I recognized some of the faces, but most of the names eluded me. Forgive my celebrity-ignorance, but many years have passed since I recognized anybody in People magazine. I’d probably do better with National Geographic. These stars were just being regular-folk in their music-making, sheltering at home and reflecting no one’s admiration, so they little resembled their public selves. That was surely part of the appeal, at least in theory. In fact, they seemed a little sad and depressed — either because they were sad and depressed or thought they should be.
We are all adjusting as best we can. Our normal days have ended now — at least the usual course of them — as we wrestle with this strange virus that seems so suddenly to have consumed much of the world with sickness, death and fear. Perhaps because we are running short of so many medical necessities, the virus has also generated an unexpected but needed surplus of humor. Some of the comments following the “Imagine” production were laugh-out-loud worth it. My personal favorite aimed at the singing celebs: If each of you don’t immediately Venmo me $1,000, I’m going to hunt you down and cough on you.
Okay, it’s funny if you watch the “Imagine” video. Some of the singers were pretty bad, which was humanizing, but only if you knew they were celebs. To me, they looked like everybody else in the garden section of Lowes on Sundays, only with better cheekbones.
As inspirational moments go, it isn’t fair to compare them to, say, Queen, performing at Live Aid, the 1985 global benefit concert for Ethiopian famine. It’s far easier to manhandle four octaves before a crowd of 72,000 worshipers swaying to your beat than it is to stare into a smartphone and sing, essentially, to yourself.
Gadot’s idea was no doubt heartfelt. You can sort of see how it happened. Hey, I’m sheltering, you’re sheltering. Let’s do something cool like sing “Imagine” and release it on Instagram to lift people’s spirits. It seemed like a good idea at the time. Indeed, I still feel the pain of the other patrons seated in a restaurant when long ago my college pals and I decided to favor everyone with an arm-in-arm rendering of “Everything Is Beautiful.” Only we weren’t rich or famous.
Gadot’s “Imagine” was created along the same lines as the viral video of Ben E. King’s “Stand By Me,” which featured diverse people singing the song in different parts of the world. It was created by Playing for Change, an organization dedicated to the premise that the world can be “reimagined” and united through music. If you’re not one of the more than 142 million people who have watched it on YouTube, you’re in for a treat.
If “Imagine” didn’t quite jell, it may be because we’re too jaded or too raw from the daily torrent of increasingly awful news to react charitably just yet. If nothing else, the performers, some unrecognizable without makeup, reminded us that beneath our daily trappings of artifice, we’re all pretty much the same.
Ultimately, covid-19 may liberate us from our vanities, if it doesn’t kill us first. Meanwhile, I predict creativity will surge as millions of people muddle through sheltering and realize they have been suppressing emotions and guarding hidden talents for too long. The bright side of all this darkness is that the light will out. Newton discovered gravity; Shakespeare dreamed up “Macbeth” and Boccaccio conceived “The Decameron;” all while sheltering in place from plagues in their day.
Creation, like life, is a force that won’t be denied. Who knows what masterpieces await the imaginations of the still-sheltered artists among us.