By Jamie Harvey
What does it feel like to be influenced? I asked the night's performers and attendees this question as they walked the red carpet before the GRAMMY Foundation's 15th Annual Music Preservation Project at the Saban Theatre in Beverly Hills, Calif. on Feb. 7. Their answers were as beautiful as the songs they play and sing. The evening, deemed "Play It Forward," was a celebration of music's evolution and influencers.
"Specifically by music, when I am influenced by something, it takes over [my] body," said singer/songwriter Lianne La Havas.
Seated inside the ornate theater, songwriter and multiple GRAMMY winner Dionne Warwick sang "What The World Needs Now Is Love," written by her frequent collaborators Burt Bacharach and Hal David. Our eyes were drawn to the screen, which displayed several music family trees, outlining the roots of musicmakers through the generations from original artists to what is bearing fruit today: Billie Holiday to Alicia Keys, Leadbelly to John Mayer.
The theater was briefly converted to a gospel church as Yolanda Adams had everyone on their feet. Her impassioned performance was like watching someone find their inspiration as she sang, "I got the victory!" Her ability to be so present in the moment affected everyone watching.
Incubus' Mike Einziger and violinist Ann Marie Simpson — wielding a 1700s era Stradivarius — played bluegrass, perhaps an unlikely scenario for a rock guitarist and a classic violinist, but it showed how some things in music do not influence in ways you'd expect.
Hearing Emmylou Harris and Rodney Crowell perform "Dreaming My Dreams With You" felt completely different in contrast, but reflected the elasticity of emotion and experience that influences music. The somberness filled the room as two of classic country music's icons made us swoon.
Kenny Wayne Shepherd, with guitar in hand, steered us into a completely different sphere, as it suddenly got a lot louder. Joined by LeAnn Rimes for a smoking rendition of "Summertime," my ears perked as they truly made the song their own.
How many times have I heard that stutter? "B-B-B-B-bad" and the accompanying riff is so ubiquitous to my ears that I became giddy as George Thorogood & The Destroyers played that oh so famous song. They were then joined onstage by Shepherd for "Move It On Over."
Two of music's newest voices — both from the UK — took their turns onstage.La Havas and Ed Sheeran each performed pieces highlighting their gifted voice. Sheeran's take on Bob Dylan's "Don't Think Twice, It's All Right" had the girls in the room screaming.
The night closed out with Lupe Fiasco and Guy Sebastian changing the vibe of the room one final time as the multitude of genres represented that night made us appreciate all genres and strip away our personal preferences. For the GRAMMYs, and this night in particular, are about celebrating music's varied and meandering path through time and enduring influence.