The ’70s would prove, among many other things, the era of the sensitive singer/songwriter, and being a great one would prove a rewarding experience at the 14th Annual GRAMMY Awards held at New York’s Felt Forum (now The Theater at Madison Square Garden). Broadcast live on ABC for the second year, and hosted again by Andy Williams, the GRAMMY Awards were dominated by a woman who was on the opposite coast with a newborn child—Carole King, who won Record Of The Year (“It’s Too Late”), Album Of The Year (Tapestry), Song Of The Year (“You’ve Got A Friend”) and Best Pop Vocal Performance, Female (Tapestry). And as if that wasn’t impressive enough, King’s “You’ve Got A Friend” also helped her friend James Taylor win Best Pop Vocal Performance, Male, while Quincy Jones won Best Pop Instrumental Performance for Smackwater Jack, named after another great song King co-wrote with early Brill Building partner and former husband Gerry Goffin.
Andy Williams started the show off by mentioning some records that were not nominated, including “Joy To The World” by Archie Bunker of “All In The Family” fame (the groundbreaking sitcom about a lovable bigot had launched in 1971), “I Am...I Said” by Richard Nixon (the Watergate scandal was just beginning to break), and “Shaft” as recorded by the James Frey of his day, Clifford Irving (Irving had published a faux “authorized” biography of recluse Howard Hughes).
Then in a nod to the show being held in such close proximity to the Great White Way, Williams introduced the cast of Godspell to perform an uplifting medley of two songs from the show: “Prepare Ye The Way Of The Lord” and “Day By Day.” In a noteworthy time capsule moment, Anthony Newley and the most musical Brady of all, Florence Henderson, presented the award for Best Score From An Original Cast Show Album, which Godspell composer Stephen Schwartz accepted in what looked very much like a denim tux.
The now late great Janis Joplin was rightly nominated for Best R&B Vocal Performance, Female, alongside Aretha Franklin, Diana Ross, Freda Payne and Jean Knight, with the Queen of Soul winning out for her stirring rendition of “Bridge Over Troubled Water.” The 5th Dimension did one of their entertaining singing presentations of the nominees, ultimately handing out the Best Pop Vocal Performance By A Duo Or Group award to the Carpenters for their self-titled 1971 album, which, in a Beatlesesque nod, became known to fans as “the tan album.”
More surprising was the usually stone-faced TV legend Ed Sullivan appearing to present the GRAMMY for Best Comedy Recording and getting a few laughs at his own expense. “I think it’s safe to say that after 23 years on television my comedy talent wasn’t obvious to anyone,” Sullivan joked. A shot of nominees Cheech & Chong in the audience in full freak regalia makes one wish they had won so that there could be a shot of them and Sullivan embracing, but the award went instead to the great Lily Tomlin (This Is A Recording) who, like a several among the night’s winners, was not present to accept. Leonard Bernstein was there to pick up a special award, but explained he had a reason to leave early. “I could go on also interminably except that I have to rush back to my television set to see West Side Story on the other channel,” Bernstein explained. “Don’t you turn that dial,” host Williams then warned with a smile after Bernstein had exited.
The night offered other pleasant surprises, including a characteristically fine performance by the Bill Evans Trio. Evans didn’t smile as he played, but broke into a grin after winning the GRAMMY for Best Jazz Performance By A Group for The Bill Evans Album—one of his two awards for the night. Williams offered a preview of the upcoming film of The Concert For Bangladesh, and later presented a Trustees Award to an absent Beatles, explaining, “They were a revelation and a revolution.”
But sometimes such absences were charming. When King won her third award for the night for Record Of The Year, Herb Alpert—presenting with Karen and Richard Carpenter—smiled and said, “Well, she had triplets.”