Amazing – but true . . .what I've found is that the Clay fandom is much more diverse than many others. I bet if you go to a Toby Keith concert - the majority of the audience will be easily categorized. That doesn’t seem to be true of a Clay Aiken concert. Is the audience predominately women? Yes. Just as it was at the beginning of the career of many popular artists from Elvis, Frank Sinatra and the Beatles. What’s extraordinary is the range of ages. I see youngsters, teenagers and young adults at all his concerts. Unfortunately, the insistence of the media that his fan base is a bunch of old ladies - makes it difficult for young girls and especially young men to admit they are fans. Is a large segment of his audience middle-aged? Without a doubt. About the same age as the audience I saw when I attended Eric Clapton’s concert at Madison Square Garden just last year.
What many of these reviewers and writers miss is who these middle-age women were 30 years ago. Contrary to popular media opinion . . . those women didn't grow from a fungus behind the Wal-Mart counter. Many of us were part of the Woodstock generation. Some of us wore flowers in our hair and danced in the mud that glorious summer of 1969. We were part of the sexual revolution in this country. We marched for civil rights, women's rights, gay rights. We worked for equality in the workplace. We organized marches and protests and sit-ins at campuses across the country. And throughout our generation, some of the best music was born. Why do journalists think we suddenly developed lousy taste? Are they so limited in their own knowledge of music that they cannot recognize where we came from? Our generation had the Beatles and Rolling Stones. Our soul music was Marvin Gaye and Otis Redding. Who would have heard of Pink Floyd if it wasn't for us? Or Cream or Blind Faith. Or Led Zeppelin or Fleetwood Mac or the Eagles or Jimi Hendrix. And we didn’t need to listen to only one kind of music to “be cool”. We could mix it up - go from Bob Dylan to Jefferson Airplane to Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young to the Doors to the Butterfield Blues Band to Donovan to Bruce Springsteen. To dismiss people of our age is to deny the musical and social foundation of our generation.
Were we all hippies and punks and rebels? Of course not. But you’d be surprised how many of us were. What I've found in this fandom is people are drawn to Clay Aiken for all kinds of reasons. And while there are certainly a large number of Christian fans – to leap to an assumption that this means ultra-conservative and homophobic is a leap that is completely unjustified. Extremes exist in every group - but the overriding quality I've found in this fandom is tolerance and generosity. There are many many fans of different religions - or atheist or agnostic - who simply love the voice. There are people who are inspired by his charity and desire to serve . . . but are first and foremost fans of the entertainer. The women (and men) I've met in this fandom are a wonderful representation of the population. . . people whose lives were never empty. They are mothers, daughters, grandparents, fathers and sons, teachers, doctors, secretaries, lawyers, executives, librarians, salespeople, scientists. They didn't turn to Clay to fill an emotional void in their lives - they turned to Clay because he filled a musical need . . . a way to reconnect with a time when music was exciting - when singers had interesting voices, when concerts had energy.
My husband, in his youth, played in a rock and roll band. After he discovered Clay Aiken, he pulled his guitar out and started playing again. When I asked him why he's a fan of Clay's - he said "because Clay makes me feel hopeful". Now -- that's the kind of story I'd like to see the media write.
In honor of age - This blog's quote is: No wise man ever wished to be younger. Jonathan Swift
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