Sly Stone to Velvet Underground: 11 facts about GRAMMY legends

Photos: Getty Images/


Sly Stone to Velvet Underground: 11 facts about GRAMMY legends

Test your knowledge about Nina Simone, Charley Pride and the entire cast of 2017 Special Merit Awards recipients; tickets now on sale for "GRAMMY Salute To Music Legends" in NYC on July 11

GRAMMYs/Jun 16, 2017 - 05:00 pm

Are you a big music fan? Will you be in New York in early July?

If you answered yes to both of these questions, you have an unprecedented opportunity to attend a once-in-a-lifetime tribute to 11 individuals who changed the landscape of popular music.

"GRAMMY Salute To Music Legends," a TV special celebrating The Recording Academy's 2017 Special Merit Awards recipients, is set to tape on July 11 at the historic Beacon Theatre in New York City.

Led by longtime "Late Show With David Letterman" musical director Paul Shaffer, GRAMMY winners Kirk Franklin, Randy Newman and Dwight Yoakam, and GRAMMY nominee Andra Day will perform and pay tribute to an esteemed group of legendary performers and music trailblazers that includes Shirley Caesar, Ahmad Jamal, Sly Stone, Nina Simone, and Charley Pride. The event will also recognize Music Educator Award recipient Keith Hancock.

Tickets are now available for the taping, which will air later this year as part of PBS' "Great Performances."

After you grab your tickets, be sure to brush up on these 11 facts about this year's cast of GRAMMY music legends who will be saluted.

Sly Stone

Before forming Sly & The Family Stone, Stone (whose real name is Sylvester Stewart) worked as a staff record producer for San Francisco-based Autumn Records. Among the groups he produced were the Beau Brummels, Bobby Freeman and Great Society, Grace Slick's first band. Of course, Slick would go on to front fellow Lifetime Achievement Award recipients Jefferson Airplane.

Shirley Caesar

Caesar, who has the most GRAMMYs by a female gospel artist with 11, has dabbled in acting. Among her credits, the First Lady of Gospel Music appeared in a 2003 episode of the UPN sitcom "The Parkers," a spinoff of the series "Moesha." Caesar played the role of Grace, the guardian angel to main character Nikki (Mo'Nique).

Ahmad Jamal

The legendary jazz pianist, 86, truly defines the term musical prodigy. Jamal, whose classics include "Poinciana," started playing piano at age 3 and commenced formal music lessons at 7. He joined a musicians union at the age of 14 and he began touring at 17, following his high school graduation.

Charley Pride

Before launching his music career, Pride was a professional pitcher for the Memphis Red Sox and Birmingham Black Barons in the Negro League. The country singer/songwriter — who would later write classics such as "Kiss An Angel Good Morning" and "Crystal Chandeliers" — pitched against future MLB hall of famers Hank Aaron and Willie Mays. Pride later had tryouts with the California Angels and New York Mets.

Learn more about the 2017 Special Merit Awards recipients

Jimmie Rodgers

Considered by many as the father of country music, Rodgers helped bring rural music to the masses with his early recordings with fellow Special Merit Award recipient Ralph Peer. His distinctive style set him apart from his contemporaries and launched a career that would influence countless country stars from Gene Autry to Bill Monroe to Johnny Cash. However, his career prior to making music was on the railroad as a brakeman, earning Rodgers the moniker "the Singing Brakeman" once he made the jump from railroads to records.

Nina Simone

An artist who influenced everyone from Jeff Buckley and Rufus Wainwright to Erykah Badu and Mary J. Blige, Simone's indelible musical impact continues today. Rihanna sang a few verses of the High Priestess of Soul's "Do What You Gotta Do" on Kanye West's 2016 album, The Life Of Pablo. Other West songs that sample Simone include "Blood On The Leaves" (from 2013's Yeezus) and his collaboration with Jay Z, "New Day" (from 2011's Watch The Throne).

Velvet Underground

Released in 1967, the Velvet Underground's debut, The Velvet Underground & Nico, ranks No. 13 on Rolling Stone's list of the 500 greatest albums of all time. "European Son," the last song on the album, was dedicated to Delmore Schwartz, the American poet who mentored the late Lou Reed while he was a student at Syracuse University. 

Thom Bell

A true architect of the Philadelphia sound, Bell produced soulful hits such as the Stylistics' "Stop, Look, Listen (To Your Heart)," the Spinners' "Could It Be I'm Falling In Love" and the Delfonics' "La-La Means I Love You." At the 17th GRAMMY Awards in 1975, the Jamaican-born producer became the first person to win the GRAMMY for Producer Of The Year, Non-Classical, topping Stevie Wonder, Billy Sherrill, Lenny Waronker, and fellow Trustees Award recipient Rick Hall.

