searchsearch

news

Lifetime Achievement Award: Gil Scott-Heron

Common pays tribute to revolutionary rap artist

GRAMMYs/Dec 3, 2014 - 05:06 am

Gil Scott-Heron was a leader, a leader in revolution. He had the courage, strength, heart, will, sense of sacrifice, and selflessness that few embody in this world. Gil was a leader who possessed a powerful but soothing voice, a voice that had the tone and texture of standing up for the people. He represented the people from the ghetto, the people who were oppressed and the people who were standing up for justice and equality for all. Gil Scott-Heron was the embodiment of millions; their voices and their spirits were alive in him.

I remember the first time I heard Gil as a young boy. My best friend played his record, “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised.” I was intrigued, excited and amused by this inspirational piece. At the time, I was unaware of the mighty influence the song's empowering message would have on me not only as an artist, but as a human being.  From that point on, every time I listened to Gil's music he truly left footprints on my soul. He left footprints of joy, footprints of resistance, and footprints of power and love. Gil gave us a chorus of power to chant to. And he gave us shoes of positive change and upward mobility to walk in.

What was so beautiful about Gil's gilded gift of artistry was that he blessed the world with messages that impacted the paradigms of the youth in such a dynamic way. What makes this truth so magical is that in the eyes of our youth we find our development and progress as a collective human race. We find our future. I was a member of that youth at one period of time. I represent the generation Gil influenced and crowned with his wisdom, style and musical genius.

In college, as I was being exposed to more and more types of music, I was reintroduced to Gil Scott-Heron. It was then, after having the same intrigue and excitement as hearing him the first time, that he officially became one of my favorite artists. I loved the depth of his voice, the soul he sang with, the music that he created, and the words that sparked illuminating thoughts. I loved the beautiful experience I had every single time I listened to Gil's music and felt the movement that naturally shined through the lyrics.

I found myself taking pieces of him and placing them into my own music because he represented something bigger than us and of the spiritual realm. I would quote him, sample him and use his lyrics for inspiration in my songs. On my single "The 6th Sense" I quoted "The Revolution Will Not Be Televised." On my single "The People" we sampled "We Almost Lost Detroit," and it felt great to connect my work to the work of such an iconic poet and artist as Gil Scott-Heron.

To make it all even more mesmerizing, in August 2010 I was afforded the blessing to connect with Gil personally during a performance we had together in Central Park. I remember the day vividly. First, I went to Gil's home in New York. He was barbequing and we were talking about how to perform the songs at the show. We traded thoughts and I even revealed to him that I someday wished to play him in a movie. He told me all about the new book he was writing. As we exchanged stories and thoughts with one another, I thought to myself, "This is one of the greatest artists the world has ever seen," and I was honored just to share the moments we had as artists and as brothers.

I know Gil Scott-Heron shared his soul in every note, lyric and song we heard from him. I will always appreciate the influence and impact he had on me and the world. I will forever work to keep his inspiration alive.

(Common is a two-time GRAMMY winner. His most recent album, The Believer/The Dreamer, was released in December 2011. He currently stars in the AMC TV series "Hell On Wheels.")

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. Each year, The Academy invites friends and colleagues of Special Merit Awards recipients to pay tribute to the honorees' career accomplishments, while also adding colorful anecdotes and personal accounts. In the days leading up to the 54th GRAMMY Awards, GRAMMY.com will present the tributes to the 2012 Special Merit Awards recipients.

Follow GRAMMY.com for our inside look at GRAMMY news, blogs, photos, videos, and of course nominees. Stay up to the minute with GRAMMY Live. Check out the GRAMMY legacy with GRAMMY Rewind. Keep track of this year's GRAMMY Week events, and explore this year's GRAMMY Fields. Or check out the collaborations at Re:Generation, presented by Hyundai Veloster. And join the conversation at Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.

news

Why A World Without Herbie Hancock Is Unimaginable

Chick Corea describes how the legendary GRAMMY winner has created a musical touchstone for every future culture to aspire to

GRAMMYs/Oct 7, 2016 - 09:05 pm

("GRAMMY Salute To Music Legends" — a special all-star concert honoring The Recording Academy's 2016 Special Merit Awards recipients — will air Oct. 14 from 9–11:30 p.m. on PBS. Herbie Hancock, who received a 2016 Lifetime Achievement Award from The Recording Academy, will be among the artists saluted.)

