Lifetime Achievement Award: Ravi Shankar

Composer Philip Glass pays tribute to legendary sitar player Ravi Shankar

GRAMMYs/Dec 3, 2014 - 05:06 am

(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, will present the tributes to the 2013 Special Merit Awards recipients.)

In the mid-'50s, while the academics, pundits and practitioners of "new music" were debating and legislating the future of their art, a young man from India arrived in the West and, unbidden and unannounced, set into motion a revolution in Western musical language that is today, more than 50 years later, still powerfully shaping our landscape.

That young man was, of course, Ravi Shankar.

He was already famous in India as a leading master of the classical music world and foremost sitar player of the day. He soon became a close friend and collaborator of the great French flutist Jean-Pierre Rampal and the formidable violin virtuoso Yehudi Menuhin.

His appearance at the Monterey Pop Festival in 1967 would lead him to all manner of performances at other festivals as well. He had become a living pied piper of music with a huge following among young musicians, composers and theater/dance enthusiasts.

In fact, Raviji (as he was affectionately known to students and friends alike) was well-known and adored not only by the rich and famous but by the young and passionate as well. In that regard, the Beatles qualified in all four categories. Not surprisingly, he had a long and close friendship with George Harrison and, along the way, made formidable waves in the worlds of popular and commercial music.

He was particularly drawn to young people — both musicians and music lovers. He was an indefatigable teacher. Lessons could begin anytime. On several occasions I saw him lay down the sitar and lecture his audience on the immorality of drug taking, smoking and drinking. These kinds of sermons were tolerated kindly enough by the young fans, who were sitting it out, waiting for that magnificent torrent of music to begin again. In those days, and to the end, he was treated as a superstar. Always gracious and kind, though occasionally not exactly on time, except in his music, when he would be impeccable.

He is no longer with us but his legacy is all around us. Simply, today's music world would not be what it is without him. His companions, students and friends are everywhere. His brilliance, enthusiasm and simple love for the life in which he was immersed remain as a wave of energy that continues to animate everything it touches.

I spoke to Raviji just a few days before he died. Sukanya, his wife and longtime companion, arranged the call for me, for which I will always be grateful. It wasn't a long conversation, nor did it need to be. Things were said that had been said before but needed to be said one last time.

Seeing a great man die is like watching a sunset. For me, he was the greatest of the great and the best of the best. At that unbelievable and unknowable event, as with the last tender light of the evening, all the beauty and sadness, joy and terror of life at last come together. Even Death, at that moment, is briefly robbed of its finality.

(Philip Glass has been called one of the most influential composers of the 20th century. He has earned four GRAMMY and three Academy Award nominations. Glass collaborated with Ravi Shankar on the 1990 album Passages.)


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.)


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.

Norah Jones, Anoushka Shankar, Philip Glass & More To Pay Tribute To Late Ravi Shankar For 100th Birthday

Ravi Shankar 

Photo: Courtesy of the Ravi Shankar Foundation


Norah Jones, Anoushka Shankar, Philip Glass & More To Pay Tribute To Late Ravi Shankar For 100th Birthday

To celebrate the Indian classical GRAMMY winner's birthday, family, friends and those Shankar influenced will remember him through a series of concerts

GRAMMYs/Jan 10, 2020 - 06:06 am

Many might immediately associate the sitar, a plucked string instrument originating from India, with late GRAMMY-winning musician Ravi Shankar. Known as a virtuoso of Indian classical music, Shankar created a range of recordings including concertos and film scores heard all around the world. 

This year marks 100 years since his birthday on April 7, 1920. In celebration, family, friends and additional "foremost disciples" will remember Shankar through a series of concerts called Ravi Shankar Centennial Concerts.

Among the performers are daughters Norah Jones and Anoushka Shankar, Philip Glass, Dhani Harrison (whose father is late Beatles member George Harrison, who memorably collaborated with Shankar), Nitin Sawhney and an orchestra of the late musician's "foremost disciples." The special guests will perform at selected concerts in San Diego, Los Angeles, Chicago, New York, London and New Delhi.

London shows will run January through November at the Southbank Centre. No date for New Delhi has been announced. 

Jones and Shankar will perform in London on April 7 with Nitin Sawhney and with Harrison on May 19 at the Walt Disney Concert Hall in L.A. Shankar and Harrison will play at San Diego's Civic Theatre on May 16. Shankar to perform at the Chicago Symphony Orchestra on May 22 and at Carnegie Hall with Philip Glass on May 29 in New York. 

Tickets for the Los Angeles show can be found here

 Prince To Receive All-Star GRAMMY Tribute Concert Featuring Beck, Alicia Keys, John Legend And More


Marc Anthony Salutes Celia Cruz

GRAMMY winner says the legacy of the Queen of Salsa will continue to impact generations to come

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. Celia Cruz, who received a 2016 Lifetime Achievement Award from The Recording Academy, will be among the artists saluted.)

I remember listening to Celia Cruz's music blasting out of the windows in my neighborhood in East Harlem, New York, long before I started doing music professionally. By that time she was one of the greatest living legends of our time.  

My first interaction with Celia as a salsa singer was when I recorded my first album, Otra Nota. We were part of the same record label. From the moment we met, she welcomed me with open arms and became my professional godmother, always supportive and so protective of me.

I'll never forget the first time I was able to share the stage with her. I was so nervous! At that time I did not have a lot of experience performing on the big stages of the world, and yet there I was next to her and in the company of all of these great musicians. That night she embraced me in a very special way — the way only those who had the good fortune of being close to her presence could experience.

Her mastery of voice and song and her powerful transformation onstage was one of her many qualities. She possessed a voice like no other and an undeniable way of conducting herself in front of her audience and her fellow musicians. A lady in a male-dominated world who handled her career with consistency, discipline and admirable class.  

She was so into details. Not even her intense work schedule and touring demands around the world would let her forget her friends and family's birthdays, and her Christmas cards with her personal touch were a yearly event. We all wondered how in the world this woman, with so many responsibilities as a worldwide performer and wife, found the time to pause and devote personal attention to so many of us. And indeed she did. She also had a great sense of humor.  

Celia took her responsibility on the stage very seriously. It was amazing to see her sitting backstage quietly and serenely before it was her time to go on. From the instant that orchestra played the first chord she became this gigantic presence. She never, ever disappointed her audience.

Her legacy is so vast there is not enough space on this page, but the fact remains that her contribution to music will continue to have an impact worldwide for generations to come.

(A two-time GRAMMY winner and five-time Latin GRAMMY winner, Marc Anthony will be honored as the 2016 Latin Recording Academy Person of the Year on Nov. 16. In 2003 Anthony co-hosted “¡Celia Cruz: Azúcar!,” an all-star tribute to Cruz featuring performances by Anthony, Gloria Estefan, José Feliciano, Paulina Rubio, and Arturo Sandoval, among others.)