Monday, February 13, 2012

Some Post-Grammy Thoughts

Before getting to far in to this piece, I must confess that I didn't watch that much of the Grammy Awards telecast last night.  It may not be a popular opinion, but I find the Grammy show can be a very long and drawn out affair, much like the Oscars.  There was a lot of great music that was recognized last night in all genres, and for the most part, I would say the Academy got it right.  With Adele's win in the all-encompassing Record of the Year category, is a great achievement for one of the truly great and unique artists to have come along in quite some time.

I would be remiss if I didn't say congratulations to The Civil Wars for their two big wins last night in the Best Country Duo/Group Performance category and Best Folk Album category for Barton Hollow.  For anyone who has heard this album or watched the duo of Joy Williams and John Paul White perform, the first two major awards of their career will come as no surprise.  For those of you who haven't heard about them until this point, get ready.  The Civil Wars are on the verge of something huge.  Their music is about to get mainstream exposure, as fellow Grammy winner and worldwide superstar Taylor Swift has them on board her next single.  "Safe and Sound" appears on The Hunger Games soundtrack and is produced by the one and only T Bone Burnett.  Say what you want about Taylor, but she loves great music when she hears it and doesn't worry about what others think.  I think that's a wonderful trait to have.  

One of the portions of the show I did see made me really smile.  Growing up, I had a steady diet of Waylon Jennings, George Jones, Tammy Wynette, Conway Twitty, Loretta Lynn, Willie Nelson, and one unbelievably talented multi-instrumentalist from Arkansas named Glen Campbell.  Glen's musical influence has been well documented, from his beginnings on The Smothers Brothers Show to The Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour, to his movie appearances and career renaissance in the mid to late 1980's, Campbell's mark on the musical landscape is prominent.  No less than the great Keith Urban cites Glen Campbell as one of his major influences, as well as other guitar greats as Steve Wariner, Vince Gill and Brad Paisley.  It was  a great joy watching the Grammy tribute during last nights awards show honoring Glen Campbell with a Lifetime Achievement award.  The Band Perry and Blake Shelton paid wonderful homage to this music legend, but it was Glen himself that stole the show.  Recently diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease but still able to perform, Glen is on his farewell tour.  It is nice to see organizations such as the Grammy's devoting time during their telecasts to honor a great legend such as Glen Campbell while he's still alive and can appreciate and even participate in the performance.  Watching the reaction from the Grammy audience, filled with other legends like Joe Walsh, Bruce Springsteen and Paul McCartney standing up and dancing to Glen's performance of his signature hit "Rhinestone Cowboy", showed Glen how much he is admired, respected and loved among his peers.  And trust me folks, Glen Campbell showed everyone he can still sing and perform, as he still exhibits the confidence and stage presence of a true music veteran.  For me, it was one of those moments that just made me smile and smile.  It gave me that feeling I always get that reminds me of why I love music so much.  

Of course, the Grammy awards had a shadow cast upon itself with the news that one of the great artists and vocalists of our time passed away the day before.  Whitney Houston is another artist that I recall from my youth and while I was not a particularly big fan of her music, the talent that existed could never be denied.  I was a country boy and she was decidedly pop, so I didn't really follow her early material.  That changed considerably when I heard her version of the Dolly Parton classic that would go on to become Whitney Houston's (and Dolly Parton's, for that matter) biggest hit.  "I Will Always Love You" had been a number one hit for Dolly on two separate occasions in 1974 and 1982, but the version recorded for The Bodyguard soundtrack by Whitney Houston, would sit atop the Billboard Hot 100 chart for 14 weeks.  I can still remember where I was and what I was doing when I first heard the opening notes of Whitney's version, it was that powerful to me.  It's funny though, I had to convince the company I was with at the time that Whitney's was not the original version of that song, but that's beside the point.

I always find it a real tragedy when people who possess such a great gift, such great talent  cannot seem to harness or handle the stardom that sometimes accompanies such greatness.  I have no doubt that many of the artists who have passed before their time had dreams of performing on stage before thousands of adoring people.  But I wonder if those artists were truly equipped to handle that lifestyle.  The pressures of essentially being your "business" in every sense of the word and having employees keeping their job based on your success has got to be immense.  Compound that with a lack of the proper support network, both personally and professionally, and you have a recipe for disaster.  For every George Jones and yes, Glen Campbell, who have been able to keep addictions at bay which enabled them to have long, storied careers, there are an equal amount who have not been successful.  Elvis Presley, Jim Morrison and Janis Joplin come to mind.  Another recent example is the all-to-soon passing of Amy Winehouse, an artist who's best days and most creative time was still ahead of her, but could not break free of the personal demons that led to her untimely death.

It all seems so preventable, yet it sadly happens a thousand times a day.  We just hear about it more when a celebrity passes on in such mortal circumstances.  The lesson for all of us, if we're to take a lesson away, I believe is for us to take care of ourselves.  Take care of our loved ones. Be good.  And above all if and when you make a list of those that you love and value in your life, make sure your own name appears prominently on that list.