The 2009 Grammys: What You Didn’t See On TV
With Alison Krauss’ five Grammys on the night, she now has an astonishing 26 total Grammy wins. It makes her the most-winning woman of all time (a title she even held before tonight’s haul) — and is one behind Quincy Jones’ living record of 27.
“I’m still amazed I get to do this for a living,” she says. (The most ever wins is 31, from the late conductor Georg Solti.) When asked where Krauss keeps all her Grammys, Plant interjected, “That’s silly. She keeps them in the back of my car.”
Backstage, Krauss, Robert Plant and T Bone Burnett were jubilant: “Yes, we’re doing another record!” Burnett yelled. Plant’s only hint was that some of the songs were in the key of E.
On a serious note, Plant says the diversity of their musical inspirations served them well. “We ostensibly come from such different places on the musical map,” Plant said. “Alison showed me so much I never been exposed to.” “There are a limited number of people who like music and the record industry got in the business of trying to sell music to everybody,” Burnett said. “We care about music, so we tried to make music we care about.”
And will Led Zeppelin tour? “How old are you, man?” Plant asked. “Because you look older than me. You try to do ‘Communication Breakdown’ in these pants.”
What does Paul McCartney think about the Beatles’ body of work? “I think it’s fine,” McCartney said backstage. Just … fine? “I’m kind of amazed we did it, because we were kids.” His most successful song, in his view? “Yesterday,” which has been covered endlessly. “I woke up one morning, and I had dreamed it,” said McCartney of writing the song. “I don’t know where it came from … I believe in magic.”
McCartney’s outfit for the Grammys was a T-shirt designed by his daughter, Stella, which will go on sale next month as a benefit for Comic Relief. It’s a photograph taken by Linda McCartney of the Beatles — except on this shirt, red clown noses have been superimposed on all of them. And McCartney stayed mum on his plans for his upcoming Coachella set, saying “I’ll play what seems right on the day. I never plan it.”
The late George Carlin’s daughter Kelly Carlin-McCall accepted a Grammy for best comedy album on behalf of her father, for “It’s Bad For Ya.” She promised to take care of the trophy better than her father did in 1972, when he won a Grammy and, “in a chemically-induced altered state, took it apart, to point that the Academy had to send him a new one.”
Gospel artist Yolanda Adams explained Aretha Franklin’s much-discussed choice of headwear for her Inauguration performance: “It is really a statement piece for us,” Adams said of the significance of a big hat. Historically, for African-American women, “Their hats were a statement of royalty,” said Adams. At church on Sundays, “They were regal … they weren’t the janitors’ assistant or the lady who scrubbed floors.”
Asked how the five-time Grammy winners Blind Boys of Alabama felt about the election of the first black president without being able to see him, Ricky McKinnie said, “The Blind Boys may have lost their sight, but we haven’t lost direction … I don’t think about it as just having an African-American president. Mr. Obama is qualified to do the job. A lot of times we weren’t the choice, but we had the ability. We’re glad that he has an opportunity to serve the country.” The winners of best traditional gospel album for “Down in New Orleans” were one of the big favorites on the red carpet, as they serenaded the press at each stop.
Whitney Houston’s performance at a Recording Academy party honoring Clive Davis was on everyone’s lips backstage. “Whitney Houston rocked the house,” said Herbie Hancock. “Whitney is back,” echoed Mary Mary’s Tina Campbell. Said Yolanda Adams, “We are constantly praying for her. My joy is that the world saw that you don’t have to stay in the shape you’re in. You can move up.”
In retrospect, They Might Be Giants’ Grammy win for best musical album for children, “Here Come the 123s,” doesn’t say much for the album’s educational value, said the band’s John Linnell. “I think kids already know numbers and letters so we weren’t teaching them anything, really,” says Linnell of the group’s first two children’s albums on Disney. TMBG’s next kids’ album will have a science theme, says Linnell, prompting the group to hire someone to fact-check the information. “We’ve got somebody else who will share responsibility for the false information that may wind up [there].”
