Over thirteen years ago a bubbly girl from Burleson, Texas appeared on our television screens wearing a shirt made out of old jeans, sporting the American Idol audition number “2311”. Little did she or the country know at the time that a legend was coming to life right before our eyes.
The twenty-year-old named Kelly Clarkson ultimately went on to become the first ever winner of the long-running singing competition show. As Idol has continued and evolved from 2002 through today, so has the girl who can always look back on “a moment like this” as the first day of the rest of her life.
What also makes Kelly exceptionally special is that she isn’t the only one who can pinpoint the very moment her life changed … so, too, can the fans who were a part of the first steps of her journey.
Tonight, Kelly returned to Idol as a judge, but it wasn’t at the table where she made one of the largest impacts in show history. Instead, it was on the stage that the very pregnant, multi Grammy Award winner once again changed the lives of those watching her perform. Kelly chose the title track of her latest album, Piece By Piece, as the song she would sing for the Farewell Season of Idol, electing just a piano to accompany her for her final live moments on the stage that bore her beginnings. Telling her autobiography as a child from a broken home with a broken heart, Kelly poured her soul out in front of the entire nation, vowing that neither she or her husband would ever turn away from their children the way her father left her at the age of six.
As Kelly became deeply emotional during the performance, so did the contestants, entire audience, table of judges, and millions of at-home viewers; and, once again, Kelly Clarkson proved that she has the gift of reaching out and touching the world with her artistry and honesty.
Above I mentioned that Kelly changed many lives in 2002 when she entered our homes through our television sets, and I say that from a place of personal experience. Though I am typically quiet about that part of my life, I feel that it is appropriate right now to open up a bit and give you all a slight piece of me, in honor of Kelly. I, like many others, have been around since the first day of Kelly’s music career. I, like many others, can say Kelly changed my life. I, like many others, some of whom are still my friends today — over thirteen years after that September 4, 2002 Idol win — can say that who I am today and where I am today can, in large part, be attributed to Kelly. If it wasn’t for Kelly, I never would have gotten into music; I never would have started writing; I never would have gone to law school. I wouldn’t have the friends I have today; I wouldn’t live where I do right now; I cannot even fathom what my life would look like. Kelly Clarkson inspired me, changed me, moved me, and detoured me in a way that has shaped the entire course of my life.
Not many artists have this type of influence on their resumes.
Kelly, my personal note to you looks something like this: Thank you. Thank you for giving me direction, focus, strength, passion, confidence, and friendships. Thank you for trusting me in the early stages of your career, for believing in me while I believed in you, and for being a constant companion through your music for a large portion of my life. Thank you for remaining true to yourself and to your fans and for allowing yourself to be so brave, real, and vulnerable in front of the world tonight. You changed my life more than you’ll ever know back in 2002, and, tonight, you changed a whole new generation of people’s lives.
Kelly Clarkson, your footprint will forever be in the American Idol history books; your footprint will forever be on the music industry; but, most importantly, your footprint will forever be on the hearts of so many.
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