By Chuck Crisafulli
Spirits run high all throughout GRAMMY Week, but perhaps emotions are sweetest and deepest at the Special Merit Awards Ceremony & Nominees Reception. The GRAMMY Awards on Sunday will rightfully honor particular musical brilliance from the preceding year, but on Jan. 25 at the Wilshire Ebell Theatre in Los Angeles a group of exceptional artists and trailblazing innovators were recognized for their extraordinary achievements.
Below is a list of the top moments and quotes from the 2014 Special Merit Awards Ceremony that are sure to make you laugh, or cry — or both.
"I'm prone to emotional breakdowns at any time, that's your only warning," said Kent Knappenberger, the first-ever recipient of The Recording Academy and GRAMMY Foundation's Music Educator Award. "Music is a reminder of who we are, and an expression of who we'd like to be. Thank you for honoring and encouraging those of us on the front lines of music education."
Oliver Berliner, grandson of inventor Emile Berliner, who received the Technical GRAMMY Award, framed his grandfather's achievements this way: "What did my grandfather and his invention do? It created the record industry. That's why we're all here."
Photographer Amelia Davis accepted the Trustees Award for her late friend and fellow photographer Jim Marshall. "Jim was a really difficult human," she said. "You either loved him or hated him. As he used to say himself, if he loved you, he'd lay down in front of a truck for you. If he hated you, he'd be driving the truck that would run you down. But friend or enemy, everyone could agree that he was a genius."
Ralf Hütter of Lifetime Achievement Award recipients Kraftwerk used some of the band's lyrics to "The Robots" to accept their award: "We're charging our battery/And now we're full of energy/We're functioning automatic/And we are dancing mechanic/We are programmed just to do/Anything you want us to/We are the robots. Thank you."
Ernie Isley was coaxed to the microphone by brother Ronald Isley to accept the Isley Brothers' Lifetime Achievement Award. Ernie Isley couldn't speak until a hug from Ronald gave him the strength to continue: "I want to thank our parents, and the hand of divine providence that gave us such longevity. Not everybody gets that. And I want to thank Neil Portnow for a phone call that now I wish I had recorded."
Lifetime Achievement Award recipient Kris Kristofferson kept his acceptance short and sweet: "I can't say that I'm not moved, but I can say that I can't think of anything to say. The only thing I remember well these days is my wife, my kids and my songs. It means more than I can say that you would even think I deserve this award, so I better get off before I say something really stupid."
Ringo Starr received a rousing standing ovation accepting on behalf of the Beatles: "It's a Lifetime Achievement Award but I happen to think we've got a lot more life left in us." Earlier on the red carpet, Starr remarked that he preferred to think of it as a "Longtime Achievement Award."
Yoko Ono, who was there to accept on behalf of her late husband John Lennon, said, "I'm here today because I think John would want me to be here. … Now the Beatles music is waiting and ready to go to planets all over the universe. I'm very excited about that."
Olivia Harrison, the late George Harrison's wife, said, "Here's something you probably know: George was my favorite Beatle." Then, becoming very emotional, she continued, "But here's something you might not know. Aside from their music — as people — they are the most supportive and generous friends in my life. The Beatles are extraordinary people, and I'm thankful to be part of this extraordinary family."
As the event came to a close, Ono snuck back to the mike one more time to address the crowd: "Can I just say that I love you? I love you."
But, insisting on the last word, Starr jumped to the mike and added: "I really want to say thank you. So, thank you."
(Additional 2014 Special Merit Award honorees included zydeco king Clifton Chenier, Mexico-born singer/songwriter Armando Manzanero and American violinist Maud Powell, who received Lifetime Achievement Awards, and composer Ennio Morricone and producer Rick Hall, who were honored with Trustees Award. Audio manufacturer Lexicon received the Technical GRAMMY Award.)