LEGACY: In a most welcome move to reach out to relatively underserved factions of her sizeable demographic, beloved five tool player (composer, vocalist, multi-instrumentalist, arranger, producer) DEBBIE GIBSON took to the stage in Las Vegas, Nevada on 28 April for a magnificent concert in tandem with AARP, to showcase the positive effects of music on brain health. Editor / Publisher Michael McDowell has the story below. (Click on above image to enlarge).


"When you come to a fork in the road, take it".

So said the legendary New York Yankees catcher, power hitter and Hall Of Famer, Lawrence Peter "Yogi" Berra. In one of the most storied thinking outside of the box moments in history, Berra successfully parlayed his nineteen seasons in Major League Baseball into an equally enduring legacy as a philosopher and author. 

Dismissed not surprisingly among some factions within the rank and file as being capable of little more than cleverly worded malapropisms such as the one above, Berra's seemingly homespun wisdom (borne of selective showcasing, not unlike the imagery projected by Cream in their 1968 White Room single for Atco) in reality reflected a keen insight into the human experience. 

That insight was celebrated in Berra's series of best selling books, including You Can Observe A Lot By Watching, It Ain't Over and I Didn't Really Say Everything I Said. Two months after his September 2015 passing at age 90, Berra was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal Of Freedom. In turn, Berra's unique brand of academic excellence has been commemorated by New Jersey's Montclair State University, which hosts the Yogi Berra Museum And Learning Center. 

In music, few artists have likewise confounded expectations, changed courses and flourished in the process as well as has the beloved five-tool player (vocalist, composer, producer, arranger and multi-instrumentalist) and Brooklyn, New York native, Deborah Ann "Debbie" Gibson. When her game changing late 1980s affiliation with Atlantic Records had run its course by the early 1990s, Gibson subsequently reinvented herself via leading roles on the Broadway stage, a series of successful film and television appearances, and a transition from the mainstream into the world of the indie artist. 

In the latter category, she has also emerged as a seasoned keyboard virtuoso, as evidenced by her magnificent, self-composed September 2019 piano instrumental, French CarouselMost recently, her 2021 The Body Remembers album on her Stargirl label took top honors from Blitz Magazine - The Rock And Roll Magazine For Thinking People as Best New Album Of The Year. In turn, a limited edition twelve inch single culled from that album which included an outtake of the sublime Me Not Loving You proved to be one of the biggest sellers of the annual Record Store Day celebration in April 2022.

However, unlike Berra, there was one inevitability in Gibson's career focus that was relatively slower in coming. That is, until now.

To be certain, Berra savored every moment of his time in the Major Leagues. A national hero throughout its duration, Berra was also frequently in the spotlight off of the field at the time via numerous television guest appearances and press interviews. To be certain, his storied observation, "Nobody goes there anymore, it's too crowded" could be said to serve as a consolation of sorts for his transition to equal acclaim in less of a center stage capacity. as well as the unrelated purpose for which the expression was originally intended. 

In Gibson's case, the transition from mainstream center stage in the early 1990s to independent artist certainly brought with it its own set of perks, including so-called "street cred", the peace of mind borne of aesthetic autonomy in terms of artistic mission statement, and the gradual but sustained acceptance within the more academically inclined and far more demanding circle of journalists, musicologists and record collectors. The latter multi-faceted contingent stands in marked contrast to the hip quotient cadre that often defines and dictates the ever fluctuating parameters of the mainstream. 

As such, while Berra relished his time within academic circles in his later years, he continued to speak with great fondness of his accomplishments at the plate. They included an unparalleled ten World Series victories, as well as a most impressive 358 career home runs. Suffice to say that while Berra was out of the mainstream spotlight in his later years, he nonetheless missed the thrill of center stage. 

Likewise, the highly respected Southern California composer and lead vocalist of the acclaimed Dime Box Band, Kristi Callan. While Callan herself had enjoyed such adulation at the pinnacle of Southern California's musical movement in the early 1980s as co-founder of the much ballyhooed Wednesday Week, she once summarized the fervent but fleeting mainstream attention succinctly. 

"It's addictive", she said. 

In Gibson's case, her numerous accomplishments as an artist have continued to flourish in recent years, buoyed in no small part by the unwavering support of her fervent legion of devotees, affectionately known as Deb Heads. Even so, Gibson through it all graciously accepted a steady stream of offers for interviews and cameo appearances from a variety of mainstream sources, some of whose followers subsequently professed that they had lost track of her when her storied affiliation with Atlantic Records had drawn to a close. 

In part, Gibson endeavored to compensate by availing herself as a mentor and champion of up and coming artists. All well and good, albeit not a challenge for the faint hearted, given the mainstream's unrelenting focus on the here and now (more often than not at the expense of the attributes of the proven and enduring successes). As the Lovin' Spoonful most forthrightly put it, "It's like trying to tell a stranger 'bout rock and roll". 

Thankfully, Gibson is no slouch in that department. She got the message.

As noted, the more demanding factions of the so-called indie contingent will insist upon a discernible commitment to the betterment of the art before embracing a given artist. But once that commitment is proven to be more than a fleeting gesture of placation, the artist in question will have their unwavering loyalty for life. And with her most recent in a growing series of product endorsements (which within the current decade has included exercise equipment and health food), Gibson has taken an unlikely (albeit potentially highly positive) step in the right direction.

On Thursday the 28th of April, Gibson joined forces with the American Association Of Retired Persons (AARP) to present a virtual concert. While at 51, Gibson may to the casual observer seem to be outside of their perception of the organization's target demographic (although a key component of AARP's professed mission statement was to focus on issues of importance to those aged fifty or older), the event's emphasis upon the ongoing study of the impact of music upon the betterment of brain health most assuredly resonates with her long established advocacy of health concerns, given her own battle against Lyme Disease in the previous decade. 

True to form, that forty-five minute AARP presentation soared in every sense of the term. With an introduction by Jen Martin, Gibson was joined on stage by long time choreographers Buddy Casimano and Eddie Bennett, both of whom doubled as singers with backing vocalists Serena and Myra. 

Occasional tips from AARP extolling the virtues of music on brain health flashed across the screen, as Gibson drew equal parts from her early legacy with Atlantic Records and her most recent The Body Remembers album. Opening with that album's Love Don't Care, the remainder of the set list included Foolish Beat, Shake Your Love, Out Of The Blue, Lost In Your Eyes, Legendary, a seriously revamped Electric Youth, an absolutely stunning rendition of Me Not Loving You, and a medley of Only In My Dreams and Girls Night Out.

Most assuredly, this initial joint venture was a resounding success on all accounts. With Casimano and Bennett in agreement, Gibson succinctly professed her enthusiasm for the experiment.

"Aging gracefully means you are always vital", she said.

In taking such a giant step, Gibson is certain to further endear herself without compromise to that highly discerning indie demographic. And given the universal appeal of the online event's professed cause, her across the board support should continue unabated, and will most likely expand in the process. In the words of another artist who also found thinking outside of the box to be both a necessity and a viable alternative in the wake of her own moments in the mainstream spotlight -- Miley Cyrus -- it is indeed the Best Of Both Worlds.