There are people who want to be Gladys Knight while others are content with being Pips. Of course, most of us spend our lives being a little bit of both.
Elena loved those times when she could be Gladys. She would sneak looks at herself doing different things to see how others might view her. Even when she was getting ready to cry about something that wasn’t fair, she’d glance at her reflection in the oven door to make sure the look would have the impact she wanted.
When the music played she would run for a plastic microphone in the same way that her mom had held a hairbrush when she was Elena’s age. The microphone didn’t even need to be plugged in – when she was downstairs the microphone was just a prop. When I asked her who she’d want to have over for her birthday if she could have anyone from history, Elena immediately said George Washington. She then thought a bit and said, “no, I’d rather have Aly and A.J.”
Me, I’m happy being a Pip. I’m the voice between the music. I’m happy telling you what kind of day is coming or what happened in sports yesterday when other Gladyses were playing in the NCAA finals. I’ve loved jobs where I’ve written or edited articles about technology that a Gladys here or there has made beautiful music with.
Some of us love being a Pip.
There are those who stand with the other Pips, moving in unison and singing a melodic line that makes no sense on its own and are happy with their contribution to the whole. So what if no one else notices their contribution – they feel it and take pride in what everyone has created. It could be that we’re risk averse – but I don’t think so. We’re the ones who blush when it’s our birthday and everyone is fussing a bit too much over us.
Oh, we still like being recognized. We want to know that others have noticed and appreciated our contribution. But we’re happy if they then move on to other things. We don’t want to be on Oprah or even local television. I’ve been on local t.v. and believe me, it’s not a pretty site. We just want people to pause a moment so that we can touch them in some way. Maybe the music will bring a little smile.
You can be Gladys night to some and a Pip to others.
Miles Copeland explains this in the movie about Sting’s tour with great Jazz musicians. Branford Marsalis was in the band but, Miles reminds the audience, people are still coming to see Sting. In this tour, Branford, Omar Hakim, Kenny Kirland, and the others were not the draw. They were Pips.
This might seem wrong. After all, in “A Chorus Line” we see how hard it is to go back to being a Pip. Once you’ve learned to kick a little higher and express your own personality, how can you go back to the line and not stick out. The chorus line is supposed to be an entity – not the collection of individuals that it really is.
Sarah, a talented producer with whom I’ve worked for years, has shown the power of being a Pip. She refuses to sing a solo and yet she leads the team from the chorus line. Things don’t tend to happen unless she approves them and yet she never seeks nor accepts the spotlight.
My current gig involves a lot of sound editing. I produce a weekly half hour podcast. My voice might be heard for three to four minutes a show. To those who don’t know, it may seem that my entire contribution are those few minutes of being Gladys. I influence the show much more in my moments of being a Pip.
While others speak, I edit. I select which things that they’ve said will be heard and I shape the way in which they will come across. I commit to doing this while maintaining the integrity of what they originally said. The most recent program has a single segment containing a single voice. Maybe there is two minutes of my voice in the entire show. But there are more than two hundred edits.
A Pip has power.
I think all people are both. Even Elena did not spend most of her time as Gladys. It’s interesting to watch when it is important for someone to be Gladys and when they are content being a Pip. You can see this in meetings at work. You can see this in little league baseball and soccer. Some coaches and parents understand that they are Pips for their children who are on the field playing and some insist that they are Gladys and it is the young players’ job to support their dreams.
Some people insist on being Gladys more than would seem to be healthy. They stand too often with a hairbrush by their lips. Step up to the CD player and cut the music for a moment. Let them listen to how they sound without the Pips.
Hopefully they are still happy with how they sound while being extra appreciative for the voices that support them.