The grunge revolution was just about to hit the music world, but the 33rd Annual GRAMMY Awards were about more than just teen spirit. Quincy Jones took home the Album Of The Year for his blockbuster Back On The Block album, while Roy Orbison posthumously won the GRAMMY for Best Pop Vocal Performance, Male, for a re-recording of his classic “Oh, Pretty Woman.” At the same time, younger artists had breakout years, including Mariah Carey, who won the Best New Artist GRAMMY as well as Best Pop Vocal Performance, Female (“Vision Of Love”), and Living Colour, who took home the GRAMMY for Best Hard Rock Performance (“Time’s Up”).
Then there’s the man who had 10 nominations for the night, ultimately winning one big award for Record Of The Year: Phil Collins for “Another Day In Paradise.” It was a good thing that the former Genesis drummer won one as he was becoming a GRAMMY fixture. In his opening monologue at Radio City Music Hall, host Garry Shandling dryly explained, “If you at home want to know, by the way, how they decide each year where to hold the GRAMMYs, it’s simply wherever Phil Collins is already performing.”
With the Persian Gulf War going on, Shandling then made his very own special contribution to the wartime effort. “This is going tonight…to our troops in the Middle East,” the host told the audience. “Fellas, we’ll try to get as many tight shots of Chynna Phillips and Mariah Carey as we can, alright? And for you women in the Gulf, of course, we have Richard Gere and myself you can look at.”
Richard Gere was indeed in attendance to emcee the Lifetime Achievement Award tribute that included Tracy Chapman playing “Imagine” at the piano and Aerosmith rocking up “Come Together” to honor John Lennon. Gere explained that Lennon was being honored “for redefining the subject matter and musical content of popular music and for his extraordinary ability as a musician, singer, songwriter, philosopher, communicator and activist for peace, love and understanding and might I say total nonviolence.” Yoko Ono accepted the award and spoke to the moment. “Pray for the safety and health of this beautiful planet,” she said. “John Lennon would have liked that.” In accepting the Song Of The Year GRAMMY for the spiritually minded “From A Distance” — which Bette Midler made a smash — songwriter Julie Gold made another memorable plea: “To the soldiers everywhere, we pray for your speedy return. We pray for peace on earth.”
You might have thought that Quincy Jones would have been used to winning GRAMMY Awards, but winning Album Of The Year clearly meant a lot to him. “I’ve been in this Academy since 1958 and this is the first time I even dared thinking about having a GRAMMY under my own name, and I’m so proud.” Jones went on to mention the age difference between himself and one of the members of Wilson Phillips, nominated in the same category along with albums by Phil Collins, Mariah Carey and MC Hammer. “When Chynna Phillips was about six months old, Jack Nicholson used to bring her around the house and now we’re in the same category,” he said with a smile. “I was about to retire.” Jones had a great night overall: In addition to Album Of The Year, he took home GRAMMYs for Best Arrangement On An Instrumental and Best Jazz Fusion Performance (“Birdland”), Best Instrumental Arrangement Accompanying Vocal (“The Places You Find Love”), and Best Rap Performance By A Duo Or Group (“Back On The Block”) and Producer Of The Year — Non-Classical.
The most eloquent words of the night actually came from Nicholson, who introduced Bob Dylan’s performance of “Masters Of War” and presented him with his Lifetime Achievement Award. Of the man he lovingly called “Uncle Bobby,” Nicholson said this: “He’s been called everything from the voice of his generation to the conscience of the world. He rejects both titles and any others that try to categorize him or analyze him. He opened the doors of pop music wider than anybody else, yet returned time and again to the simplicity of basic chords and emotions to express himself. He’s been and still is a disturber of the peace — his own as well as ours.”