Friday, January 18, 2008

Destiny's Child

Destiny, Fate, Coincidence. These words are used interchangeably and too frequently. But I don't think they are the same at all. Coincidence seems like a minor similarity of events. Sort of like it is pure coincidence that my browser goes to as soon as Clay Aiken announces a concert tour. Fate? Coincidence on steroids.

But Destiny? Say it in a whisper....Destiny. It even sounds kind of ominous, and should be said only once in a lifetime. Well, unless you're George McFly.

I did not think of Beyonce and company when I titled this blog. Or even Barack Obama, despite Rolling Stone's article wondering if he fit that label. To me, Clay Aiken embodies the name, especially tonight.

Why tonight? Well, Clay begins a 3.5 month starring role in Monty Python's Spamalot this very evening. He often said his career path has taken various turns because his belief is “let go and let God”. Personally, I think God bought Destiny lunch because there are so many things that seem to place him on a path to be right where he is tonight.

The character of Sir Robin is associated with the symbol of a chicken. A secondary symbol is a shrubbery, which stands between Robin, Arthur and the other knights as they seek their Grail...their destiny. This is the historical crest and coat-of-arms for the surname of Aiken in Scotland. Look closely, the symbols are chickens and shrubbery. I actually got chills when I first realized that. It's even more eerie when you realize that Aiken is the name Clay chose for himself after he felt abandoned by his birth father.

"We are not permitted to choose the frame of our destiny. But what we put into it is ours."

Dag Hammarskjold.. Swedish Statesman and UN official.

Recently, Clay recalled his first exposure to musical theater as a seventh grader in Raleigh, North Carolina. The play was Big River and he was intrigued with the character of Huck Finn. The actor playing Huck that night was Marty Moran. Tonight, Clay steps into the role of Sir Robin, which was last played by....Marty Moran. Here's what he had to say about it this month at his blog page on the Spamalot website.

"I remember watching the guy who played Huck Finn on stage and thinking how cool it was that he got to make a living singing. I knew I couldn’t dance, and had no experience acting, so musicals weren’t necessarily something I dreamed of, but I remember realizing at that point that it might just be possible to make a living as a singer. I always have wanted to play Huck Finn in Big River after that. In what is a great full circle twist, the actor who played Huck Finn in that tour was Marty Moran. Now, fifteen years later, I think it’s really funny that I am taking over the role of Robin from the first person I ever saw perform in a musical."

I don't think it is funny, Clay. I think it was all part of the plan.

Fate feeds into destiny. Sort of how when his tour drummer wasn't available this year, the new drummer hired is the drummer for Spamalot. This musician convinced Clay to give Spamalot another look. Or the fact that Spamalot creater, Eric Idle, was in the audience during Clay's American Idol season because his daughter was a fan.

Fans already know the story of how Clay ended up on American Idol. Clay often talks about how he thought he might go to school for music but decided that his chances of success were limited. So he took a year off and worked at the YMCA where he quickly became an advocate for children with disabilities who were often excluded from YMCA activities. The YMCA took him to special education where he taught autistic children and worked as an advocate for Michael Bubel, a teenager with autism. Michael's mother Diane pushed Clay to try out for American Idol. Today, Clay not only has that career in music but he and Diane formed a foundation that continues to fight for inclusion for children with disabilities all over the country. And he may not be teaching in a classroom in a small town but he's teaching on a global scale as he travels with UNICEF as their Ambassador for Education.

"We plan our lives according to a dream that came to us in our childhood, and we find that life alters our plan. And yet, at the end, from a rare height, we also see that our dream was our fate. It's just that providence had other ideas as to how we would get there. Destiny plans a different route, or turns the dream around, as if it were a riddle, and fulfills the dream in ways we couldn't have expected."

Ben Okri (Nigerian author, 1959)

Eight years ago, 21 year old Clay sang the song Go the Distance at a country music show. You can view it at the end of this blog. Some of the lyrics fit this night.

I have often dreamed
Of a far off place
Where a hero's welcome
Would be waiting for me
Where the crowds will cheer
When they see my face
And a voice keeps saying
This is where I'm meant to be

I'll be there someday
I can go the distance
I will find my way
If I can be strong
I know ev'ry mile
Will be worth my while
When I go the distance
I'll be right where I belong

Down an unknown road
To embrace my fate

Tonight, his voice, his great sense of comedic timing, his natural rhythm and his work ethic will collide and take him down another unknown road. I hope it leads him to more success in the recording studio, the concert stage, the small screen and the big screen. He deserves every chance to explore the greatest depths of his many talents.

In December of 2004, I attended a concert during Clay's first Joyful Noise holiday tour. I wrote this later that night in a recap of the show..

"Of course we always have felt he was special but I felt that stronger last night than I ever have. I’ve met other people in my life that I get this feeling about and last night I just looked at him and said to myself that this talented, good hearted, flawed person is going to do great things. I felt this with every fiber of my being."

"Destiny itself is like a wonderful wide tapestry in which every thread is guided by an unspeakable tender hand, placed beside another thread and held and carried by a hundred others."

Rainer Maria Rilke (Austro-German poet)

Hundreds? I think thousands will be carrying him tonight. They will be there at the Shubert Theater with hope shining in their eyes. They will be on the message boards with nervous anticipation flowing from their keyboard. They will be on the phone from their homes, their cars and their offices. It's an awful lot of love that carried him and them to this moment. You might say, it was destiny.

Break a leg, Clay.

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Anonymous said...

From the beginning, I knew Clay was destined for greatness. It's taking a little longer than we anticipated but I believe he is on his way. I'm so grateful to the Spamalot people for recognizing his talent and showing him respect.

Great blog, Corabeth. Tonight, I finally exhaled.

Anonymous said...

Corabeth, this is one of my favorite pieces you've written.
I got chills as well seeing all the connections linked together
to lead Clay to where is is today.

I feel that Clay has only just begun to scratch the surface of
the wonderful future he will have.

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

This is a very moving, insightful, and heartfelt piece. Thank you so very much for writing it. Destiny has truly blessed Clay in so many ways.

I am truly blessed to be a witness to his incredible journey. THIS is the Great Adventure Clay! Let go...and let God.

treenuts said...

"Fame comes only when deserved, and then is as inevitable as destiny, for it is destiny."
~ Longfellow

And could one say that "we" the fans (not AI) are is "manifest destiny"......

Bone chilling and mind boggling is what I found the Aiken crest to be. I love the blog!!

Anonymous said...

At two pivotal points in Clay's life, two people have changed his destiny. Both times their names were Mike and Diane.