GRAMMY-winning country/pop singer Patti Page died on Jan. 1 in Encinitas, Calif. A cause of death was not disclosed. She was 85. One of the preeminent female artists in the '50s, Page charted several albums on the Billboard 200, including 1956's Manhattan Tower, which peaked at No. 18. She earned 19 Top 40 hits throughout her career, including "Allegheny Moon," "Let Me Go, Lover!" and "Hush, Hush, Sweet Charlotte," all of which peaked in the Top 10. Page has been cited as the first recording artist to overdub harmony vocals onto her own lead vocal with the release of "Confess" in 1947. Page won the lone GRAMMY of her career in 1998 Best Traditional Pop Vocal Performance for Live At Carnegie Hall — The 50th Anniversary Concert. That same year, Page's "The Tennessee Waltz" was inducted into the GRAMMY Hall Of Fame. Aside from music, Page served as host of several TV shows throughout the '50s, including "The Big Record" and "The Patti Page Oldsmobile Show." Page will be honored posthumously with a Lifetime Achievement Award from The Recording Academy in February.
(In addition to the GRAMMY Awards, The Recording Academy presents Special Merit Awards recognizing contributions of significance to the recording field, including the Lifetime Achievement Award, Trustees Award and Technical GRAMMY Award. In the days leading up to the 55th GRAMMY Awards, GRAMMY.com will present the tributes to the 2013 Special Merit Awards recipients.)
For me, writing an appreciation for Patti Page could take many pages in this book, so I'll give you my abbreviated version of the respect and admiration this great singer has bred in me and countless others.
As a kid I remember loving her voice because it was smooth, ever-soothing, super-sensitive, and creatively classic. It was easy for me to fall in love with an infectious melody like the million-selling "With My Eyes Wide Open I'm Dreaming," but it was the voice of "The Singing Rage" that would make me a lifelong fan.
She did not just sing the songs. She sang them as if she wrote them, like she owned them. She gave her heart to all of her recordings and you could hear and feel it. As a young performer, she was an inspiration of mine as I worked my way to a degree at Kent State University singing in clubs, making $12 a night as a "boy singer." Patti's interpretation of a song was always something I would cling to. You could hear her passion on recordings like "Old Cape Cod," "Allegheny Moon" and "Hush, Hush, Sweet Charlotte," as well as her signature song "Tennessee Waltz," which stayed at No. 1 for 13 weeks. I was enamored when she would harmonize with her own vocals, which was a daring venture in the mid-'50s. More than a dozen of her singles became million sellers, an astounding feat. She reportedly sold more than 100 million records. Her version of the great standard "You Belong To Me" is still chilling.
Patti was a guest of mine on radio shows I've hosted over the years. Her professional attitude and friendliness are legend. Noticing a touch of jazz in some of her vocals in the latter years, I asked her about it. She not only confessed her love for jazz, but also a deep appreciation for the musicians who played it. Needless to say, her admiration for country music and music makers was endless. Her singing is unforgettable and her personal style was sparkling. She always looked like she was walking down a red carpet. She won the hearts of fans all over the world.
Patti was made aware she was receiving this award just weeks before her passing on Jan. 1, and I'm sure she was proud of the achievement and the recognition it represented. She is and always will be music royalty and will be fondly remembered forever.
(Jerry F. Sharell is a five-decade veteran of the music industry and former president & CEO of Society of Singers. He hosts "Sundays With Sinatra" on radio station KKJZ-FM in Long Beach, Calif., and hosted "Great American Songbook" on KGIL-AM in Los Angeles.)
The Recording Academy today announced its 2013 Special Merit Awards recipients. This year's Lifetime Achievement Award recipients are Glenn Gould, Charlie Haden, Lightnin' Hopkins, Carole King, Patti Page, Ravi Shankar, and the Temptations; Trustees Award honorees are Marilyn and Alan Bergman, Leonard and Phil Chess, and Alan Livingston; and Ikutaro Kakehashi and Dave Smith, and Royer Labs are Technical GRAMMY Award recipients.
A special invitation-only ceremony will be held during GRAMMY Week on Feb. 9, 2013, and a formal acknowledgment will be made during the 55th Annual GRAMMY Awards telecast, which will be held at Staples Center in Los Angeles on Sunday, Feb. 10, 2013, and broadcast live at 8 p.m. ET/PT on the CBS Television Network.
