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“I’m Here,” by Fantasia and Cynthia Erivo

Brian Booton and George Warren in Central Park
Brian Booton
Brian Booton and George Warren in Central Park

This episode is dedicated to the memory of George Warren. Our guest for this episode is Brian Booton, who shares an intimate story about the love of his life and the song that brought the two of them a lot of joy. This episode was taped in the Summer of 2022 as Brian reflected at the fifth anniversary of George’s passing. Brian hopes that something resonates with our listeners as he shares about a song that, for him, embodies a journey toward self-love.…a love that set him free…a love that, as the lyrics say, made him “thankful for loving who I really am”: “I’m Here.” Enjoy this episode of “Cover Story with Stephanie Shonekan”

It’s a song about taking stock of what you have, as basic as that might be - a house, a chair, the love of a sister, the beauty of a tall tree, and your own courage, to stand up for yourself and practice thankfulness for what you are, through it all.

And none of these themes are surprising since the song is inspired by Alice Walker’s book The Color Purple and comes from the soundtrack to the musical version of that classic.

So, this episode, we’re comparing the two artists who brought that song to life on Broadway, first in the original Broadway version of 2007 with the artist Fantasia’s interpretation of the song, and then in the year-2015 Broadway revival of The Color Purple, with Cynthia Erivo’s version that brought down the house.

So we’ll break down what this song means to us, on this episode of Cover Story with Stephanie Shonekan.

Cover Story is a podcast that uncovers the covers — that is, the stories, meanings, and histories behind our most classic songs. Each episode features host and musicologist Stephanie Shonekan and one guest. Together they take one classic song, two popular renditions, and discuss: Who did it better, and why?

This season’s episodes feature The Four Tops vs. Whitney Houston, Bruce Springsteen vs. Rage Against the Machine, Ken Boothe vs. Bread, Otis Redding vs. Aretha Franklin, and Fantasia Barrino vs. Cynthia Erivo.

This is a show about the music we love. But the conversations uncover intimate stories about our own personal connections with the songs. Cover Story with Stephanie Shonekan reconnects us with great music and the diverse perspectives, histories, and identities of the artists and the fans who enjoy that music.

Cover Story with Stephanie Shonekan is produced by Janet Saidi, Ryan Famuliner, Aaron Hay, and Stephanie Shonekan. This season was edited by Aaron Hay and Ryan Famuliner.

This podcast is a collaboration between KBIA and Vox Magazine, with funding from the University of Maryland College of Arts and Humanities, MU’s College of Arts & Science, and the Missouri School of Journalism.  

You can follow the podcast and other special projects on Twitter at @VoxMag, and @KBIA, and on Instagram at @voxmagazine and @kbianews. 

“Cover Story with Stephanie Shonekan” Season 1 was produced by Janet Saidi, Kristofor Husted, Fernando Narro, Rehman Tungekar, and Ryan Famuliner, with host and producer Stephanie Shonekan. Season One was edited by Rehman Tungekar and Ryan Famuliner.

Cover Story - Season 2 Music Historypodcast
Janet Saidi is a producer and professor at KBIA and the Missouri School of Journalism.
Ryan served as the KBIA News Director from February 2011 to September 2023
Aaron worked as a full-time on-air host at KBIA from 2017 to 2022. He continues as the Managing Producer on High Turnout Wide Margins.