A Kind of Magic – Brian May and Adam Lambert
I felt hearts swell and tear ducts overflow last night throughout the fandom when “the hug” by tuke18 appeared on Twitter timelines. Perhaps that feeling echoed through TWO fandoms. If a modicum of cynicism hides in a dark corner of any soul, this photo surely is the antidote, for here is something authentic, pure, genuine… real. Yeah, we can joke, as in “I hope Brian didn’t lick the neck!” (not my joke, but I love it.) If we dare to get close to our true sentiments, however, there’s something profound here. How you interpret it will have a lot to do with what you yourself bring to the picture as you are emotionally brought into the scene.
Here’s what I saw:
First, I saw two men who’d been brought together by fate, kismet, or karma – two who were perfectly suited to heal in each other some very significant and defining past hurts and disappointments, perhaps even broken places.
Late Thursday night, the night the concert featuring the photo had taken place, I was lying in bed in a state of unwanted wakefulness and for reasons now unknown had decided to research Brian May on my smart phone (what better to do at 2:45 a.m., right?) Under “personal life” there was something unexpected and genuinely distressing. It seems he had gone through a period of deep depression in the late ’80’s and early ’90’s. He had chosen to disclose publicly that a series of traumas – a troubled marriage, perceived failure at fatherhood, the death of Freddie and his own father’s death – had pushed him to a level of despondency that resulted in his considering suicide. I admit to having been stunned. He’s brilliant, talented and sweetly laid back. Really? It’s true: no one is immune, and I felt so sad knowing he’d endured that pain.
Only very casually familiar with the original band, Queen, I don’t pretend to know what it might have been like to share the stage with Freddie. But whatever the case, I’m sure he was Brian’s friend, artistic collaborator, and a big part of what defined the Queen “brand” and identity. To suddenly be faced with a void that enormous after having had world-wide acclaim playing to massive crowds of adoring fans had to be devastating. In the intervening years, the band carried on with various guest front men (or women) – George Michael, Annie Lennox, Seal and Paul Rodgers, among others. If critics are to be believed, there was a lack of vitality and inspiration, something missing in these incarnations. No one was Freddie. But no one was Adam, either.
The casual observer might wonder what the runner-up of a reality singing contest could possibly offer rock royalty. But we are privileged to know. Adam had everything it took to fill the void left by Freddie so long ago, but in his own original and authentic way. And it was perfect. Along with his superlative talents, personality and beauty, he brought diplomacy, humility, and a desire to serve the music above all. During Thursday night’s show, a fan tweeted Brian saying “I’m happy to be alive.”
Then, there’s Adam’s side of the coin. Even though it’s very evident that Adam had tremendous gifts to bring to Queen, they also had gifts and healing to offer him. In the picture, Brian to me appears to be a kind of wise and compassionate Rock God Papa – someone who is himself unquestioningly accepted as iconic and a giant, a huge talent and a living legend. Oh, and such a good person. He has accepted and appreciated Adam, acknowledging to the world that he is a major and unequalled talent, bar none. He believes Adam deserves to be recognized and respected and he treats him that way. But it’s more too – I believe it’s evident there’s a kind of paternal love and gentle protectiveness there too.
All of that is such a tremendous validation, and a breath of fresh air. It seems Adam has always faced “Yes, he’s hugely talented BUT… (fill in the blank): he’s gay, he’s too theatrical, he has limited appeal, he’s a product of American Idol, his audience is comprised mainly of middle-aged women”, etc. ad nauseum. Brian and Roger trusted Adam to be the dynamic, enthralling performer and front man that he is – and all of their hopes appear to have been realized by love-crazed audiences comprised of fans from both camps.
Second, what I saw in the picture for myself is a reinforcement of the belief that well-intentioned people (even some of questionable intent), having been through some extreme trials in life, are sometimes lucky to receive the grace of unseen guidance, acceptance, encouragement and camaraderie in seemingly serendipitous ways… unexpected but entirely appropriate ways. Ways we could never have dreamed of for ourselves. Ways that are wiser and more creative than anything we could have devised.
There’s a white glow from stage lighting in that picture. It lends an almost beatific aura to the scene – appropriate for a photograph depicting the notion that the Universe is indeed a kind and loving place to be.