Herbie Hancock was on the New York City jazz scene making some young musical noise a few years before I arrived in 1959, fresh out of high school in Chelsea, Mass.

I remember seeing him live for the first time when I went to the old Birdland at 52nd St. and Broadway. It was a Monday night. Mondays were the jam session nights at this venerable old club, and there was Herbie onstage with Joe Chambers and some horn players sitting in. I distinctly remember being amazed by the free and creative approach he and the band were taking with the standards they were playing. They were changing the rules and not asking for a license to do it. Right away, I connected with Herbie's sense of adventure and musical exploration, which I myself had just begun realizing.

The amazing thing about this adventure of his is that for a whole lifetime the adventure hasn't stopped. Miles set a powerful example for all of us — and Herbie was an integral part of that groundbreaking quintet that changed the face of jazz and music in general. But he has taken it several steps further by making full use of every new keyboard and sonic possibility, bridging new musical forms to combine the richness of our music’s past with the unknown of the new creative ideas from his seemingly infinite imagination. With his ongoing creativeness and successes in movie scores and both pop and classical music, he's certainly never been afraid to explore and to change — and does so frequently and unabashedly.

From his first solo albums Takin' Off, Empyrean Isles and Maiden Voyage, to his reach-out-to-the-world collaborations such as Possibilities, River: The Joni Letters and The Imagine Project, his ever-evolving musical creativeness continues to inspire and soothe souls the world over.

Ever since I've known Herbie, he has always inspired me and the music world to be free and reach for greater heights of accomplishment. His validation of the artist's imagination and his demonstration of its ultimate purpose through the amazing music he has created — and continues to create are a touchstone for every future culture to aspire to.

The world without Herbie Hancock is unimaginable. His contributions to music and to humanity on this planet are immeasurable. Congratulations, Herbie. You are simply the best!

(A 22-time GRAMMY winner, Chick Corea's extensive discography includes 1978’s An Evening With Herbie Hancock & Chick Corea: In Concert, a live album featuring both artists playing acoustic piano. In 2015 Corea released Two, a collaboration with GRAMMY winner Béla Fleck.)

John Lennon, Sting, Alicia Keys: 7 Songs For Starting Over In 2018

John Lennon

Photo: Ron Howard/Redferns

list

John Lennon, Sting, Alicia Keys: 7 Songs For Starting Over In 2018

With hits from Leonard Cohen, the Byrds, Nina Simone, and more, find the motivation for a brand-new you this New Year

GRAMMYs/Jan 4, 2018 - 11:12 pm

Each New Year offers the opportunity for a fresh new start, whether you're looking to wash away the sins of the previous year or reinvent a better future that follows your ultimate dreams. Starting over isn't an easy task, but we have one recommendation that will help motivate you: music.

Don't be a fuddy duddy. Kick-start 2018 with this playlist of seven songs all about starting over, including hits from John Lennon, the Byrds, Sting, and Alicia Keys, among others.

1. The Byrds, "Turn! Turn! Turn!"

Starting with its lyrics, "To everything (turn, turn, turn)/There is a season," this GRAMMY Hall Of Fame classic is a great reminder that everything is always changing anyway, so now is as good a time as any to give something new a chance. The composition was written by Pete Seeger in the late 1950s, but the lyrics come almost verbatim from the Book of Ecclesiastes in the Bible. The song didn't hit it big until the Byrds got their turn at it in 1965. Reportedly, it took Roger McGuinn & Co. 78 takes to perfect their folk-rock arrangement.

