2/12/2012 9:54 AM
During each year’s Grammy telecast, you always see short clips of the morning’s pre-telecast awards and the previous evening’s ceremonies, called The Special Merit Awards, which honor Lifetime Achievement and Technical Grammys. This year’s event, held in the intimate and gorgeous Wilshire Ebell Theatre was a beautiful tribute to those who
deserve it, in so many ways.
The music world we know in present day seems to exist to most in organized layers of “cabledom”: the perception that MTV and other channels have always been the visual side of music is fairly common. However, during the ceremonies last night, seeing all of the night’s honorees sitting in the front rows brought back memories of the first television visualizations of those marvelous songs performed by these incredible artists.
Last night, Lifetime Achievement Awards were presented to the Allman Brothers Band, Glen Campbell, Antonio Carlos Jobim, George Jones, the Memphis Horns, Diana Ross, and Gil Scott-Heron. Those who could actually be there were, and I was particularly enamored by Glen Campbell’s grace and humor, George Jones luminescence and Diana Ross’s eternal beauty. As they all took their turns on stage, I thought about first seeing these artists on TV, when there were only the three major networks, transmitted through rabbit ears. Those weren’t the days of high-bandwidth, big screens and surround sound in your living room, but it didn’t matter, because these performers and their talent were so good that the magic came through a cathode ray tube and tiny speakers in mono with mesmerizing
clarity and depth in our minds’ eyes.
Many of today’s top music industry producers, engineers, songwriters and performers began their fascination with music in just this same way; actually seeing all of this music happen, in your living room, for the first time, was life-changing. Those intimate experiences with Diana Ross and the Supremes, their voices matched by their beautiful dresses and stage moves on the screen, were mesmerizing. Watching Glen Campbell hold those cool and coveted guitars while emoting the melodic, haunting passages of “Wichita Lineman” live, in front of us, in our own little spaces changed so many of our own personal worlds. The music we had been hearing on our RCA record players and transistor radios came alive, right in front of us, up-close and so personal, even though there millions of others out there in the world having the same experience, at the same time as we were.
So much has advanced with technology since those first days of music broadcasting on television. Tonight’s Grammys, with miraculous audio and visual production, will be stunning, for sure. That’s wonderful in its own right, coming through high-end viewing systems in our own homes. We take so much for granted in that. However, all the technology in the world can never make up for mediocrity in art. Those being honored in The Recording Academy’s Special Merit Ceremony know this well, and are transcend the commonplace in show business. As these honorees have all taken their places on the stage tonight, in front of an audience of their family and peers standing up and cheering over and over again, I know they each are thinking about how it’s all changed, and somehow remained the same. True talent trumps all else, always. —Craig Dalton