(For a complete list of 54th GRAMMY Awards nominees, click here.)
For the fourth consecutive year, Clive Davis and The Recording Academy will present the annual Pre-GRAMMY Gala on Saturday, Feb. 11 at the Beverly Hilton in Beverly Hills, Calif., the evening before the 54th Annual GRAMMY Awards. Sponsored by Harman, Hilton Hotels & Resorts, Hyundai, and MasterCard Worldwide, this exclusive, star-studded celebration will feature special musical performances and will be attended by the world's most renowned artists and top industry VIPs in music, film, television, and new media.
As part of the evening's celebration, the 2012 GRAMMY Salute To Industry Icons will honor Virgin Group founder Sir Richard Branson. The Recording Academy will present Branson with the President's Merit Award in recognition of his significant contributions to the music industry and the impact his efforts have had on music and the business of music. Past recipients of the GRAMMY Salute To Industry Icons President's Merit Award include Herb Alpert and Jerry Moss, Clive Davis, Ahmet Ertegun, David Geffen, Berry Gordy, Doug Morris, and Mo Ostin.
"The Pre-GRAMMY Gala is a special night, with the legendary Clive Davis hosting an exclusive evening of music, memorable performances and stories — the perfect precursor to Music's Biggest Night," said Neil Portnow, President/CEO of The Recording Academy. "This year we are thrilled to honor extraordinary entrepreneur Sir Richard Branson, whose contributions to the music industry began with a record store in London and grew into a global empire. His iconic Virgin brand is synonymous with excellence and continues to draw consumers on numerous platforms from around the world."
Born in England, Branson entered the music industry when he opened a record shop in London called Virgin Records and Tapes, giving birth to the Virgin brand. Soon after, he founded Virgin Records with Nik Powell. The label garnered unprecedented acclaim with its first release: multi-instrumentalist Mike Oldfield's progressive rock album Tubular Bells. Other artists signed to the label over the next 20 years would include Culture Club, Devo, Genesis, Janet Jackson, Lenny Kravitz, Roy Orbison, the Rolling Stones, Sex Pistols, the Smashing Pumpkins, and many more. In 1992 Branson sold Virgin Records to EMI Music, but later re-entered the music industry with V2 Records in 1996, which he later sold to Universal Music Group in 2007.
With locations spanning the United States and Europe, the Virgin Megastores chain of record stores drove the music retailing business for many years across the globe. Other entrepreneurial ventures under the Virgin Group umbrella include Virgin Atlantic, Virgin Australia and Virgin America airlines, and telecommunications company Virgin Mobile. Branson was at the forefront of live music festivals, founding England's V Festival and Virgin Mobile Freefest, a free U.S. music festival that raises money for RE*Generation, a Virgin Mobile initiative combating youth homelessness.
Branson has made many notable philanthropic contributions throughout his entrepreneurial career. Virgin Unite is his nonprofit organization dedicated to using global leadership to address conflict, climate change and disease. The Elders is an initiative he founded in 2007 with Peter Gabriel, Graça Machel, and Nelson Mandela, addressing global issues such as health and gender equality. The Carbon War Room is an initiative that Branson founded to scale energy efficiency activity to deliver a profitable lower carbon economy. In 2009 Virgin America became the first U.S. airline to join the Climate Registry, publishing its first annual climate report and committing to reporting its emissions. In 1999 Branson was knighted for services in entrepreneurship.
Davis began his career at Columbia Records where he was appointed president in 1967 and signed such legendary rock artists as Janis Joplin; Santana; Blood, Sweat & Tears; Bruce Springsteen; Aerosmith; Chicago; Loggins & Messina; and Earth, Wind & Fire. In 1974 Davis went on to co-found Arista Records and signed Barry Manilow, Patti Smith and Whitney Houston, and developed the careers of the Grateful Dead, Eurythmics, Dionne Warwick, Aretha Franklin, and Carly Simon among the diverse roster under his leadership. His business ventures include forming LaFace Records in 1989 with Kenneth "Babyface" Edmonds and Antonio "L.A." Reid, and creating Bad Boy Records in 1994 with Sean "Diddy" Combs. In 2000 J Records was born (in partnership with BMG) and emerged as a dominant force, releasing the works of Alicia Keys, Luther Vandross and Maroon 5. Davis was then appointed chairman/CEO of BMG U.S. Label Group, where he oversaw an expanded RCA Music Group including J Records, RCA Records and Arista Records. After BMG and Sony Music merged in 2008, Davis was appointed chief creative officer, Sony Music Worldwide.
The Pre-GRAMMY Gala is part of the GRAMMY Week series of events, culminating with Music's Biggest Night. The 54th Annual GRAMMY Awards will take place on Sunday, Feb. 12 at Staples Center in Los Angeles and will be broadcast live in high-definition TV and 5.1 surround sound on CBS from 8–11:30 p.m. (ET/PT). For updates and breaking news, please visit The Recording Academy's social networks on Twitter and Facebook.