Mo Ostin

The esteemed Warner Bros. executive, who signed the likes of Duke Ellington, Frank Sinatra, Prince, and the Red Hot Chili Peppers during his storied career, is a big supporter of two of Los Angeles' renowned universities. Ostin serves on the board of counselors for the USC Thornton School of Music. He also donated $10 million to UCLA for a state-of-the-art campus music facility to be christened as the Evelyn and Mo Ostin Music Center.

Ralph S. Peer

Known for his seminal work engineering and producing field recordings and discovering musical talent in the South, in January 1928 Peer established the Southern Music Publishing Company, which became the foundation for Peer Music. Among his numerous accomplishments, Peer is credited as discovering fellow Special Merit Awards recipient Jimmie Rodgers. He managed Rodgers' career until the country singer/songwriter's death in 1933.

Alan Dower Blumlein

A prolific inventor who filed more than 120 patents during his lifetime, including the famous stereo microphone technique that bears his name, Blumlein is enshrined at the vaunted Abbey Road Studios, home to the Beatles, among other acts, in recognition of his standing as a pioneer of stereo technology.

Get your tickets to "GRAMMY Salute To Music Legends" now


GRAMMY SoundChecks With Gavin DeGraw

GRAMMYs/Dec 3, 2014 - 05:06 am

On Aug. 28 Nashville Chapter GRAMMY U members took part in GRAMMY SoundChecks with Gavin DeGraw. Approximately 30 students gathered at music venue City Hall and watched DeGraw play through some of the singles from earlier in his career along with "Cheated On Me" from his latest self-titled album.

In between songs, DeGraw conducted a question-and-answer session and inquired about the talents and goals of the students in attendance. He gave inside tips to the musicians present on how to make it in the industry and made sure that every question was answered before moving onto the next song.


Juan Gabriel named 2009 Latin Recording Academy Person Of The Year


Juan Gabriel named 2009 Latin Recording Academy Person Of The Year

Annual star-studded gala slated for Nov. 4 in Las Vegas during 10th Annual Latin GRAMMY Week celebration

GRAMMYs/May 15, 2017 - 01:36 pm

 Internationally renowned singer/songwriter/performer Juan Gabriel will be celebrated as the 2009 Latin Recording Academy Person of the Year, it was announced today by The Latin Recording Academy. Juan Gabriel, chosen for his professional accomplishments as well as his commitment to philanthropic efforts, will be recognized at a star-studded concert and black tie dinner on Nov. 4 at the Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas, Nev. 

The "Celebration with Juan Gabriel" gala will be one of the most prestigious events held during Latin GRAMMY week, a celebration that culminates with the 10th Annual Latin GRAMMY Awards ceremony. The milestone telecast will be held at Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas on Nov. 5 and will be broadcast live on the Univision Television Network at 8 p.m. Eastern/7 p.m. Central. 

"As we celebrate this momentous decade of the Latin GRAMMYs, The Latin Recording Academy and its Board of Trustees take great pride in recognizing Juan Gabriel as an extraordinary entertainer who never has forgotten his roots, while at the same time having a global impact," said Latin Recording Academy President Gabriel Abaroa. "His influence on the music and culture of our era has been tremendous, and we welcome this opportunity to pay a fitting tribute to a voice that strongly resonates within our community.

Over the course of his 30-year career, Juan Gabriel has sold more than 100 million albums and has performed to sold-out audiences throughout the world. He has produced more than 100 albums for more than 50 artists including Paul Anka, Lola Beltran, Rocío Dúrcal, and Lucha Villa among many others. Additionally, Juan Gabriel has written more than 1,500 songs, which have been covered by such artists as Marc Anthony, Raúl Di Blasio, Ana Gabriel, Angelica María, Lucia Mendez, Estela Nuñez, and Son Del Son. In 1986, Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley declared Oct. 5 "The Day of Juan Gabriel." The '90s saw his induction into Billboard's Latin Music Hall of Fame and he joined La Opinion's Tributo Nacional Lifetime Achievement Award recipients list. 

