After a quick bite for dinner, I sat down in my favorite recliner in the den to watch a little TV. I’d watched the prior season’s last four or five episodes as Carrie Underwood beat out Bo Bice (I was rooting for Bice). My daughter had told be for the past several seasons how funny the auditions were, so what the heck, I was home, and it was time for American Idol.
There he was. A shaggy gray haired young man whose face let you know he was too young to be someone’s father. That loose light blue short sleeve shirt said “I’m a laid back kind of guy”. I listened to his introduction, talking about the gray hair, that he was just being himself. “Ah, my name is Taylor Hicks, and I’m from Birmingham, Alabama.”
I watched as he hoped the doors that could be gates to heaven or hell. As he stood in front of the judges, the fateful exchange with the infamous Simon Cowell, the American Idol judge with the British accent, began.
Simon Cowell: “Why are you here?”
Taylor Hicks: “Because I want my voice heard”.
Simon Cowell: “Why?”
Taylor Hicks: “Because I feel like I have one.”
And then Taylor Hicks sang Sam Cooke’s “A Change is Gonna Come”. Little did we know the prophetic meaning of that song choice. Randy Jackson liked him, and so did Paul Abdul. Simon, being Simon, wasn’t at all impressed. But with the two votes needed votes, Taylor garnered a golden ticket and was on his way to Hollywood!
I’ve always felt that Simon’s resistance to Taylor was not the gray hair or his voice, or the fact that he thought Taylor was a guy who should be “singing in the background”. But rather, I think, Simon saw the potential that was there in Taylor. I think Simon knew that with Taylor’s experience, he wasn’t going to be easy to mold into the typical cookie-cutter image of the current genre of teeny bopper singers. And I think that must have scared Simon!
We heard that voice. We wanted to make sure we heard more of that voice. And we know the rest of the story. In less than four months, Taylor Hicks would become the oldest American Idol, joining the ranks of Kelly Clarkson, Ruben Studdard, Fantasia Barrino, and Carrie Underwood.
For those of us who fell in love with Taylor Hicks’ voice and charm, our worlds would never be the same! And that would turn out to be a good thing, for many of us! Me, I’m glad I was home early that night. A change had come, and like Taylor Hicks, we were all about to embark on a musical journey to places we’d never been before.