Sean "Puffy" Combs and Will Smith
Photo: Kevin Mazur/WireImage.com
Shawn Colvin To Sean Combs: 7 Happenings At The 40th GRAMMY Awards
The 40th GRAMMY Awards, held at Radio City Music Hall in New York on Feb. 25, 1998, were an anniversary to remember.
Hosted by actor Kelsey Grammer, the show was right at home in prime time. Grammer even suggested his skills as a psychiatrist on his TV show "Frasier" might come in handy, and the night included two intrusions on Bob Dylan and Shawn Colvin, but more on those later.
One of the night's most unforgettable moments came because operatic tenor Luciano Pavarotti had expected to sing a Puccini aria but was sick. Reprising a performance she had given two days earlier at the MusiCares Person of the Year event, Aretha Franklin shared a truly exceptional "Nessun Dorma" with the world at the drop of a hat.
These outstanding and impromptu moments aside, here is a look at a small selection of historic highlights as we take a trip back in time to the 40th GRAMMY Awards.
1. Shawn Colvin Comes Home
Who could forget Shawn Colvin's "Sunny Came Home"? The track was inspired by a friend's painting of a woman holding a match, which became the cover of her 1996 album, A Few Small Repairs. The folk-rock song was a huge hit that year, reaching No. 7 on the Billboard Hot 100, but its GRAMMY accomplishments were a peak validation of Colvin's songwriting talents and its female empowerment message — she took home both Record and Song Of The Year at the 40th GRAMMYs, bringing her career GRAMMY win total up to three. As an unexpected twist, Colvin's Song Of The Year acceptance got a Wu-Tang remix as Ol' Dirty Bastard slid in with some unexpected self-promotion ("Puffy is good, but Wu-Tang is the best").
2. Will Smith Breaks Out On His Own
Formerly known as the latter half of DJ Jazzy Jeff And The Fresh Prince, Will Smith released his first solo album, Big Willie Style, in fall 1997. The 40th GRAMMY Awards telecast opened with Smith's performance of a medley combining his new album's tracks "Men In Black" and "Gettin' Jiggy Wit It." Right afterward he learned he had won his third of four career GRAMMYs for "Men In Black" for Best Rap Solo Performance. "Gettin' Jiggy Wit It," also from his first album, won the same category at the 41st GRAMMY Awards.
3. The Dylans Dominate
Bob Dylan took home three of his 10 career GRAMMYs at the 40th show. His album Time Out Of Mind won two GRAMMYs — Album Of The Year and Best Contemporary Folk Album — and its track "Cold Irons Bound" took home Best Male Rock Vocal Performance. In a twist of fate, his son Jakob Dylan won two that same year, including Best Rock Song and Best Rock Performance By A Duo Or Group With Vocal for "One Headlight," the then-ubiquitous hit performed by his band the Wallflowers. A Lifetime Achievement Award recipient, Bob Dylan performed "Love Sick" at the show, and who could forget, his performance onstage that night was interrupted by a most-unwelcome dancing intruder (Michael "Soy Bomb" Portnoy).
4. Trisha Yearwood's GRAMMY Success
The 1990s country crossover success of Trisha Yearwood came partly thanks to successful collaborations, such as her work with Garth Brooks. The two won Best Country Collaboration With Vocals at the 40th GRAMMYs for their duet "In Another's Eyes." Yearwood's Best Country Vocal Performance win for "How Do I Live" the same year represented the diva on her own. The Diane Warren-penned hit was first recorded by LeAnn Rimes but the producers of the 1997 movie Con Air tapped Yearwood for the film version of the tune. "How Do I Live" was a hit for both artists, and Rimes had the privilege of performing the song on the GRAMMY stage while Yearwood accepted the GRAMMY win.
5. Paula Cole Walks Away With Best New Artist
There is no easy way to summarize the critical intentionality of Paula Cole as a singer/songwriter because she is so representative of the DIY indie rock approach. Cole came into the night with seven GRAMMY nominations, including Album Of The Year, Best Pop Album and Producer Of The Year, Non-Classical for her self-produced hit album This Fire. Her hit "Where Have All The Cowboys Gone?" was nominated for Record Of The Year, Song Of The Year and Best Female Pop Vocal Performance . Cole was also nominated for Best New Artist, which she won. She capped off her win by performing "Where Have All The Cowboys Gone?" in a segment with Colvin and Sarah McLachlan.
6. Sean "Puffy" Combs Wins "B.I.G."
The consummate Bad Boy, Sean "Diddy" Combs, then still "Puffy," made a turn in 1997 from his music executive and producer success as the founder of Bad Boy Records to being a fixture in popular culture as a sample-loving master rapper. To prove his success, at the 40th GRAMMY Awards, he won Best Rap Album for No Way Out and Best Rap Performance By A Duo Or Group went to his "I'll be Missing You." The track, recorded with R&B group 112 and Biggie's widow Faith Evans, was dedicated to the memory of fellow label artist Notorious B.I.G., who was murdered on March 9, 1997.
7. "Hello, World" For The Big Badu
Erykah Badu, one of R&B's greatest avant-garde experimenters, released her first album, Baduizm, in 1997. And while she's kept her mainstream profile relatively low, she got due recognition for her impeccable musical style at the 40th GRAMMYs. Her debut album won Best R&B Album while it's single "On & On" introduced the world to Badu and gave her the win for Best Female R&B Vocal Performance. She performed "On & On" live during the telecast and joined Wyclef Jean on his rap hit "Gone Till November."