2. Leonard Cohen, "Anthem"

GRAMMY winner Leonard Cohen had a knack for poetry powerful enough to move mountains, and his "Anthem" is one such gem. This 1992 tune about embracing imperfection and marching forward in the face of adversity contains one of Cohen's most-quoted lines: "Ring the bells that still can ring/Forget your perfect offering/There is a crack, a crack in everything/That's how the light gets in." And we'll leave you with one final line from the master that encapsulates starting over: "The birds they sing, at the break of day/Start again, I heard them say/Don't dwell on what has passed away/Or what is yet to be."

3. Gil Scott-Heron, "I'm New Here"

Taken from his 2010 album of the same name, "I'm New Here" came near the end of Gil Scott-Heron's storied life. The album saw Scott-Heron, according to Drowned In Sound's Robert Ferguson, "pick over the bones of his life, acknowledging the hard times and his own mistakes, but standing proud of all they have led him to become." Embodying this sentiment accompanied only by an acoustic guitar, Scott-Heron's bluesy, semi-spoken "I'm New Here" brings out the poignancy of change. Its key lyric, "No matter how far wrong you've gone/You can always turn around," is something to keep in mind year-round, let alone January.

4. Alicia Keys, "Brand New Me"

Alicia Keys went full bore on the empowering messages of her 2012 album, Girl On Fire —  the Best R&B Album winner at the 56th GRAMMY Awards — including the track, "Brand New Me." Co-written with singer/songwriter Emeli Sandé, the soft pop/R&B ballad describes growing as a person and becoming a brand-new version of yourself. "Brand new me is about the journey it takes to get to a place where you are proud to be a new you," Keys wrote on her website at the time of the song's release.

5. John Lennon, "(Just Like) Starting Over"

A quintessential start-anew song, former Beatle John Lennon included "(Just Like) Starting Over" on his GRAMMY-winning 1980 album, Double Fantasy. "(Just Like) Starting Over" was the album's first single because Lennon felt it best represented his return following a five-year hiatus from music. It's also a love song, but the theme of starting over has a universal resonance "It's time to spread our wings and fly/Don't let another day go by my love/It'll be just like starting over." It became Lennon's second chart-topping single in the U.S., reaching No. 1 after his death on Dec. 8, 1980.

6. Nina Simone, "Feeling Good"

"It's a new dawn/It's a new day/It's a new life for me/I'm feelin' good." Could you ask for better lyrics for embarking on a new journey? Nina Simone recorded her version of "Feeling Good," which was originally written for the musical "The Roar Of The Greasepaint — The Smell Of The Crowd," on her 1965 album I Put A Spell On You. While artists such as Michael Bublé, John Coltrane, George Michael, and Muse subsequently covered it, no alternative is quite as powerful — or soulful — as Simone's.

7. Sting, "Brand New Day"

Sting's "Brand New Day" has a lesson for inspiring motivation to start the New Year with fresh eyes: "Turn the clock to zero, buddy/Don't wanna be no fuddy-duddy/We started up a brand new day." The bright, catchy pop tune and its namesake 1999 album resonated with fans, landing it at No. 9 on the Billboard 200. The track (and album) earned Sting GRAMMYs — Best Male Pop Vocal Performance and Best Pop Album — at the 42nd GRAMMY Awards.

What's Your New Year's Music Resolution?

news

2017 Special Merit Awards: Sly Stone, Velvet Underground, Nina Simone

Shirley Caesar and Charley Pride are also among The Recording Academy's 2017 Special Merit Awards recipients

GRAMMYs/May 15, 2017 - 01:36 pm

The Recording Academy announced its 2017 Special Merit Awards recipients. The Lifetime Achievement Award honorees are Shirley Caesar, Ahmad Jamal, Charley Pride, Jimmie Rodgers, Nina Simone, Sly Stone and The Velvet Underground. Thom Bell, Mo Ostin and Ralph S. Peer are Trustees Award honorees; Alan Dower Blumlein is the Technical GRAMMY Award recipient.

