In the middle of the 27th Annual GRAMMY Awards show, the legendary conductor and composer Leonard Bernstein wonderfully captured the best of the GRAMMY spirit during his acceptance of a Lifetime Achievement Award. “I am very happy tonight for music,” he said. “And I’ll be even happier and maybe even ecstatic if tonight can be a step toward the ultimate marriage of all kinds of music, because they are all one.” As Bernstein noted, echoing a famous quote from Duke Ellington. “There is only good and there is bad.”
This would be an exceptionally good night for Tina Turner, one of the more heartening comeback stories of the ’80s. Rising to heights she had never achieved during the course of her career as the front woman of the Ike & Tina Turner Revue, Turner became a global superstar in her own right with the success of her Private Dancer album in 1984. On GRAMMY night, that comeback appeared more like a coronation, or perhaps a re-coronation, of one of music’s most royal figures. Turner’s smash “What’s Love Got To Do With It” scored awards for Record Of The Year, Song Of The Year and Best Pop Vocal Performance, Female. Turner also won the GRAMMY for Best Rock Vocal Performance, Female, for “Better Be Good To Me.”
Hosted by John Denver, the show opened with Huey Lewis & The News performing an a cappella version of Curtis Mayfield’s “It’s Alright” and then a rendition of their own smash “The Heart Of Rock And Roll,” which elevated pulse rates when dancers joined the band on stage.
The first award of the evening — for Best New Artist, presented by Ray Davies of the Kinks and performance artist Laurie Anderson — went to Cyndi Lauper, who was joined onstage for her acceptance by Hulk Hogan who was wearing a white short-sleeved tux shirt, black leather pants and a black bow tie. During her speech, Lauper, in her wonderful New York accent, expressed heartfelt thanks to the World Wrestling Federation and Capt. Lou Albano, making this a relatively rare moment of GRAMMY and WWF synergy.
Another truly ’80s moment was the nod to electronic music that found the GRAMMYs teaming up Thomas Dolby, Herbie Hancock, Howard Jones and Stevie Wonder for a medley that included Dolby’s “She Blinded Me With Science” and Hancock’s “Rockit.”
In addition to her awards, Turner also gave what was clearly one of the standout performances of the night. “She’s been described as the woman God made to show other women how to dance in high heeled shoes,” John Denver said by way of an introduction. Turner sounded and looked wonderful singing “What’s Love Got To Do With It” in a shiny red dress and ten foot hair, and the standing ovation afterward was truly thunderous. “I’ve been waiting for this opportunity for such a long time,” Turner said in accepting her first award of the night, before paraphrasing from the godfather of soul. “I feel really good.”
Yet one other act gave Turner a run for her money during the 27th Annual GRAMMY show. Introduced by Recording Academy President Michael Melvoin as “someone who’s taken the music world by storm,” Prince — a winner for Best Rock Performance By A Duo Or Group With Vocal and Best Album Of Original Score Written For A Motion Picture Or A Television Special, both for Purple Rain, and Best R&B Song for writing Chaka Khan’s “I Feel For You” — took the stage to offer a breathless and spectacular version of “Baby, I’m A Star” that saw the Artist Then Still Known As Prince exiting shirtless through the crowd. Clearly a proud father, Melvoin took a moment beforehand to note, “It gives me extra added pleasure to introduce him because my daughter Wendy is a member of [Prince’s band] the Revolution.”
After a commercial break, John Denver noted that in honor of Prince, he was wearing a purple cummerbund “hoping someone mistakes me for him. It didn’t work.”
But as brightly as Turner and Prince’s stars were shining this night, opera singer Placido Domingo, himself a double winner on the evening, pointed out the GRAMMYs’ ability to transcend trends by spotlighting less obvious stars. “The big winner today,” said Domingo in accepting the Best Opera Recording award, “is opera, because the award [is being presented] on television.”