He’d sung the song a thousand times, of course. It was the song, the one that had started it all. Before, he’d been a kid in a garage, a suburban teen with a dream. And after: the magazine covers, the television interviews, the roaring concerts, the world tours, the whirlwind surrounding an endearing young man at the twilight of an innocent era. Or maybe he’d only seen it that way because he’d been innocent himself. It was all because of that song. People had connected with it, felt it stir something inside of them, and then there he was, a golden boy with a golden voice singing a golden tune. He could have performed that song asleep and one legged. There was no reason to have butterflies. But it was here. This was the stadium where he’d first sung it live on a summer night in 1976.
He peered out across the throng, gathered in that same green field, and for a moment through a beam of light and out of the corner of his eye, he saw them as they’d been. The young girls, unadorned faces shining; the young men, pretending they didn’t want to be there but secretly mouthing in their heads the words their sisters and girlfriends shouted aloud. And him, mounted atop a metal throne, screaming into a sceptre, one voice rising above all the others like a tidal wave of beauty. The man he loved had been behind him wielding a guitar. Man, hell. They were 16. But they became men together.
The shaft of errant light shifted and several hundred grey men and women stared back at him. The eyes were the same, though, the same as all those years ago. He looked down to his hands, wrinkled now as they held the microphone. The famous mane of auburn hair, what one journalist had called “silken fire,” was gone, the remnants faded from copper to grey. And the man he loved was gone, too. He had the memories forever, though.
“I don’t know if you know,” he told them. “But this was the first place I ever performed this song. Some of you might have been here.”
He recalled the man behind him, the hand on his shoulder anchoring him to the world so he wouldn’t soar to Heaven on the wings of his melody. Absurdly, his eyes stung.
“I’m a little different now,” he said after a pause. “It’s been a little while. But I still know the lyrics. And if you do, too, will you sing them with me?”
Then he closed his eyes, and he sang.