Rocking The Small Screen

By Ernesto Lechner

The ongoing love affair between music and American television was celebrated Thursday evening at the Wilshire Ebell Theatre in Los Angeles as part of the GRAMMY Foundation's Music Preservation Project.

Entitled "Cue The Music: A Celebration Of Music And Television," the program began on a high note. A lovingly compiled montage of television appearances by the likes of Frank Sinatra, the Beatles, Miles Davis, and Elvis Presley was exhilarating.

The message was clear: The medium that emerged as a novelty decades ago quickly became a treasure trove of images and sounds, a living encyclopedia of music and its tremendous cultural impact on generations of viewers.

It also gave us "I Got You Babe," the insanely catchy Sonny And Cher anthem, the signature track performed each night on the duo's early '70s comedy hour — performed at the Ebell with gleeful reverence by Colbie Caillat and Jason Mraz.

The collision of past glories and talented newcomers would be one of the evening's underlying themes.

Take Jorge Moreno, for instance. The Latin GRAMMY winner channeled the Afro-Cuban shenanigans of "I Love Lucy"'s Ricky Ricardo by performing a daring version of "Babalu." This wasn't a mambo-era revival, however, but rather a raucous reinvention — fiery electric guitars merging with funky polyrhythms.

Fans of "The Sopranos" rejoiced when a regal-looking Solomon Burke appeared onstage, and proceeded to belt out a reckless version of A3's "Woke Up This Morning," the show's title credits track.

A performance by young R&B diva Melanie Fiona, on the other hand, was subtle and luminous — a honey-sweet reading of "Rainbow Connection," made famous by none other than Kermit The Frog in 1979's The Muppet Movie.

Further montages of clips showcased the appearance of classical music and jazz in television. "TV smuggled the rock revolution into American homes," said George Jones, GRAMMY Foundation Board Chair, and the images of a young Michael Jackson dancing to "Thriller" reminded us all of MTV and its contribution to the ongoing TV/music revolution.

By the time that the members of the Fray took the stage, we were all on our feet, enthralled by the piano-based rock of the Denver band.

A dynamic presentation that left the capacity crowd pining for more, "Cue The Music" underscored the breadth of music as it appeared in television throughout the past six decades — and its ability to stir the soul.

(To view photos from "Cue The Music" and other GRAMMY Week events, click here.)

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