Heavy D: A Tribute To A Beautiful Being
By Nick Chiles
As I listen to and read all the glowing tributes to the late Dwight Arrington Myers, aka, Heavy D, it strikes me that the things I’ve been hearing people say about him are the words we all would love to have applied to us when we die. Gentleman. Man of class and integrity. Kind and warm man. These are epitaphs we should all strive to have on our tombstones, no matter how high we rise during our brief time on this blessed plot. What Heavy’s life demonstrated is that the seemingly small things matter most. It matters how we treat people. It matters how we conduct ourselves in our personal and professional lives. In the end, these are the standards that others will use to judge our days. Even someone as mighty as Steve Jobs couldn’t escape it–after a few days of glowing accolades about how much he changed all of our lives, the stories started coming out about how much Steve was a grade-A jerk, how mean and cruel he could be to other human beings.
Heavy D was always different than the other celebrities that orbited in his realm. I think the public sensed that he was a good, genuine, decent man, a man who we suspected would have a kind word and a good thought for each of us, even if he had no idea who we were or if we were “important.” The Jamaica-born and New York-raised Heavy somehow understood early on that there was no reason to assume his time was more valuable, his attention more significant, because he could slickly lay down some verses on a recording or, later on, because he was a powerful record executive or a successful actor. In the arrogance of youth, many of us lose sight of these lessons, even if we aren’t rich and famous. We run over those we sense are weaker, less important, looking for every advantage we can find, caring nothing about the resentments and hurt we leave in our wake. This is an especially crucial matter for celebrities. Cloaked in a cocoon of adoration and worship, they must struggle to retain a semblance of humanity and respect in their relations with regular folks. Most of them fail.
Those of us who have spent time around celebrities can recount the pain of celebrity slights, when you quickly get the sense that they don’t even see or hear you when you are standing right in front of them. Unchecked, the arrogance grows into megalomania. Eventually it begets Kanye West. But the life of Heavy D demonstrates that the word celebrity doesn’t have to be synonymous with jerk. I remember when my wife, who was an entertainment journalist in New York at the time, came home from spending a day with Heavy D in the 1990’s, she gushed so much about how sweet and kind he was that I was almost jealous. (She wrote about that day yesterday in this touching tribute to Heavy on her website, mybrownbaby.com)
(Heavy D: Now That We’ve Found Love)
Heavy invariably put a smile on our faces, whether it was from the clever, joyous lyrics in his raps, the bumping rhythms and beats in his music, or the playful yet skilled dance moves he showed off in his videos and concerts. In this era of sex-obsessed rap, it feels almost nostalgic to listen to one of his songs and delight in the fact that he could playfully boast and profess his love without making you feel like you’re listening to a porn soundtrack. Hell, rap music I could actually play for my 9-year-old daughter? What a concept!
But this piece isn’t about the content of modern rap music. That subject gets beaten around so often that I’m almost tired of it. No, this is about a man whose greatness was defined not so much by album sales–though he had plenty of those–or Grammy nominations (he had four of those, too), but by the beauty and depth of his humanity. We could all learn a thing or two from Mr. Dwight Arrington Myers.
Nick Chiles is a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and New York Times bestselling author whose next book, Fatherhood: Rising to the Ultimate Challenge, written with Etan Thomas of the Atlanta Hawks, will be released in May 2012.
Tyrese speaks of his last meeting with Heavy D