I wrote last time that Sid and I had been nominated for a Grammy for our own children’s album, GulfAlive. Well, we went to L.A. for the Grammys and the adventure was everything we’d hoped for and more. No, we didn’t win, but we certainly felt like winners. We stayed at an elegant and historic L.A. hotel, attended three different awards ceremonies, walked the red carpet (throwing Mardi Gras beads to the paparazzi), went to a couple of fancy parties, drank lots of champagne, and, best of all, met some incredibly creative people.
While the big, televised Grammy ceremony was incredible, possibly the most impactful one for us was the Special Merit Awards Ceremony, held the day before the Grammy broadcast. It’s not only the day we received our Bronze nominee medals made by Tiffany’s, but also the most intimate day in terms of meeting people.
We sat about six rows from the stage and watched as lifetime achievement, technical and trustee awards were handed out to very deserving recipients. Glen Campbell accepted his with the help of his wife. And while his Alzheimer’s was clear to see, so was his unflagging sense of humor.
Later that evening, at the after-party, I found myself next to him at one point. I took his hand and just said “thank you for everything.” I’ll treasure that little space in time spent with the Wichita Lineman.
A host of other legends were recognized that evening, including George Jones, New Orleans’ own Dave Bartholomew, The Memphis Horns, The Allman Brothers Band, Gil Scott-Heron, sound engineer Roger Nichols and the supreme Diana Ross, among others. Unlike the traditional awards ceremony where acceptance speeches are often hurried thank you’s quickly cinched by the music police, this non-broadcast event allowed for memories to be shared, along with heartfelt reflections on lives lived and bodies of work. Diana Ross brought her entire family on stage and spoke of how they were her greatest accomplishment.
Some of the recipients were unable to attend because of illness and some were awarded posthumously. Family members or associates accepted for them, offering glimpses into who they were and what they contributed…to the industry, to their fans and to the family members who loved them as mom, dad, husband or friend. Needless to say, there were tears shed on-stage and off. We were deeply moved.
I have nothing especially insightful to offer in summary. We walked away understanding a little more that within every successful artist there is joy of creative endeavor, passion for excellence, and a person who is profoundly human. Knowing this makes the art all the richer.
The real insight may come from what happened right after the Special Merits Awards Ceremony. As everyone got up from their seats and headed for the celebrations in an adjacent reception area, they also turned their phones back on. Suddenly you could hear gasps throughout the crowd as texts popped up, one after another. All around, people looked up from their phones in shock. All these music industry professionals were learning at the same time that Whitney Houston had been found dead while we enjoyed the ceremony.. Very real and very surreal at the same time. It was a scene from an Altman movie.
Life imitates art imitates life.
Chief Imagination Officer