The 37th Annual GRAMMY Awards struck a powerful and somber first note with Bruce Springsteen offering a no-frills performance of “Streets Of Philadelphia” that was true to the drama of the song itself. Written for Jonathan Demme’s film Philadelphia, the song was a sensitive and moving statement about the ravages of AIDS. By the end of this night, “Streets Of Philadelphia” would be named Song Of The Year, Best Rock Song, Best Male Rock Vocal Performance and Best Song Written Specifically For A Motion Picture Or For Television.
Springsteen handled his big night with characteristic grace and charm. “I’d like to thank all those disparaged and mysterious GRAMMY voters out there, wherever you are and whoever you are,” he said as he accepted the Song Of The Year award from George Michael and Annie Lennox, who was wearing Mickey Mouse ears. The Boss also expressed his appreciation to “the folks who’ve come up to me in restaurants and on the street who’ve lost their sons or their lovers or their friends to AIDS and said the song meant something to them.” Indeed, there were many AIDS-awareness red ribbons to be seen on the GRAMMYs this year.
Yet on this night there was also considerable levity and, lest we forget, much music. Host Paul Reiser pointed out, “We’re here to celebrate. We never go the other way. We never penalize. We never find somebody who took a good song and ruined it and drag him onstage to yell at him.”
Among those with particular reason to celebrate the 37th Annual GRAMMY Awards were Sheryl Crow who took home not just the GRAMMY Award for Best New Artist, but also Record Of The Year and Best Female Pop Vocal Performance for “All I Wanna Do.” Other important new voices were also recognized: After Henry Rollins successfully performed punk in a tuxedo, Soundgarden won Best Metal Performance for “Spoonman.” Women dominated the rap field, with Queen Latifah taking home the Best Rap Solo Performance award for “U.N.I.T.Y.,” and Salt-N-Pepa presented with the Best Rap Performance By A Duo Or A Group following a standout performance of “What A Man” and “None Of Your Business.” Future GRAMMY favorites Green Day received the Best Alternative Rock Performance award for their breakthrough album Dookie.
But in the end, the big Album Of The Year award went to one of the longest-standing and classiest acts in popular music history — Tony Bennett for his MTV Unplugged Album. Bennett seemed utterly thrilled with the recognition. “I don’t believe this,” said the excited vocal great. “This is the greatest moment in my whole musical career and the greatest moment [of] my whole life. There are no words. It’s such a victorious feeling to sing good American music and have this happen.”
Recording Academy President Michael Greene made a particularly impassioned state of the arts speech. “We are here tonight on the brink of becoming the only industrialized nation in the world with absolutely no federal support for the arts,” Greene said, sounding a warning. “We must not allow the arts to be politicized, privatized, commercialized, sanitized, neutralized or zeroed out.”
Among the others honored on this night was the man who brought the GRAMMYs to live television, and television to the GRAMMYs — Executive Producer Pierre Cossette, recognized for a quarter-century of dedicated service. Cossette’s comments were brief. “My biggest job on this show every year is to keep it moving,” he said, letting his GRAMMY team do just that.