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Growing up in a small town...even the big things take a while to arrive.  Or maybe I'm just slow to arrive.  It was 1980 before I spotted Elton John.  GOODBYE YELLOW BRICK ROAD was already seven years old but it was brand new to me.  I was fifteen and thought I knew a lot.  FUNERAL FOR A FRIEND/LOVES LIES BLEEDING sent that idea tumbling.  

I had found a new friend.  And he has come with me through many of the harder moments of growing up.  Feeling out of place in the world -- not sure of who I was becoming through adolescence…he had been there too.  Love lost…don't go breaking my heart.  And loved ones passed on…candles in the wind.

It would be another ten years before I would lay eyes on him.  Through the rain at Chastain Park in Atlanta, Georgia -- my hometown, that would soon become his home.  I had just put my brother Daniel on a plane to Colorado for a summer job at a dude ranch.  From the Atlanta airport, rushing to the concert, sad and giddy at the same time.  And there he is at that big piano, rain pouring, and he begins…Daniel my brother…Daniel's flying tonight on a plane.  Oh, the rain, the tears.  Everyone disappeared and I sat down because it was hard to stand -- it was like it had been for all these years -- like he knew.  How do you respond when a stranger meets you exactly where you are?  Over and over?  Even that night he was helping me through it. 

I couldn't know then that fifteen years later I would be dancing in the same city with my grown-up brother and both of my parents just a few rows behind the stage, looking down over that grand piano pushed up against Billy Joel's.  Dancing to the songs of our youth, the songs that shaped us, the songs I played on my piano, as my family fell asleep.  Songs my daddy would hear and grab his trumpet, and join in on.  Songs we would sing together with my uncle as my grandmamma listened…my grandmamma, who heard me playing Elton as a child, came in and stood beside me, and when I had finished said so surely, “Soon you'll be able to play and sing at the same time.”  We never know what will be a part of our lives, from the moment it comes to us.  

Our heroes reveal themselves over time.  We come to believe in them.  It's easier to trust one who has suffered much:  bulimic, alcoholic, ostracized, different, lonely, hurt, crazy in love, hopeful, lost, trying and failing, fierce and scared.  How many funerals have we seen him cry at?  How many crazy costumes and concerts that can only be described as the epitome of life lived full on.  

Through it all, the music just kept coming and coming.  He's been at it since 1969 -- 35 years and 40 albums.  He's said he is a very generous man and these immortal songs he's flung out over us for our whole lives prove it.   

There is so much that would not exist in the world had he not kept up the good fight.  And if you want to find him, you need only go as far as your CD rack.  We know he's there.  And if by some strange twist of fate, you haven't found him yet, he's still standing…and he's always been willing to slide over and make room for me on the piano benches of my life.  I'm sure you'll find him just as accommodating.



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