I’m sure you’ve watched a viral video that is presented as a real situation and thought, “This is a set up”. This happened to me with today’s video of a chance encounter in a Walmart in Alpharetta, Georgia. In the video, Cassandra Turner Nelson is standing with her trolley at the canned vegetable section when a stranger, Donnell Cross, approaches and asks her if she knows the song If This World Were Mine. Nelson says she does, and Cross starts singing. 50 seconds into the video, Nelson joins in.
Both have great voices and know the song. A crowd gathers, spectators record the spectacle. My first question was, how can someone expect a stranger in a supermarket to know this Ashford and Simpson song (first performed by the late, great singing partners Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell) well enough to sing it? My second question was, how can you expect a stranger to sing so well? Then there is Cross saying “Again?” at the beginning. Never fear. Take my word for it. The video is real. Let’s look:
Fantastic, but real? C’mon!. Surely not? This is how it went down. Cassandra Nelson was shopping with headphones on. She says she was quietly humming along to If This World Were Mine. Donnell Cross and his friend Craig were grabbing some lunch. Cross was a little tipsy. Cross and Craig heard Nelson singing. She had a good voice. On an impulse, Cross asked Craig to video him. He approached Nelson, who removed her headphones. Meanwhile, Craig was battling with the camera app.
Craig asked Cross to repeat the question. Cross said “Again?” just as Craig remembered to turn his phone horizontal. As we see Cross is a great singer who knows the song. Meanwhile 50-year-old Nelson is the daughter of gospel music singer and preacher, Norris Turner. She had been a backing singer for a few gospel acts and once sang at a convention in Sweden. Here’s Nelson and Cross being interviewed on GMA3, after the video went viral. Note that they get invited to appear with rapper Common.
Getting back to the story, after Cassandra Nelson, Donnell Cross and Craig introduced themselves, Craig promised to send the video to Nelson. The video file was too large for an attachment, so Craig uploaded it to YouTube and sent Nelson the link. All three shared the video with friends and family, then nothing. For over a year, nothing. Nelson, a mother of three, did not communicate with the two friends after thanking them for the video. Besides, both Nelson and Cross were in the process of moving to different cities when they sang together in the Walmart supermarket in March 2018. Then Common saw the video, shared it, and suddenly Nelson and Cross were on national television and guesting at a Common concert at the Apollo in NYC.
Donnell Cross has since established himself as an in-demand singer. He was invited to do shows singing with Teddy Pendergrass’s band. In March 2022, he was fronting three bands. Also, Luther Vandross’s nephew once thanked him for bringing his uncle back (Vandross covered If This World Were Mine).
Cassandra Nelson, Donnell Cross and Craig are now firm friends and meet up periodically. But what about the performance at Common’s concert at the Apollo in New York you ask? Here is the video of Cassandra Nelson and Donnell Cross singing on the New York stop of Common’s Let Love tour, October 2019: