Few nonprofits do more for North Texans with disabilities and disadvantages than Goodwill Industries of Dallas Inc. The organization, after all, placed more than 1,500 of them in jobs last year, while also gathering and processing 20,000 tons of “stuff” for consumers at its 18 donation centers. That may be why the group’s 2019 fundraiser called The Lunch on Tuesday, October 1, at the Omni Dallas hotel attracted 680, including a number of heavyweight guests. Among them: Lee Jackson, Pat and Pete Schenkel, Linda and Steve Durham, Jacki Pick and Doug Deason, Brad Cheves, Elaine Agather and Lawrence and Katy Bock.
Oh yeah: It also didn’t hurt that the event’s featured attraction was Lyle Lovett, the Grammy Award-winning Texas legend who’s been a nationally known singer, composer and actor for several decades.
Presented by the David B. Miller Family Foundation, The Lunch was co-chaired by Belle and Don Berg and Laura and Peter Lodwick. While the “welcome” was supposed to be delivered by Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson, Goodwill President Rodney Ginther pinch-hit for Johnson, who was unable to attend. Following an invocation by Rev. Paul Rasmussen of Highland Park United Methodist Church, several videos about Goodwill and more talk about the group by the Bergs and Lodwicks, it was time for a conversation between Lyle and Andy Langer, a writer-at-large for Texas Monthly and producer/host of the magazine’s National Podcast of Texas.
From the get-go, Lyle lived up to his reputation as an iconic but self-effacing Texas gentleman. When Andy began by asking him when he knew he was a singer, for example, Lyle answered modestly: “I told [the Bergs and Lodwicks] earlier that that’s a day-to-day proposition. I feel lucky that I can manage to get through my songs and get my point across.”
Lyle, who grew up in the greater Houston area, said he began singing in the Trinity Lutheran Church (“if you could sing, you had to sing!”) and absorbed a strong work ethic from his family, who arrived in Texas from Germany in the 1840s. Members of the family were vegetable farmers and then dairy farmers, even into the 1960s. “I come from a family that worked hard,” Lyle said, adding drolly: “There’s not a single person in my family who thinks that making stuff up and singing and playing … is a job.”
Both his parents worked their way up through the ranks at Humble Oil — later, Exxon — starting at the age of 17. So, Lyle quipped, “I never speak out against Big Oil.” His mother started with the company as a secretary, while his father began by working in the mail room. His admiration for his parents, he said, shaped him in important ways: “What I try to represent is the love and dedication that my parents showed me … [and also] my family and my family’s history.”
For instance, he sings a lot about coffee, Lyle said, adding, “If coffee is bad for a person, please do research on me after I’m gone. I always drink my coffee the way mom drank it, with milk or cream. Then 20 years ago she stopped [putting in milk or cream], and I stopped puttin’ milk in mine. I loved to watch my dad shave, pick out his suits, put on his tie. So I decided when I go to work, I’m going to try to do it the way my dad did.” Suddenly, Lyle’s natty outfit — a dark suit with a pocket square, a pale blue shirt, tie, and two-toned cowboy boots —made perfect sense.
While he continues playing 100 to 110 dates a year, Lyle told Andy, “becoming a dad two years ago was the most powerful experience of my life. I had no idea how much fun it is … and I’ve done lots of stuff for fun.” Lyle and his wife, April, have 2-year-old twins — one boy, one girl — and while he’s much older than April, Lyle said, “She’s so much more grown up than I am. I told her [when we met], ‘I’m older, but I’m really immature.'”
Before Lyle stood up to sing a few songs to end the luncheon, Andy asked him how he’d like to be remembered. Replied Lyle drily: “I want them to say, ‘He was really old!'” With that, he performed tunes including “Church” and “If I Had A Boat” and then thanked the guests for being there. “I’m grateful to be a witness to benefit from this feeling in the room,” said the consummate Texas gentleman. “You lift us all up, and I’m grateful to be here with you.”
* Photo credit: Grant Miller