By Steve Baltin
The musical party that is GRAMMY Week continued Jan. 23 in Los Angeles at the Wilshire Ebell Theatre with A Song Is Born, the 16th Annual GRAMMY Foundation Legacy Concert. The event, formerly known as the Music Preservation Project, found a wide array of artists, from Goo Goo Dolls frontman John Rzeznik and the Civil Wars' Joy Williams to 2014 Recording Academy Lifetime Achievement Award recipient Kris Kristofferson and Jeff Barry, who co-wrote smashes such as "Leader Of The Pack" and "Be My Baby," celebrating songwriters.
After leading the crowd in a sing-along of several '60s hits from the songwriting factory that was the Brill Building, including "Chapel Of Love," "Sugar Sugar" and "Hanky Panky," Barry informed the enthusiastic crowd, "You are gonna see the best show ever."
Those were very lofty expectations the Songwriters Hall Of Famer set up, but the Foundation did its best to match Barry's praise. In typical GRAMMY Week fashion, there were several pairings of artists from multiple generations that had you shaking your head in disbelief, asking, "Did I really just see that?"
There were GRAMMY Moments made even before the show started, as, in the room adjacent to the courtyard that is turned into the press area, Kristofferson and GRAMMY winner Bonnie Raitt formed a dynamic duo of songwriting gold for a joint interview with members of the GRAMMY Camp Media Team, which made for an awe-inspiring moment.
Those moments continued onstage throughout the night as more magical pairings were made, like when Williams was paired with GRAMMY-nominated songwriter J.D. Souther, Dan Wilson, formerly of Semisonic and a GRAMMY winner for his work with Adele, and guitar great Waddy Wachtel. It was an unlikely but impressive quartet of talent as they stood in a line at the front of the stage harmonizing on the Eagles' "New Kid In Town," a song Souther recalled co-writing with his best friends, Don Henley and Glenn Frey.
Another triumvirate of songwriting mastery came when Rzeznik, Gavin DeGraw and Skylar Grey shared the stage for the Goo Goo Dolls' "Iris." That performance was preceded by Grey's stunning piano rendition of "Love The Way You Lie," which she co-wrote with Eminem and Alex Da Kid and garnered a GRAMMY nomination for Song Of The Year in 2010, which left even Rzeznik in awe. "That is how you write a song," he said.
One of the best parts of an event such as this is seeing musicians turn into fans. It doesn't matter how many hits you've had yourself, when Raitt is onstage pouring her heart out during "I Can't Make You Love Me," Kristofferson is singing "Me And Bobby McGee," or Valerie Simpson, of Ashford & Simpson, is leading the whole audience in a sing-along rendition of "Ain't No Mountain High Enough," the music fan in everyone is unleashed.
A celebration of songs should tap into every emotion, and the performances on this night certainly did.