All due respect to my brother in law Richie, a Maui resident, this is something else.
Her name and face jumped off the page.
Alphabetically the first person listed in the Times Union obituaries on December 1, she bore the unforgettable name of Aloha Coleman.
ALBANY – Aloha C. Coleman, 65 of Albany, passed away on November 17, 2022. Visitation will be held on December 3, at 10 a.m. with service to follow at 11 a.m. in the Metropolitan Baptist Church, 105 Second St., Albany.
How scanty this seems. No information on her family, her work, anything. Apart from noting that she passed at a younger age than I am now, I remembered actually, surprisingly, meeting her.
Years ago, she stopped my car on a Troy roadway. She was flagger on a busy construction crew. Dump trucks growled behind her. Some delayed drivers did, too, in their unmoving overheating cars. Whenever a driver grumbled out the window, she approached the car and spoke, low and calm, as I heard when she talked down the driver ahead of me.
She had something more than merely nice about her. She was warm and sweet, to everybody, with a glow of kindness I could see.
Maybe my eyes were extra tuned up when I saw her, as I was heading back to my PR agency office from a photo shoot. I had cameras in the car, so I asked to photograph her. She said OK, and I watched a bit as she spoke on her walkie-talkie and waved her flag. I chose a lens and started shooting. At times, she looked right through my camera, unselfconscious, at ease.
When I picked up the color slides I’d shot of her from the lab, I could see that comfort, her warmth, in the pictures. I filed them away in a storage box and inventoried them decades later in a spreadsheet my son Zak organized for me.
Her smile stayed with me even when I hadn’t seen those pictures for years.
Every time I enjoy a happy encounter with any stranger, ever after, I remember Aloha Coleman; the prototype of surprise meet-ups. I was in her company for no more than five minutes, but she became the ideal of what could happen when fine new people cross our paths, or whenever things go better than expected with anybody.
Aloha had that same warm open-ness as Ellie, whom I had the great good fortune to marry a few years before Aloha stopped my car.
Now Ellie has a term she uses for a particular kind of surprise release from some obligation, for getting off an inconvenient hook without necessarily deserving to.
She once forgot an appointment with a clothing-alteration customer and was mortified when the customer phoned. “Oh, NO!” thought Ellie, expecting anger. But, no. A nice woman named Florence, the customer had forgotten the appointment, too. Florence apologized profusely, as Ellie gratefully forgave her. Ever after, when someone else’s mistake exonerates or erases one of our own, well, we call that getting “Florence’ed.”
And it now occurs to me that a surprising encounter with any stranger, or any interaction that goes better than expected– or deserved– that is an Aloha.
When I turned the page from her sparse obituary, I found an extensive mass culture one. Christine McVie of Fleetwood Mac, born Christine Perfect and a former member of Chicken Shack, had died at 79, 14 years older than Aloha Coleman.
The names of Christine’s bands offer only the scantiest clue about how euphonious, how harmonious she was, how essential to so many, in music and in life.
With the blues band Chicken Shack, she had the sheer nerve and confident vocal chops to cover “I’d Rather Go Blind” by the R&B titan Etta James.
When you hear her on Fleetwood Mac records, her low, easy voice stands out in the mix. Onstage her power seemed clearer. Even from the the distant seats I somehow always got to see Fleetwood Mac (that’s why I have no photos of her), I could see she was the heart of things.
For all the bluesy swing of the Mick Fleetwood and John McVie rhythm section, the ethereal soaring-scarf sound of Stevie Nicks’ voice and the guitar heroics and hearty tenor of Lindsey Buckingham, Christine McVie was the band’s center of sonic and emotional gravity.
After she joined Fleetwood Mac and married John McVie– and apart from some breaks from the road and the band– she was there nearly from the beginning to the end. A guest on Fleetwood Mac’s second album in August 1968, she arguably went on to write many of the band’s best songs. Her “Show Me a Smile” is the best tune on “Future Games,” and “Say You Love Me” put the big Mac back on the charts for the first time in five years. “Over My Head” further confirmed the revived band, now (1975) featuring Buckingham and Nicks, as pop hit-makers. Two years later, “Don’t Stop” firmly steadied the band, reeling from multiple romantic break-ups, as the top-selling “Rumours” album raucously reflected.
Although she and John McVie split, and she wrote and sang about it, the noisy drama exploded elsewhere, mainly between Nicks and Buckingham. For all the emotional candor of Christine’s lyrics, she expressed herself with calm reserve. It’s class, but with courage and craft, too; and it carries such emotional heft that everything revolves around her.
Since her passing, we hear the unmixed love and admiration of fans and fellow musicians. We share in her fellow stars’ respect and love.
I love how a Facebook post nailed it a few days ago. It’s by Damhnait Doyle, whom I otherwise don’t know:
To some, Christine McVie may have been in the shadows/ but that just means she was holding the whole thing up. The structure of Fleetwood Mac was built on the back of her tremendous songs and musicianship. When your light shines that bright/ you don’t need the spotlight- the light finds you. RIP Songbird
In the music she left us, Christine McVie was an Aloha.