Stevie Wonder sang at the Grammy Awards last month, but I couldn’t stop watching the other musicians on stage that were awed by his presence.
In 1988, I attended a radio broadcasting convention in Dallas. One event was a cocktail party dominated by bigwig network executives and station owners. Someone got on stage to make obligatory opening remarks and bad jokes, and then he said “Ladies and gentlemen, we have a surprise for you.” The lights dimmed, the crowd went quiet, the curtain went up … and there, alone at his keyboard, was Stevie Wonder.
He sang a new song, then “Superstition.” I really can’t remember much else. I was awed to be in his presence.
I’m writing this before 4:00 in the morning, and since it will appear on the website of my employer I suppose it’s “work,” but I’m lucky to love radio broadcasting so I rarely feel like I work. In fact I don’t think I’ve worked for over 30 years, and then it was for just one day.
One of my first jobs was for a Minneapolis radio station that had a unionized staff. I had a microphone on one side of the room, an engineer sat across from me at the control board. When I wanted the next song or commercial to play I pointed at them. Very few operations work this way these days. I didn’t have strong feelings about unions, but joining was a requirement of working there.
A year later the engineer’s union decided to strike for better working conditions. In support, my announcer’s union joined them. A colleague called me one day and said, “Our union found us temporary jobs. We’re cement masons!”
Wikipedia says: Cement masons perform specialized masonry work. The jobs are usually outdoors on construction sites and may be physically demanding. Knowledge of the properties of cement is essential.
This job had little in common with my announcing talent at the time, which was pretty much limited to saying “Here’s ABBA.” I knew nothing about cement. The first assignment was an apartment construction site on a cold October night. We were told “report at 6PM for 12 hours of work. Hardhats will be provided.”
I lasted one day as a cement mason.
I hadn’t thought of this sorry episode until these past few rough winter months, as I’ve noticed men and women outside doing their jobs, delivering the mail, enforcing the law, building apartments. These people work! I play songs on the radio.