Grammys shower Ray Charles with love
LOS ANGELES (CP) – Grammy voters had Ray Charles on their mind this year, paying tribute to the late musician with awards and sonic tributes at the Grammy Awards.
Charles’s posthumous duets album Genius Loves Company, which has become the biggest seller of his storied career, took eight trophies, including the coveted album of the year and record of the year for a duet with Norah Jones.
“It just shows how wonderful music can be,” said an emotional Jones.
High profile winners included Alicia Keys with four trophies, followed by Kanye West and Usher with three apiece.
The annual show seemed to even out the playing field, with no one musician dominating the winners podium. As well, a melting pot of musical genres was showcased, with air time for Lynyrd Skynyrd-styled southern rock, Jennifer Lopez’s Latino romance, gospel-infused rap and politically charged punk rock.
“This is the best Grammys I’ve ever seen,” exclaimed U2’s Bono when he accepted one of the band’s two trophies including best rock song for Vertigo.
Charles’s presence was felt early in the show with a musical tribute by Ray-impersonator Jamie Foxx who performed Georgia On My Mind. It was followed by another epitaph at the very end by Bonnie Raitt and Billy Preston.
Dressed all in white, producer-turned-rapper West, who was the frontrunner going into the awards with 10 nominations, had the most spirited acceptance speech of the night.
“Everybody wanted to know what I’d do if I didn’t win. I guess we’ll never know,” he said, waving the golden trophy over his head. He won best rap song for Jesus Walks and best rap album for The College Dropout.
In the night’s biggest upset, West lost the best new artist category to alt-pop outfit Maroon5.
“Kanye West, I want to thank you for being unbelievable,” said frontman Adam Levine, who stopped to shake West’s hand on the way to the podium.
Backstage, Levine added: “Everyone in the room expected him to win. He deserves it as much as we do.”
Heartthrob Usher also made off with three, including one he shared with Keys for the hit song My Boo.
As expected, Green Day’s punk opera, American Idiot, snagged best rock album. The politically aware disc has catapulted the group back into the limelight. The last time the Southern California band won a Grammy was 11 years ago, when their breakout record Dookie netted them a trophy for best alternative music performance.
“Rock and roll can be dangerous and fun at the same time,” frontman Billy Joe Armstrong said accepting the award.
At a ceremony prior to the televised show at the Staples Center, Charles won best pop vocal album. He’s been on the voter radar for months, buoyed in part by his death last June at age 73 and the success of the film Ray.
His CD was also named best engineered and best surround sound album
“I thank God for giving us Ray for all those years,” said the disc’s producer Phil Ramone.
Charles’s Heaven Help Us All with Gladys Knight won best gospel performance while Here We Go Again with Jones won best pop collaboration.
“I worship him,” Jones, who also took home a trophy for her song Sunrise, gushed backstage. “I felt musically challenged sitting there with Ray Charles. He’s the best singer ever in the history of the universe.”
Backstage, Charles was on many people’s minds.
“He had the greatest God-given talent that ever lived,” said Jerry Lee Lewis, who was feted with a lifetime achievement award.
The 47th annual awards opened with a 10-minute-long number by five nominated artists: the Black Eyed Peas, Gwen Stefani (performing with Eve), Los Lonely Boys, Maroon5 and Franz Ferdinand.
As for the Canadian contingent, Toronto-born Howard Shore won another two Grammys for Lord of the Rings. The first was for best score soundtrack album for Return of the King – his third consecutive year picking up that trophy.
His other was for co-writing Annie Lennox’s Into the West, shutting out first time nominee Benoit Charest, of Montreal, who was up for best song written for a film for his work on The Triplets of Belleville.
Shore didn’t attend to accept his hardware.
Another Canadian winner was Peter Buchanan-Smith, 32, originally from Guelph, Ont. The art director, who now resides in New York, won for the packaging on Wilco’s A Ghost Is Born.
Others didn’t fare too well with Victoria-born producer David Foster losing to Victor Vanacore, who arranged Over the Rainbow, the Charles and Johnny Mathis duet. Sarah McLachlan also lost to the Charles album.
Newcomer Gretchen Wilson beat out veteran country stars Shania Twain, Alison Krauss, Loretta Lynn and Martina McBride in the best female country vocal performance category.
Twain lost her other nomination to White Stripes frontman Jack White and Lynn who collaborated on Portland Oregon.
Toronto-based Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra also lost in its category as did polka band leaders Walter Ostanek and John Gora and Gorale. Nickelback lost to Velvet Revolver while rapper k-os lost to Britney Spears, who won her first-ever Grammy for the dance track Toxic.
Beach Boy Brian Wilson beat Rush for best rock instrumental for Mrs. O’Leary’s Cow from Smile, the album he’d begun nearly 40 years ago but put on hold because of a near mental breakdown.
It was his first-ever Grammy.
“I waited 42 years for this Grammy and it was well worth the wait,” he said backstage. “I’m so thrilled to win.”
Lynn, also a sentimental favourite, won best country album for Van Lear Rose, her project with White Stripes frontman Jack White.
“You’re an American treasure,” White told Lynn, who looked resplendent in a long blue gown.
A few faces from outside the music world won awards including former U.S. president Bill Clinton for best spoken word album for his autobiography My Life and comedian Jon Stewart for best comedy album.
There are a whopping 107 Grammy categories, most of which were awarded at a three-hour ceremony prior to the televised show.
Grammy winners are determined by the U.S. recording academy’s 15,000 members based on merit, although commercial success often influences votes.
Grammys shower Ray Charles with love