This year at the 54th Annual GRAMMY Awards I was proud to see the American Roots Field represented by artists ranging from newcomers the Civil Wars to GRAMMY mainstays Alison Krauss & Union Station. Both reflected the dynamic porousness of the category with the former taking home their first GRAMMYs for Best Country Duo/Group Performance and Best Folk Album for Barton Hollow.
After making my way into the Los Angeles Convention Center I took in the local GRAMMY dud finery, from shiny sequins and silk, to tuxedos and tattoos. I was dressed for the occasion in my one-of-a-kind jacket tailored by the legendary Manuel from his shop in Nashville, so I was feeling right at home.
After taking my seat for the Pre-Telecast Ceremony, I noticed the legendary Tony Bennett a mere few rows away; I knew I had entered the realm of the cool.
The aforementioned Civil Wars were awarded for their debut album, and finally showed us why they always appear in formal wear as they were appropriately dressed to receive their two GRAMMYs. ("We're on cloud 9. Thanks to all of you!" they tweeted not long after.) Their win also won me a bet with John Paul White, the male part of the Wars, and earned me a spot in the GRAMMY history book as he mentioned our bet from the podium onstage. "I just lost a bet," White said when accepting their Best Country Duo/Group Performance award. "I bet a man a bottle of whiskey that this would not happen and he just called me for it right down there."
It was a pleasant surprise to see GRAMMY winner Steve Earle perform his solemnly soulful ode to the resiliency of post-Katrina New Orleans, "This City."
Krauss added to her prestige by winning her 27th GRAMMY, the most of any female artist, for Best Bluegrass Album with Union Station for Paper Airplane.
It was touching to see 85-year-old Bennett take the stage with Amy Winehouse's parents, Mitch and Janis, to collect their GRAMMY for Best Pop Duo/Group Performance. Mitch Winehouse ended the touching moment by adding: "Long live Whitney Houston, long live Amy Winehouse, long live Etta James … There's a beautiful girl band up there in heaven."
Then it was time to head to Staples Center and see the big show — the 54th Annual GRAMMY Awards!
Bruce Springsteen And The E Street Band opened the show with a bang with the egalitarian anthem "We Take Care Of Our Own," the first single from their recent release, Wrecking Ball. Backed by a string section, Springsteen was a blast of kinetic energy that brought the crowd to their feet early. This performance was also bittersweet as it was one of the first full E Street Band performances without Clarence Clemons. As somber as that undertone was, the Boss left us all with evidence that he's still one of the most electrifying live acts around.
Country legend Glen Campbell took to the GRAMMY stage for a performance supported by the Band Perry and Blake Shelton. Campbell, who was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease last year, is currently on his Goodbye Tour.
The Band Perry, nominees for Best New Artist, opened the tribute with their version of "Gentle On My Mind." Shelton performed a rousing verse of "Southern Nights" before introducing the man himself. Campbell was like his old self as he got the crowd on their feet with a spirited version of his hit "Rhinestone Cowboy." Even Paul McCartney pumped his fist from the front row during the performance. This year The Recording Academy recognized Campbell with a Lifetime Achievement Award.
The night was as celebratory as it was somber. Jennifer Hudson performed a touching tribute to Whitney Houston, who passed away the night before, and Adele dominated by singing her GRAMMY-winning single "Rolling In The Deep," answering all concerns of whether she'd come back with full force after having vocal-cord surgery.
These, and many other performances, proved the healing and rejoicing power of music. We are the community that gathers to honor what binds us all, regardless of genre preference.