Comedian Steve Harvey has a moment in one of his routines where he talks about being “old school” when it comes to music. He describes how much he enjoys the R and B soul singers of the 1960s and 70s who insisted on love as the focus of their songs. And then he launches into an appreciation for the syncopated dance moves of groups like the Temptations; how smoothly they worked together, and how remarkable it was that they produced such beautiful vocals using just one microphone.
“Old school players, they worked with just one mic,” he says. “Five Temptations! One mic!” And then he demonstrates. Dancing in front, behind and moving off to the side of the microphone stand with steps evocative of the performers he’s describing he then makes his way back to the center to sing. It’s a funny bit, and it ends with these words: “I don’t care what they did, they always came back to the mic.”
I love this image of singing about love and longing (and lending a singular voice to a group of voices doing so) and wandering (moving expressively and in time with others), but always finding the way back to the center; to the spot where the offerings of each individual person are woven together in one beautiful whole, the place where each voice is integrated and amplified. And that no matter how far we remove ourselves from that central spot, there are always pathways for return.
We may not have a talent equivalent to David Ruffin or Levi Stubbs, but each of us has a voice. We may not be able to dance as gracefully as the Pips or the Supremes, but each of us moves to the rhythm of our own lives. Where is our center? To what do we seek to return, and when we arrive, how do we faithfully share the space with other voices, other travelers also making their way back home?