By Paul Grein
The Recording Academy's Special Merit Awards Ceremony was especially heartfelt this year, a reflection on the mortality of several of the honorees. Glen Campbell, who received a Lifetime Achievement Award, was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease in 2011. Three of the recipients died last year: Gil Scott-Heron, who received a Lifetime Achievement Award; Steve Jobs, who received a Trustees Award; and engineer Roger Nichols, who received a Technical GRAMMY Award.
"Hallelujah!" exclaimed Diana Ross, striking a personal note in accepting her Lifetime Achievement Award. "Lifetime Achievement?" she mused. "To me, my lifetime achievement are my children," pointing to her three daughters, two sons and first grandson, who joined her onstage.
Campbell let his wife, Kimberly, offer most of his thank yous, but he did single out the songwriter who gave him "By The Time I Get To Phoenix," "Wichita Lineman" and "Galveston." "I probably wouldn't be here today if it weren't for Jimmy Webb," he said. Campbell was an in-demand Los Angeles session guitarist before he became a country crossover star. In 1969 he became the first country artist to win a GRAMMY for Album Of The Year.
The Lifetime Achievement Award to the Allman Brothers Band was accepted by eight past or present members of the legendary Southern rock group: Gregg Allman, Oteil Burbridge, Warren Haynes, Jaimoe, Chuck Leavell, Mark Quinones, and Butch and Derek Trucks, as well as representatives on behalf of the late Duane Allman and Berry Oakley.
Jaimoe told a funny story about how he came to join the band when he was just 16. "When I met Duane, I was on my way to New York to become a jazz musician and starve to death," he said. "But Charles Otis, who was a friend of mine, always said, 'If you wanna make some money, go play with the white boys.' So I forgot about going to become a jazz musician."
Derek Trucks noted that when the band was founded, "it took balls of steel" to have an interracial rock playing "the chitlin' circuit." Butch Trucks said simply, "Thank you, Duane, for giving me my life."
Scott-Heron was cited for his social commentary and influential role in the development of rap and hip-hop. He died last May, and his Lifetime Achievement Award was accepted by his four children. Daughter Raquiyah Kelly Heron said she thought her father "would be tickled pink" by the award. But she added, "I'm kind of glad it's not televised. He would have probably said something and gotten CBS fined."
George Jones was cited for a career that started with his first album in 1957. Jones has won two GRAMMYs, including one for the all-time country classic "He Stopped Loving Her Today." Like several of the other honorees, Jones primarily thanked his fans "for making my career successful."
The Memphis Horns (trumpeter Wayne Jackson and tenor saxophonist Andrew Love) played on countless hits on Stax Records and Hi Records in the '60s and '70s, as well as sessions for everyone from Neil Diamond to Bonnie Raitt. "It's been a dance of love between me and that trumpet," said Jackson, who singled out Jerry Wexler for his help.
Antonio Carlos Jobim spearheaded the bossa nova sound that swept the globe in the '60s. His Lifetime Achievement Award was accepted by his widow, Ana. Jobim died in 1994.
This marks the second time Jobs' work has been honored by The Academy. He was a co-founder of Apple Computer Inc., which received a Technical GRAMMY Award in 2002. His continuing contributions led to this personal acknowledgement for the visionary, who died last October. Jobs' Trustees Award was accepted by Eddy Cue, Apple's senior vice president of Internet software and services, who made note of Jobs' love of music.
"Music shaped his life and made him who he was," said Cue. "When he introduced the iPod in 2001, people asked, 'Why are you doing this?' He said, 'We love music and it's always good to do something you love.'"
Dave Bartholomew is a musician, bandleader, composer and arranger, best known for his work with Fats Domino, who received a Lifetime Achievement Award in 1987. Bartholomew wasn't able to accept his Trustees Award in person, so it was accepted by his two sons.
Engineer Rudy Van Gelder has recorded thousands of jazz sessions, including classic albums for Blue Note Records by Thelonious Monk, Sonny Rollins and John Coltrane. His Trustees Award was accepted by pianist/composer Cecilia Coleman.
Audio engineer Nichols won six GRAMMYs for his work with Steely Dan and a seventh for his work with John Denver. He also worked a span of artists including Crosby, Stills & Nash to Cher. His Technical GRAMMY Award was accepted by his widow and two daughters.
The German-based company Celemony also received a Technical GRAMMY Award. The company specializes in the digital audio pitch-correction software known as Melodyne. Founded in 2000, the company has just 20 employees, which prompted co-founder Peter Neubacker, to say, "Our company is the smallest ever to win a Technical GRAMMY — and also the strangest."