There was no sign declaring “Check Your Ego At The Door” before the 28th Annual GRAMMY Awards ceremony, but USA For Africa, the historic all-star benefit for African relief, enjoyed Record Of The Year, Song Of The Year, Best Pop Performance By A Duo Or Group With Vocal and Best Music Video, Short Form, awards for “We Are The World.” However, this wide-ranging GRAMMY show began on a different, more somber musical and political note with Sting appearing in a tux before an orchestra to perform his Cold War commentary “Russians,” complete with its famous lyric, “I hope the Russians love their children too.”
Host Kenny Rogers, turning out in a rhinestone tux, noted that the past year wasn’t the first time the music industry had expressed its social conscience, before introducing a performance by one of the artists who ruled the mid-’80s, Phil Collins. Soon after, James Taylor and Linda Ronstadt presented Collins with the GRAMMY Award for Best Pop Vocal Performance, Male, for his No Jacket Required album. Collins’ other awards for the night were Album Of The Year and Producer Of The Year (with his then collaborator Hugh Padgham). Then Dionne Warwick — along with Julian Lennon — presented the Best Pop Vocal Performance, Female, to her niece Whitney Houston for “Saving All My Love For You.”
Accepting the Song Of The Year, reigning King of Pop Michael Jackson struck a grand note, saying, “I’d like to thank God…for choosing [co-writer] Lionel [Richie] and I to write ‘We Are the World.’”
Barbra Streisand offered a heartfelt presentation of a posthumous Trustees Award to the legendary songwriting team of George and Ira Gershwin. “Like the love in the last song they ever wrote together, their music is definitely here to stay,” Streisand noted, before Ira Gershwin’s widow, Leonore, graciously accepted the award.
Ronnie Milsap’s big country hit “Lost In The Fifties Tonight (In The Still Of The Night)” — which would win the GRAMMY for Best Country Vocal Performance, Male — became the jumping off point for an ambitious ’50s medley that featured Milsap, Fred Parris and the Five Satins, Carl Perkins and Huey Lewis & The News.
A salute to the Rolling Stones began with Kenny Rogers singing their praises, saying “They set a tone for rock music for the next generation that made it okay to play from your heart...and sometimes even lower.” Then Eric Clapton appeared via satellite with the Stones from the Roof Garden Club in London. “As far as I’m concerned, they are what rock and roll is all about — toughness and relentless to the very end,” Clapton said. Slowhand then presented the band with the Lifetime Achievement Award, noting they were “the most volatile and intact rock group to survive the ’60s. The band seemed to be having a very good night indeed, and Mick Jagger offered these words: “I’d like to say thank you to all the people that have stuck by this band through thick and thin. And to all the people that took the piss, the joke’s on you.”
The final award of the evening was Record Of The Year, and in accepting for “We Are The World,” producer Quincy Jones made reference to that famous “Check Your Ego At The Door” sign outside the recording sessions for the song. “It was never necessary,” Jones said warmly. And then he set the stage for many more such high-minded musical efforts in the future, saying, “I hope it becomes fashionable.”