Rough to Sweet
It was a rough weekend, besieged by dreams. This happens sometimes and I just wait for it to go away.
But this morning I received the most wonderful piece of mail, answering a blog post I had put up several years ago after the New York Marathon.
"V.C. has left a new comment on your post "Brooklyn Day Four: NY At Its Most Optimistic":
Hi, I don't know if you still maintain this blog, but I just wanted to thank you for your mention of Vinson Cunningham in the first paragraph. He passed away in 1995, and was my father. I'd love to hear more about the time you met him and heard him play. If you're interested in sharing I'm at (his email addess). Thanks!"
Here is the letter I sent back to him:
Please forgive me for calling you Vinson, but your dad said I should call him Vinson, and so I figured maybe you wouldn't mind.
I can't tell you how honored and pleased I am that you would write to me. I am not going to ramble on, so perhaps we will have other exchanges in the future. I hope so. But let me tell you the little bit I remember.
It was 1969 or 1970. I was a young white kid who had been told Vinson was leaving his job at the church and they'd need a new piano player. I thought I could play any kind of piano, but I was disabused of that notion when Vinson sat down to play. I was new to New York but here I was taking the subway to a historic black church in a black neighborhood with a black congregation in a fiery time. Would I be welcome? I was anxious, to say the least.
The first thing your Dad said to me was "Don't worry. You're welcome here."
Then he asked me to play, but I deferred to him. When he sat down to play, with the choir, his hands, his power, the way he listened to the choir, the way he could answer them without waiting for them -- I don't know how to describe it, even now, but I never really heard anyone like him, before or since.
Anyway, I knew it would take feet far larger than mine to fill Vinson Cunningham's shoes, so I was content to sit during the rehearsal and listen to this marvelous choir and the man who could make the piano growl and cry.
I have had a career as a songwriter and modest pianist. How about you? Did you take after your father? I am quite sorry to hear he has passed, and so long ago too, but please take heart that I am sure I am not the only other musician who was touched and blessed by this man. His voice lives on in hundreds of piano players. Imagine! This happened to me in 1969 and here it is 2014 and I remember it all vividly. Hallelujah!
Thanks, and please write back, anytime.
Remember: anything you publish on line takes on its own life, and you never know who you will reach. How marvelous is this?