A Selena , And A Kacey Musgraves Moment For The Ages
Much to the bewilderment of younger, hipper colleagues, I am in continual angst when it comes to all things digital — a fact I probably shouldn’t admit in the open, given the stormy state of my industry just now.
Yet I make the admission freely, as way of saying I cannot recall from which feed, post or prayer from above I stumbled upon the knowledge that recent Grammy-winning country artist Kacey Musgraves had covered “Como la Flor,” a song by the late Tejano singer Selena, in front of a huge crowd, and that it was on the internet, and that it was not to be missed — and it isn’t.
I have to say I’m not much familiar with Musgraves’ work; since my father died in 1980, I haven’t followed country music closely, with a few exceptions, such as good ol’ Johnny Cash, whom I would describe more as a fixture in the American songbook — a mixture of grit, persona and talent, a genuine artist who rose above genre.
I get that same vibe listening to Musgraves, a talent maybe too awesome and broad to easily define. I like to think my father, a Patsy Cline fan, would have loved her for both her originality and her talent.
In recent days, amid all the pre-St. Patrick’s Day revelry and usual turmoil emanating from Trenton and Washington, I have found refuge in, and been buoyed by, Musgraves’ performance of “Como la Flor.” I’m drawn again and again to the force of her voice, the sheer joy in her performance, and the full-armed embrace by an audience last month at the 2019 Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo.
As Jon Freeman of Rolling Stone wrote, Musgraves, “a native of tiny Golden, Texas, couldn’t have chosen a more appropriate city or day to cover 'Como la Flor.' Selena Quintanilla, born in Lake Jackson, Texas, gave her final live performance on February 26th, 1995, at the Houston Astrodome with nearly 67,000 in attendance.”
Watching and listening to this version of “Como la Flor” (“Like the Flower”) — a song of love and heartbreak — it’s clear that Selena, who was murdered by her former fan club president one month after that final concert, is still adored by her followers. As Rolling Stone described the moment: “In Musgraves’ performance, the awed Houston crowd sings along with a mix of reverent emotion and enthusiastic glee.”
I dare anyone to experience this performance and not be moved, not come away feeling … well, feeling … something, maybe just a tad better about the world.
Indeed, given that it’s my job to observe and sometimes comment on unpleasant realities in our nation and state, and to digest all our divisive rhetoric and feisty debate on such things as immigration, I found Musgraves’ bold tribute to Selena nothing less than awe-inspiring, a needed dose of humanity and commonality spilled out to all.
Musgraves sings Selena’s big hit song with nearly reckless energy; she sings with emotion, she sings with heart, and she sings it in Spanish.
And nobody cares; it’s a great song with a good beat, and a powerhouse onstage is singing.
The crowd just goes crazy with what a dear friend of mine likes to call “mad love.” Love for Selena, sure, but also love for the audacity and joy of the moment.
A moment, in my mind, that’s one to savor, a sliver of open window into who we are as diverse people, a reminder of all we can be, and all we should be.
Bruce Lowry is the editorial page editor for The Record and NorthJersey.com
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