"Each year, The Academy has the distinct privilege of honoring those who have greatly contributed to our industry and cultural heritage, and this year we have a gifted and brilliant group of honorees," said Neil Portnow, President/CEO of The Recording Academy. "Their exceptional accomplishments, contributions and artistry will continue to influence and inspire generations to come."
The Lifetime Achievement Award honors performers who have made contributions of outstanding artistic significance to the field of recording while the Trustees Award recognizes such contributions in areas other than performance. Both awards are determined by vote of The Recording Academy's National Board of Trustees. Technical GRAMMY Award recipients are determined by vote of The Academy's Producers & Engineers Wing Advisory Council and Chapter Committees, as well as The Academy's Trustees. The award is presented to individuals and companies who have made contributions of outstanding technical significance to the recording field.
By Fernando Gonzalez
The GRAMMY Awards may get far more attention, but no event during GRAMMY Week is more significant or heartfelt than The Recording Academy's Special Merit Awards Ceremony. Taking place at the Wilshire Ebell Theatre on Feb. 9, the ceremony recognized artists, technical professionals and executives who have made significant contributions to our culture in general and the music industry in particular.
Citing remarks once made by Bono at this event, Recording Academy President/CEO Neil Portnow said, "This is the heart and soul of the Academy." And it felt that way.
This year's selections for the Lifetime Achievement Award, which honors performers, covered a broad spectrum of music styles, including pianist Glenn Gould, jazz bassist and bandleader Charlie Haden, Texas blues legend Lightnin' Hopkins, singer/songwriter Carole King, pop/country singer Patti Page, sitar master Ravi Shankar, and R&B group the Temptations.
The honorees of the Trustees Award, which recognizes individuals who have made significant contributions to the industry, other than performance, were songwriters Marilyn and Alan Bergman, Chess records co-founders Leonard and Phil Chess, and executive Alan Livingston. The Technical GRAMMY Award recipients were MIDI founders Ikutaro Kakehashi and Dave Smith and renown ribbon microphone manufacturer Royer Labs.
"We say if there is a dry eye in the house at the end we haven't done a good job," said Portnow, invoking a laugh from the audience. But there were many touching moments.
For example, the soft-spoken Haden helped himself to the stage with a cane. Haden is battling an onset of post-polio syndrome, an illness he suffered from as teenager that unexpectedly returned in 2010. But that didn't stop him from talking about the beauty of making music.
Anoushka Shankar and Norah Jones spoke with humor and reverence for their father, Ravi Shankar, who passed away in December 2012.
"Someone was talking today about music for fun or getting laid," said Shankar. "Well, as many women are fond of telling me, he did a lot of that. But [he] was all about music."
And the evening only got better as everyone had a favorite moment to share or a reason to celebrate. Lightnin' Hopkins' granddaughter recalled how her grandfather would call himself Po' Lightnin'; the Bergmans were celebrating 55 years of marriage; and Carole King's daughters Louise Goffin and Sherry Kondor made a video of the audience wishing their mother, who is on tour in Australia, a happy birthday. King also sent a touching message via video.
There were also intriguing twists. As it turns out, Gould gave his last public performance at age 31 at this very same theater on April 10, 1964.
It all culminated with the Temptations, with the son of the late Melvin Franklin, Niquos Franklin, wishing the audience a "merry Christmas from the Temptations," with his father's signature deep baritone
For music lovers, it was Christmas in February.
What can we learn from an artist's first album? In the case of singer/songwriter Elvis Costello, as it turns out, quite a bit.
He recorded his debut album, My Aim Is True, for a cost of £2,000 in only 24 hours, leveraging his sick days and holidays from his job as a computer operator. On paper, it was not an auspicious start.
My Aim Is True arrived in 1977 while music was in the midst of a punk-rock revolution courtesy of the Clash, Sex Pistols, and Ramones, but Costello borrowed from a different wellspring.
The son of a musician, the Englishman poured more material into his debut than his pigeonholed "new wave" label could hold, and he's spent the next 40 years revealing the seemingly endless depth of influence his music has conjured.
By 2007, My Aim Is True was inducted into the GRAMMY Hall Of Fame in recognition of its standing as one of rock and roll's greatest recordings.