More information on the 2017 Special Merit Awards recipients

"This year's Special Merit Awards recipients comprise a prestigious group of diverse and influential creators who have crafted or contributed to some of the most distinctive recordings in music history," said Neil Portnow, President/CEO of The Recording Academy. "These exceptionally inspiring figures are being honored as legendary performers, creative architects, and technical visionaries. Their outstanding accomplishments and passion for their respective crafts have created a timeless legacy."

The Lifetime Achievement Award celebrates performers who have made outstanding contributions of artistic significance to the field of recording, while the Trustees Award honors contributions in areas other than performance. The recipients are determined by vote of The Recording Academy's National Board of Trustees. Technical GRAMMY Award recipients are voted on by The Academy's Producers & Engineers Wing Advisory Council and Chapter Committees, and are ratified by The Academy's Trustees. The award is presented to individuals and/or companies who have made contributions of outstanding technical significance to the recording industry.

Additionally, The Recording Academy and Hal Leonard Books will release A GRAMMY Salute To Music Legends, a hardcover book that collects two decades of artist-written tributes to The Academy's annual Special Merit Awards honorees. Among those who have written tributes included in the book are Eric Clapton, Elvis Costello, Red Hot Chili Peppers bassist Flea, Whoopi Goldberg, Ice Cube, Miranda Lambert, Queen guitarist Brian May, Dolly Parton, Carly Simon, Patti Smith and Yo-Yo Ma. The tributes were originally commissioned for the annual GRAMMY Awards program book and never published widely until now. A GRAMMY Salute To Music Legends will be available in early January.

Pre-Order A GRAMMY Salute To Music Legends

The 59th GRAMMY Awards will take place Sunday, Feb. 12, 2017, live from Staples Center in Los Angeles and broadcast on the CBS Television Network from 8–11:30 pm ET/5–8:30 pm PT. Follow Recording Academy/GRAMMYs on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram and use #GRAMMYs to join the conversation.

Fight The Power: 11 Powerful Protest Songs Advocating For Racial Justice

Photo: Ira L. Black/Corbis via Getty Images

news

Fight The Power: 11 Powerful Protest Songs Advocating For Racial Justice

From Childish Gambino's "This Is America" to James Brown's "Say It Loud," these racial justice protest anthems demonstrate the ongoing—and still deeply relevant—sound of activism

GRAMMYs/Jun 19, 2020 - 08:00 pm

From the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma to the streets of Ferguson, activism certainly has a sound. Whether it’s the slow hum of Pete Seeger's "We Shall Overcome" or the energetic repetition of YG’s "FTP," when the chants of freedom slow, we often hear an emotional outcry about political issues through music. The current state of unrest in the United States surrounding the violent treatment of Black people and people of color at the hands of police has caused a resurgence of music addressing the current state of affairs directly in lyrics and tone.

As we celebrate Juneteenth (not to mention Black Music Month), a date that signifies liberation for African American people as Gordon Granger announced in Galveston, TX that the enslaved people there were free in 1865, we have to recognize the importance of music when it comes to freedom, protest, survival and celebration in Black culture. 

Music has always been deeply rooted in African culture. It only continued after men and women were captured and enslaved in the U.S through the Middle Passage. For slaves, it was a form of communication and later became so much more. That tradition of music has continued over centuries as each new movement—specifically involving the fight for self-love, equality, and fair treatment for Black Americans—creates its own soundtrack.

2020 will see its own host of songs that highlight the times, from Meek Mill’s "The Otherside of America" to H.E.R.'s "I Can’t Breathe," which she recently premiered in her performance for IHeartRadio’s Living Room Concert Series. But before this moment, there were a few of the songs that have been at the center of protest, revolution, and radical political change over the years.

"Say It Loud," James Brown (1968)

Being proud to be Black was almost a foreign concept commercially during this time and James Brown took the lead on empowering Black people all across the world. "Say it loud, I’m Black and I’m proud," became an affirmation recited far and wide specifically in such a turbulent year as 1968. This was at the height of the Civil Rights movement and the same year Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated.


