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Preserved - Want a Little Wine with Your Verzuz?

Updated: Oct 12, 2020

“I’m a contralto” was one of the more memorable lines from last week’s Verzuz

featuring Patti Labelle and Gladys Knight. By saying this, Knight was making it clear

that she understood how much her voice had changed over the years. At one point,

Knight even added that her voice had gotten lower over the years which made her

realize which notes she could still sing with ease and which ones she needed to avoid

trying to hit. One person on Twitter posted that it sounded like Knight was throwing

shade at Labelle who struggled to hit her signature high notes on some of her most

famous songs.

Considering the longevity of both legendary R & B singers, this episode of the

web series was highly anticipated by fans. I count myself as a proud member of Team

Gladys who could not wait to hear her sing her hits from my childhood. Did she sound

the same as she did 50 years ago? For the most part, she did. Both sounded amazing

but I think Knight sounded closest to her original recordings. Labelle, on the other

hand, struggled and seemed to grow more frustrated as the program progressed.

As I watched and listened to Labelle sing awkwardly over the vocals on her

accompaniment tracks, I wondered if she realized, like Knight, how much her voice had

changed over the years. I’m not a professional singer but when I do sing (mostly

karaoke), I have to acknowledge that some songs that I could sing just a few short years

before now are a struggle….and I avoid them!

Verzuz seemed like a good example of how it rarely works out when we try to

mix new seasons/perspectives with old seasons/behaviors. The bible speaks of the

dangers of this in Matthew 9:17 “Neither do people pour new wine into old wineskins. If they do, the skins will burst; the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined. No, they pour new wine into new wineskins, and both are preserved.” I never understood this until I did some research and found that as old wineskins age, they become inflexible and hard. New wine has chemical properties that make it dynamic. As a result, when the old mixes with the new, the wineskin breaks and the new wine is wasted.

Honestly, I don’t think LaBelle’s struggle is different from what many of us deal

with as we mature as Christians. Because of what we learn in our churches, bible

studies or personal time of devotion, we change our behaviors, motivations and

perspective. However, understandably, sometimes we try to hold onto behaviors and

even people that we have outgrown. It’s kind of like Patti Labelle trying to sing at a

certain level even though her voice has obviously matured. And what happens? Like

her voice, we struggle and are tempted to blame it on others or something else. In

other words, it’s really on us to acknowledge change and embrace the

opportunities of the new season.

Shewanda Riley is a Dallas, Texas based author of “Love Hangover: Moving From Pain to

Purpose After a Relationship Ends” and “Writing to the Beat of God’s Heart: A Book of

Prayers for Writers.” Email her at or follow her on

Twitter @shewanda.

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