Tia Carrere, on winning the Grammy for best Hawaiian music album: “I can’t believe I’m holding this priceless artifact [in] a $30 Bebe dress.”
Herbie Hancock’s favorite work of his so far? “The next one.” Hard to say if this means it’ll always be the next one in a theoretical sense, or if he means his current project, a global collaboration “to trace the journey of humanity from its ancestral home in Africa,” around the world, with music in different languages. We “can turn each other on to each other’s greatness,” says Hancock.
Darius “Deezle” Harrison, who co-produced Lil Wayne’s best rap song-winning “Lollipop,” countered Nas’ famous suggestion that hip-hop is dead. “People are trying to emulate what they know works,” said Harrison, but emphasized that’s nothing new. “You have people trying to copy Picasso, you have people trying to copy Van Gogh. Is painting dead? No … it is alive. It’s just taking different forms, brother.”
Chrisette Michele sang her thanks to God backstage for her Grammy win for best urban/alternative performance, for “Be OK” featuring will.i.am. “You are the source of my strength and I lift my hands in praise to you,” Michele, a deacon’s daughter, belted out. “I definitely have to do a gospel album someday,” added the singer, whose next album, “Epiphany,” is due Mar. 31.
Carrie Underwood visibly shook onstage in accepting her Grammy for best female country vocal performance for “Last Name.” Underwood says being nervous, even after having won so many awards, is a good thing. “I hope that stays around, too. If you’re nervous, it means you care.”
Gospel duo Mary Mary are coming out with a bath and body care line at Wal-Mart, an inspirational book for teenage girls, and a line of jeans “for girls with a little extra curve,” says Erica Campbell, who joined sister Tina backstage after winning a Grammy for best gospel performance. “There are so many people in jobs that suck that they hate. To be in that space and to be here winning this, it’s a great time for me.”
Duke Fakir, the surviving member of the Four Tops, confirmed that a biopic on the group is “in motion.” “The concept is there, we have the financing and all that,” says Fakir, who is also working on a new album. “By the way, it’ll be a love story of four guys, who didn’t get married, but it’s about all the trials and tribulations they [had] to stay together. That’s whey I call it a love story.”
Just because you’re famous doesn’t mean you don’t want to be infamous. 83-year-old B.B. King’s — the winner of the night for best traditional blues album for “One Kind Favor” — next goal? “I want a movie of my life of what I’ve done — and what people have said I’ve done.”
Sugarland’s Kristian Bush said he hung around Grammy rehearsals just to watch Paul McCartney practice. “He was mesmerizing — c’mon, he’s a Beatle!” he said. And bandmate Jennifer Nettles laughingly worried that they’ll never get the chance to work with him after her “psychotic” on-stage thank you.
Estelle’s hero of the night? Full-term mom-to-be M.I.A., who performed “Swagga With Us” with Jay-Z, T.I., Kanye West and Lil’ Wayne. “I was like, ‘She’s going to break any minute now,'” she said. “I have so much respect for her. I’d be like that too, to get a chance to perform with them. Broken leg? I’d be like, ‘Hang on, I’m here.'”
Katy Perry admits the banana set for her Grammy performance was her idea. She pitched it to the Grammys a year ago and was shocked when they said yes. “Really?! I can ascend from the ceiling in a banana into a clear fruit bowl of androgynous dancers?!” she laughed.
And sometimes, it is just an honor to be nominated: Jazmine Sullivan didn’t win any of her five nominations. (It’s not as bad as India.Arie, who was shut out in 2001 with seven noms.)
Recording Academy President Neil Portnow said he found out that Rihanna and Chris Brown were not performing around two on Sunday afternoon. He said heís never been faced with two cancellations on one Grammy night during his tenure. “Iím sorry they werenít there for their moments on the stage. Thatís the thing that is most unfortunate to me at the moment.”
What we didn’t see sounds much better than what we did!!
The 2009 Grammys: What You Didn’t See On TV