By: Michael Howlett
March 13, 2013
I watched the Grammys a few weeks ago, not because I was anxious see all my favorite performers, rather to see which no-talent piles of mucus would be treated as if they had performed an opus that would stand the test of time. They were in abundance, the no-talent piles of mucus, that is.
Apparently, the voters who award the Grammys are a tone-death, oatmeal-for-brains, creativity-hating bunch of money-changers who look at one thing – sales. Real talent does get nominated at times, but 99.99 percent of the time, the most inane, common, piece of garbage wins. Now, you may say, “Dear sir, could you please present some samples of the Grammys’ shortcomings?” And I would say, “You bet your Stratocaster I can!” Sorry, for yelling.
Okay, let’s look at the biggest winners in Grammy history. The top dog, the big cheese, the wunderkind of the wand is Sir Georg Solti, who won 31 of the buggers. Now, Georg won all his for classical music, which I appreciate once every six years. It’s a personal rule. So, forget the classical music category because homey don’t play that game.
High on the list of all-time Grammy winners are U2 with 22 awards, Kanye West with 21, and Jay Z and Beyonce’ with 17 apiece. Then we have newcomers like John Legend who has won nine Grammys since 2005 and Taylor Swift who has won seven since 2009. Incredible. Swift writes a song about dropping ice cream on her favorite dress and the Grammys bestow an award on her, while Beyonce’ wins, I can only assume, because she’s attractive and is willing to show off her best assets. Those assets are not talent, by the way.
The Grammys have chosen to honor deserving talent, after all Stevie Wonder has won 22 awards, Bruce Springsteen has won 20, Aretha Franklin has won 18, Eric Clapton and Ray Charles 17 each and B.B. King has won 15. These totals may sound good, but there are misleading. Did Clapton, as leader of Derek and the Dominos, win for “Layla” in 1972? No, he won for “Tears in Heaven” in 1990. And how about the three great bands -The Yardbirds, Cream and Blind Faith – that are part of Clapton’s legacy? Did they win any Grammys? No. Quick quiz, what two other guitar greats played with The Yardbirds?
On to Springsteen, whose 1975 release “Born to Run” is one of the greatest albums in the history of rock music. “Born to Run,” “Thunder Road” and “Jungleland” are tributes to not only great music but great lyrics. In 1982, Springsteen released “Nebraska,” a dark album that deals with the challenges of ordinary, blue collar people facing difficult times. Although some of his previous albums had offered some salvation, there is none in “Nebraska,” which is a bleak, but beautifully written masterpiece. Of course, Springsteen didn’t win a Grammy until 1984.
Before I unleash my final tirade, let me just give you a short list of groups who have never won a Grammy – Led Zeppelin, Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, The Who, Credence Clearwater Revival, The Animals, The Band, The Kinks, The Doors, The Byrds and Queen. Yet, Michael Bolton has won two and Madonna seven. Methinks bozos abound.
Now, I don’t have time to list every injustice inflicted by the Grammy people, so I’ll just turn to the three that really, really get me steamed. Neil Young and The Rolling Stones have each won … get ready for it, one Grammy apiece. Young won in 2010 and The Stones in 1995.
Young is a brilliant songwriter; weaving imaginary with intelligent lyrics on the personal side of life as well as justified criticism of our government’s shortcomings over almost 50 years. Although Young’s lyrics are the bedrock for his status as one of rock’s greatest, he can blow the roof off when he wants to. I put Young and Springsteen neck-and-neck as music’s second-best lyricist. You shouldn’t even have to ask who number one is.
What can I say about The Stones, “The World’s Greatest Rock n’ Roll Band?” The Stones put together a run of excellence from 1968 to 1972 with “Beggars Banquet,” “Let It Bleed,” “Sticky Fingers” and “Exile on Main St.” which will never be matched. Although there have been a few misses during The Stones’ 50-year run, they still sell out arenas, still out-rock 20 year olds and still influence legions of young musicians to aspire to be the best. No rocker has ever matched the stage presence of Mick Jagger and no guitar player can out-riff Keith Richards. The Glimmer Twins turn 70 this year, but considering Jagger’s penchant for staying in shape and Richards’ apparently immunity to all drugs and diseases, they could be rockin’ for another 20 years. Hell, they might even win a second Grammy.
Despite receiving eight Grammys, my all-time favorite performer has been shortchanged. Bob Dylan, who is without a doubt the greatest lyricist who has ever penned a song, has changed music more than any other artist, starting with his protest music of the 1960s. He has since explored virtually every type of musical genre during his five-decade career. The Grammys finally gave Dylan his first award in 1979 for “Gotta Serve Somebody.” It took 15 years for him to get another one. However, during a time when Dylan’s music was changing a nation, enlightening the minds of young people and bringing to light the malfeasance of our government, the Grammys ignored him. No Grammy for “Blowin’ In the Wind,” no Grammy for “Masters of War,” no Grammy for “The Times They Are a-Changin,” no Grammy for “Like A Rolling Stone,” no Grammy for “Desolation Row.” As far as I’m concerned, Dylan should have at least 50 Grammys by now.
Now, I know some younger readers may think I’m an old fart who never listens to any music that doesn’t fit into the classic rock category. True, most of my listening and viewing pressure comes from that era. But I also enjoy hearing new groups who show the creativity that most music today lacks. Old Crow Medicine Show, The Lumineers, Alabama Shakes and a genious named Jack White are all outstanding. And there’s nary a 40-year-old, much less a 60-year-old, among them. I have yet to see Alabama Shakes, but I have seen the other two in concert, and they are worth it. In fact, The Lumineers and Alabama Shakes were each nominated for an award in the recent Grammys. They didn’t win, but, who knows, in another 20 years the Grammys might finally recognize their talent.