With that in mind, and in celebration of the 40th anniversary of the classic album's original U.K. release, here are five moments on My Aim Is True — and select tracks left from its cutting-room floor — that set the tone for Costello's prolific career.
The first 14 seconds of pleasure in "Welcome To The Working Week"
In the first line of the first song of his first album, Costello came out swinging with a crafty musical and irreverent lyrical phrase that landed a stiff punch: "Now that your picture's in the paper being rhythmically admired/And you can have anyone that you have ever desired."
The dreamlike reverie album opening paints a crude picture of fame and privilege before jolting it all back into the blue-collar worker's harsh reality.
Just 14 seconds into "Welcome To The Working Week," Costello demonstrates the genius and snarl he's capable of: a gorgeous key-borrowing modulation (tossing in a "II major" chord for those theory types keeping score at home) under a sly, taboo lyrical reference turned into a snarl of "why, why, why, why."
Costello would incorporate these devices in many of his greatest songs throughout his career, from the delicately intricate "Almost Blue" to the venomous "20% Amnesia" and everywhere in between.
A dark take on tenderness in "Alison"
The lone ballad on an album known for its wound-up velocity, "Alison" has somewhat ironically become My Aim Is True's most enduring song.
In both construction and execution, "Alison" is as unsettling as it is graceful. The song provided a glimpse of Costello's harmonic touch, lucid vocal delivery and artistic range that teased a bevy of beautiful ballads to come, including "Shipbuilding, "Favourite Hour" and "I Want To Vanish," each with its own searing streak of darkness.
While "Alison" never charted for Costello, it did for Linda Ronstadt, who recorded a trifecta of Costello songs for her 1980 album, Mad Love, including "Girls Talk," "Party Girl" and "Talking In The Dark." Over the years, he's would also be covered by Aimee Mann, Johnny Cash, Fiona Apple, and his wife, Diana Krall, to name a few.
Calling Mr. Oswald on "Less Than Zero"
At 22 years old, Costello demonstrated a sharp social consciousness. "Less Than Zero" took on a former British fascist leader, Oswald Mosley, who had re-emerged in British media to try and clear his name. According to Costello, "The song was more of a slandering fantasy than a reasoned argument."
But the track's passion and anger were very real. "Less Than Zero" itself became a pawn in a different sort of protest match when Costello lashed out against the imposed constraints of corporate controlled broadcasting, stopping a performance of the song mid-verse on live TV in favor of a blistering version of another statement song, "Radio Radio." The stunt resulted in a ban from "Saturday Night Live," the show where the whole fiasco went down.
Sinister imagery and the genius of Steve Nieve on "Watching The Detectives"
Although not included in the original album release in the U.K., "Watching The Detectives" was added to the U.S. release of My Aim Is True. Producer Nick Lowe, an influential artist/songwriter in his own right, went with a different rhythm section for "… Detectives," calling upon the aptly named young classical keyboardist, Steve Nieve.
The signature organ parts and eerie sounds Nieve added to the song were tip of the iceberg to the dressing he lavished on subsequent Costello numbers such as "Shot With His Own Gun" and the mad and moody masterpiece, "I Want You."
In his GRAMMY-nominated 2015 autobiography, Unfaithful Music & Disappearing Ink, Costello attributed the inspiration for "… Detectives" to a cinematic influence: the noir films based on Raymond Chandler stories, especially 1944's Double Indemnity.
"The shorthand of cinematic directions in 'Watching The Detectives' lyrics came pretty easily after memorizing all those films," Costello explains.
The country song that didn't make the album, but surfaced later
One of only three outtakes from the My Aim Is True sessions, "Stranger In the House" never had a chance at making the cut. According to the Costello-penned liner notes for the album's 1993 Rykodisc re-release, "The inclusion of a 'country song' was thought to be commercial suicide in 1977."
But the echoes of "Stranger …" refused to fade. Costello's country hero, George Jones, recorded a cover in 1979, on which Costello guested. Costello's version of the song appeared later on a 1980 B-sides collection, Ten Bloody Marys & Ten How's Your Fathers.
Costello's knack for collaboration and genre dexterity have served him well throughout his career, as he recorded full albums with a variety of musicians and styles, including classically trained mezzo-soprano Anne Sofie von Otter, R&B legend Allen Toussaint and songwriting mastermind Burt Bacharach. (Not to mention the fabled co-writing he did with Paul McCartney).