Saturday, July 20, 2013

30 Years Later Diana Ross' Central Park Concert Still Reigns Supreme

I wasn't even born when Diana Ross took to the stage in Central Park.

But I heard about it.

I grew up a lover of all music, especially the stuff that was "before my time."

I heard the stories of the now legendary concert that brought out some 450,000 New Yorkers to the Great Lawn on July 21, 1983. 

My uncle was one of those people.

He was among the concert-goers who would get soaked by the torrential rain that ended the free concert just 45 minutes after it started.

But before the show was washed out by Mother Nature, Ms. Ross would put on a performance that has never been duplicated by any other artist.

The "Reach Out and Touch" singer performed several of her hits while being absolutely drenched by a storm that did little to chase away fans. Many stuck with her despite the soggy conditions.

But I think what most impressed me about this was her ability to control and communicate with the crowd. She kept them calm and gently - like a mother - asked the soaked crowd to leave.

"Slowly leave if you want to," she told the crowd. "I never sang in the rain before."

The next day, Ms. Ross would continue her concert. My uncle would return wearing the same soaked sneakers he wore the day before.

But it was the first day that will live on forever. Those stories and memories would be passed on from generation to generation.
NY Daily News cover
The New York Daily News front page read: "Downpour Spoils Diana's Concert."

While the rain and heavy winds may have sent concert-goers scrambling and "spoiled" the concert, it also made this one of the most talked about performances of all-time.

Now, 30 years later nothing has surpassed this concert.

No Super Bowl halftime show. 

No awards show performance. 


Whether you were around for this show or not, 30 years later it still reigns supreme.
On Friday, I reached out to a Diana Ross spokesman for a comment about the anniversary. But the request was quickly shot down.

"Ms. Ross is preparing for a run of U.S. dates, that includes a major performance at the Hollywood Bowl. She is unable to participate at this time," wrote spokesman Mark Young via e-mail.

Oh, well. Maybe I'll try again when the anniversary hits 40.