started with “Beat It” and ended with “Thriller”. To this day, I maintain that this is, in fact, the true and perfect way that the album should be heard and I will fight anyone who says otherwise!]
So, for all of you youngsters out there I grew up listening to these…
on one of these…
As a freshman in 1992 I heard a song on the radio that I absolutely fell in love with. That song was from a new group that had just arrived on the scene who was like no other group anyone had ever heard before.
The song was “Mr. Wendell” by Arrested Development:
At the time, hip hop/rap was becoming increasingly dominated by profanity, violence, materialism and willful ignorance. But there was an undercurrent of positive, thoughtful, socially-conscious artists and Arrested Development was leading their move into mainstream. Their album “3 Years, 5 Months and 2 Days in the Life of…” would go on to earn the group 2 Grammy awards.
By 1994, CD technology had moved into the realm of the affordable and I bought my first CD boom box (with dual cassette deck, of course!) and my very first CD.
That CD was Arrested Development’s follow-up album “Zingalamaduni”…
(I also bought Smashing Pumpkins’ “Siamese Dream” and the soundtrack to “Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story”…so my new mini-collection of CDs was quite eclectic!)
Zingalamaduni didn’t achieve the mainstream success that 3 Years, 5 Months… had, mainly because hip hop shifted in the direction of Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg (unfortunately!) rather than Arrested Development, De La Soul, and A Tribe Called Quest.
But Arrested Development continued to have great success overseas and continued touring, producing albums, and making great music.
Fast forward about 15 years or so…
I had recently started blogging and had launched Disciple Dojo (initially via Blogger) while I was working as Pastor of Discipleship at Good Shepherd Church here in Charlotte. It was during the election season and Barack Obama was on his rise to the Oval Office. I was reading through some online discussions and came across the blog of none other than Arrested Development’s frontman, Speech.
Speech was a strong Obama supporter and while I did not support John McCain (I had just discovered Ron Paul the year before!), I was deeply troubled by Obama’s position on abortion. So I commented on Speech’s blog and asked how he as an outspoken Christian could support someone with such a horrendous record in terms of protecting the lives of the most vulnerable people in society. He responded and we ended up having a fantastic discussion on the subject! In fact, it was so good that I re-posted it HERE. [Interestingly, after Obama won the election yet continued many of the policies of the Bush administration that he had promised so vehemently to oppose, Speech became disillusioned and ended up endorsing Ron Paul…proving that great minds really do think alike! 😉 ]
That’s how I initially connected with one of my favorite musicians of all time. And as Facebook and Twitter continued to grow, I was able to stay in touch with Speech from time to time.
A few years later I met my good friend Marvin Rogers and found out about his show “Savoring and Serving” where he interviews various celebrities and artists. I knew that, being a southern gentleman and hip hop aficionado, Marvin would be a great person to interview Speech for an episode. So thanks to Facebook, I was able to put the two of them in contact and Marvin ended up heading over to Atlanta to spend an afternoon with Speech (which you can see HERE).
I was glad to have helped these two connect…
…and even more glad to find out that Arrested Development’s 20 year anniversary tour would be bringing them through Charlotte!
I shot Speech and Marvin a note seeing if they wanted to get together when the group was in town and they said let’s do it.
So this past Friday night Marvin arranged a table for us at Ruth’s Chris uptown and Speech, his wife Yolanda, myself, and Marvin met up for dinner!
It was such a great evening!
I got to share with Speech and Yolanda what I do and what Disciple Dojo is about. I gave them a copy of my book as well as a copy of Bible for the Rest of Us. I told them about the charity portraits I’ve done and we talked about possibly doing a portrait of Arrested Development and auctioning it for charity in the future as well.
Speech and Yolanda loved Charlotte and hopefully when the tour finishes, they’ll come back for a few days and really get to relax and see the city (C’mon Yolanda, you know you want to move here! 😉 )
It was a highlight of the evening when I got Speech to autograph the CD jackets of my AD albums…including that very first CD jacket I ever owned…
After dinner, Speech invited us to come to the show on Saturday night and he’d put us on the guest list. They were playing at Amos’ Southend, and while I had previous plans to watch UFC 152 with some friends that night, I knew that this was an opportunity I couldn’t miss!
So on Saturday I got to hear one of my favorite bands of all time perform songs from two of my favorite albums of all time live and up close!
They absolutely KILLED IT!
The crowd was so diverse (as most AD shows are!)–white, black, hispanic, young, old, dreads, hair gel, flip flops, sneakers–and everyone was totally in to it! Hands in the air, people jumping up and down, swaying to the beat, singing along, it was fantastic.
Anyone who knows me well knows that I’m NOT a live music/concert person. I can count on one hand the number of concerts I’ve ever been to and I don’t normally go to shows because for whatever reason I’m usually bored (just like some people don’t enjoy going to art galleries and just looking at artwork, I guess).
But I had a blast!
I told Speech afterwards that this was the first concert I’d ever been to where I knew every word of almost every song they played–including a few I hadn’t heard in years.
After the show, Yolanda invited me backstage and I met the other members of the group. I got to thank them for the show and spent a few minutes chatting with Speech and doing my best to convince Yolanda they needed to move to Charlotte when the tour finishes!
A local writer came back to do an interview with Speech, and though he didn’t ask me to, I decided to duck out so he could do his thing undisturbed. It was well after midnight and bedtime for this boy.
I hung out for a few more minutes chatting with Yolanda and Marvin, who had been able to stop by after work and say hello. Then headed home, all the while thinking how if you’d told me 20 years ago that I’d have dinner and hang out backstage with Speech and AD, I would never have believed you.
I want to say thank you from Disciple Dojo to Speech and Yolanda, and to wish Arrested Development a fantastic rest of the tour! You can check out their tour schedule HERE and if they’re anywhere near you, DEFINITELY go see them live!
Also, they’ve released a 20 year anniversary album called “Standing at the Crossroads” and it’s available FOR FREE DOWNLOAD HERE!!
If you’re on Twitter, be sure to follow them, and tell them you read about them at Disciple Dojo! 🙂
Again, it was truly a blessing getting to meet and spend time with Speech and Yolanda. I’m thankful for the connection and look forward to seeing them again soon!
Blessings from the Dojo,