By Chuck Crisafulli
When you find yourself at a single event that simultaneously celebrates the fact that Jolene can take a woman's man, the fact that Sheena is a punk rocker and the fact that it's a jolly holiday with Mary Poppins, it's a safe bet you're thick into GRAMMY Week.
There's always plenty of flash and glamour on Music's Biggest Night, but the emotional heart of the week is in the incredible career retrospectives and celebration taking place at Saturday's Special Merit Awards Ceremony & Nominees Reception, and this year three of The Recording Academy's esteemed Lifetime Achievement Awards went to an only-at-the-GRAMMYs lineup of country queen Dolly Parton, punk icons the Ramones, and nanny extraordinaire Julie Andrews. Also receiving Lifetime honors — and widening the palette of sounds being celebrated — were uniquely awesome jazz drummer Roy Haynes, folk sensations the Kingston Trio, gospel legend George Beverly Shea, and the remarkable institution of the Juilliard String Quartet.
It was amazing to consider how many years of musical talent were represented at the podium — the Juilliard Quartet alone is in its 65th year. But that number was beat single-handedly by Haynes, who took the stage looking the part of the dangerously stylish jazz cat and ended his acceptance remarks with "the limo rides, the chauffeurs drive — now that I'm 85." Even he was a kid compared to Shea, who recently celebrated his 102nd birthday. With his still-formidable baritone rumbling, Shea quipped that being among his fellow A-list honorees made him feel like "a mule entered in the Kentucky Derby. Can't do much, but look at the company I keep."
Part of what makes this event so emotional is that it's really a family atmosphere, with family members taking the stage to accept awards for deceased honorees, as was the case for the Kingston Trio, the Ramones, and Trustee Award-winning classical recording pioneer Wilma Cozart Fine. Family was also clearly on the minds of other honorees who did take the stage. The other two Trustee Award winners — soul music impresario Al Bell and venerable jazz label head Bruce Lundvall — both stated that their love for their wives and families had truly made their careers possible — with both getting visibly choked up. Joey Ramone's younger brother, Mickey Leigh, kept things a little lighter. "Who'd have ever thought the Ramones would get a GRAMMY?" he asked. "What's next — a hit record?"
The evening's final honoree to take the podium, Dame Julie Andrews, drew a roar of applause and a standing ovation, and the still-stunning actress/singer took a moment to encourage all present to eloquently spread the message of the importance of arts and music to younger generations. She also pointed out that she's not quite through with her own career: "I've had a fantastic ride, and the adventure and the journey continue."
Those words echoed a sentiment that Dolly Parton had stated a bit more plainly in her videotaped acceptance: "Thanks very much everybody, but just because you give me a Lifetime Achievement Award doesn't mean I'm gonna stop."