 

"Comment #1," Gil Scott-Heron (1970)

A poem featured on his debut album Small Talk at 125th and Lenox, Heron was challenging the white left-wing student movement. In his estimation, there was no common ground based on what Black people had endured for centuries that college-educated students from the suburbs would understand. The song was later sampled by Kanye West in "Lost In The World" featuring Bon Iver.


 

"What’s Going On," Marvin Gaye (1971)

Based on the real-life experience of Gaye’s brother who returned from Vietnam with a much different outlook on life, this song asked what was happening in America. This was a turbulent time where Black soldiers were not receiving the same benefits as their white GI counterparts when returning home from the same fight. And much like Scott-Heron, Gaye was exploring the hippie era clash that, to many Black people, didn’t have a real grasp on poverty and systematic racism plaguing the community.


 

"Fk Tha Police," N.W.A. (1988)

A song met with much discourse including the arrest of N.W.A. members in Detroit during a 1989 tour stop. The group was apprehended following their show after being told by the DPD not to play the song in their set. Unfortunately, not much has changed and streams have skyrocketed amidst global protests for George Floyd and Breonna Taylor more than 20 years later


 

"Fight The Power," Public Enemy (1989)

The song originally appeared in Spike Lee's "Do The Right" thing, which explored racial tension in a Brooklyn neighborhood and would become Public Enemy’s most popular song to date. Later released on their album Fear of a Black Planet, the song was received with high acclaim including a GRAMMY nomination for Best Rap Performance.


 

"Changes," 2Pac featuring Talent (1998)

2Pac was seen as both an activist and a young man wise beyond his years, though his career was also marred by controversy and rap beefs. Songs like "Changes" are more representative of the former. Here, Pac was chronicling the fact that things have been the same in Black communities over the years. When listening back, you can hear how poignant his words were over 20 years later.


 

"Glory," John Legend and Common (2014)

The Oscar-winning song from the original motion picture soundtrack to "Selma" directed by Ava Duvernay came at the epicenter of the country’s most recent unrest. Two years after the death of Trayvon Martin, the song was the perfect bridge from the Civil Rights movement of the '60s depicted in the film into today's current fight for equality. 


 

"Alright," Kendrick Lamar (2015)

To Pimp a Butterfly, Lamar’s sophomore release, was a sharp contrast to the cinematic good kid, m.A.A.d. City but yielded the freedom song of a generation. Crowds at protests and university auditoriums across the country erupted into the song's potent lyrics, "But if God got us then we gon be alright!" The GRAMMY-winning song became the unofficial anthem to the Black Lives Matter movement after the deaths of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mich., and Sandra Bland in Waller County, TX at the hands of police.  


 

"F.U.B.U.," Solange (2016)

A nod to the 90s hip hop apparel company, the acronym stands for For Us, By Us. The song appeared on her third studio album A Seat at the Table, her most critically acclaimed and political album to date. Both the song and album highlight Black entrepreneurship, culture, and trauma.


 

"Freedom," Beyoncé ft. Kendrick Lamar (2016)

This hard-hitting track samples "Let Me Try" by Frank Tirado and comes as a reprieve in the album sequencing but packs a powerful message. The ending also features audio from Jay-Z’s grandmother Hattie White. At her 90th birthday party she explains, "I was served lemons, but I made lemonade"—apropos in the discussion of the American Black experience.


 

"This is America," Childish Gambino (2018)

Accompanied by a captivating visual directed by Hiro Murai that paired dancing with African influence, and violent yet thought-provoking imagery, Gambino's effort made everyone pay attention. The song garnered the multi-disciplined artist a GRAMMY for "Song Of The Year," and his first No. 1 single while leaving both critics and fans alike in deep conversations about its political symbolism.

Torae Talks Fighting For Change & Overhauling The Music Industry's Business Model