At the age of 13, Juan Gabriel was already writing his own songs and in 1971 recorded his first hit, "No Tengo Dinero," which landed him a recording contract with RCA. Over the next 14 years, he established himself as Mexico's leading singer/songwriter, composing in diverse styles such as rancheras, ballads, pop, disco, and mariachi, which resulted in an incredible list of hits ("Hasta Que Te Conocí," "Siempre En Mi Mente," "Querida," "Inocente Pobre Amigo," "Abrázame Muy Fuerte," "Amor Eterno," "El Noa Noa," and "Insensible") not only for himself  but for many leading Latin artists. In 1990, Juan Gabriel became the only non-classical singer/songwriter to perform at the Palacio de Bellas Artes in Mexico City and the album release of that concert, Juan Gabriel En Vivo Desde El Palacio De Bellas Artes, broke sales records and established his iconic status. 

After a hiatus from recording, Juan Gabriel released such albums as Gracias Por Esperar, Juntos Otra Vez, Abrázame Muy Fuerte, Los Gabriel…Para Ti, Juan Gabriel Con La Banda…El Recodo, and El Mexico Que Se Nos Fue, which were all certified gold and/or platinum by the RIAA. In 1996, to commemorate his 25th anniversary in the music industry, BMG released a retrospective set of CDs entitled 25 Aniversario, Solos, Duetos, y Versiones Especiales, comprised appropriately of 25 discs.   

In addition to his numerous accolades and career successes, Juan Gabriel has been a compassionate and generous philanthropist. He has donated all proceeds from approximately 10 performances a year to his favorite children's foster homes, and proceeds from fan photo-ops go to support Mexican orphans. In 1987, he founded Semjase, an orphanage for approximately 120 children, which also serves as a music school with music, recreation and video game rooms. Today, he continues to personally fund the school he opened more than 22 years ago.   

Juan Gabriel will have the distinction of becoming the 10th Latin Recording Academy Person of the Year honoree, and joins a list of artists such as Gloria Estefan, Gilberto Gil, Juan Luis Guerra, Julio Iglesias, Ricky Martin, and Carlos Santana among others who have been recognized. 

For information on purchasing tickets or tables to The Latin Recording Academy Person of the Year tribute to Juan Gabriel, please contact The Latin Recording Academy ticketing office at 310.314.8281 or

Set List Bonus: Bumbershoot 2013
Grizzled Mighty perform at Bumbershoot on Sept. 1

Photo: The Recording Academy


Set List Bonus: Bumbershoot 2013

GRAMMYs/Dec 3, 2014 - 04:22 am

Welcome to The Set List. Here you'll find the latest concert recaps for many of your favorite, or maybe not so favorite, artists. Our bloggers will do their best to provide you with every detail of the show, from which songs were on the set list to what the artist was wearing to which out-of-control fan made a scene. Hey, it'll be like you were there. And if you like what you read, we'll even let you know where you can catch the artist on tour. Feel free to drop us a comment and let us know your concert experience. Oh, and rock on.

By Alexa Zaske

This past Labor Day weekend meant one thing for many folks in Seattle: Bumbershoot, a three-decade-old music and arts event that consumed the area surrounding the Space Needle from Aug. 31–Sept. 2. Amid attendees wandering around dressed as zombies and participating in festival-planned flash mobs to Michael Jackson's "Thriller," this year the focus was on music from the Pacific Northwest region — from the soulful sounds of Allen Stone and legendary female rockers Heart, to the highly-awaited return of Death Cab For Cutie performing their 2003 hit album Transatlanticism in its entirety.

The festival started off on day one with performances by synth-pop group the Flavr Blue, hip-hop artist Grynch, rapper Nacho Picasso, psychedelic pop group Beat Connection, lively rapper/writer George Watsky, hip-hop group the Physics, and (my personal favorite), punk/dance band !!! (Chk Chk Chk). Also performing on day one was Seattle folk singer/songwriter Kris Orlowski, who was accompanied by the Passenger String Quartet. As always, Orlowski's songs were catchy and endearing yet brilliant and honest.

Day one came to a scorching finale with a full set from GRAMMY-nominated rock group Heart. Kicking off with their Top 20 hit "Barracuda," the set spanned three decades of songs, including "Heartless," "Magic Man" and "What About Love?" It became a gathering of Seattle rock greats when, during Heart's final song, Pearl Jam guitarist Mike McCready joined for 1976's "Crazy On You."

Day two got off to an early start with performances from eccentric Seattle group Kithkin and Seattle ladies Mary Lambert and Shelby Earl, who were accompanied by the band Le Wrens. My highlight of the day was the Grizzled Mighty — a duo with a bigger sound than most family sized bands. Drummer Whitney Petty, whose stage presence and skills make for an exciting performance, was balanced out by the easy listening of guitarist and lead singer Ryan Granger.

Then the long-awaited moment finally fell upon Seattle when, after wrapping a long-awaited tour with the Postal Service, singer/songwriter Ben Gibbard returned to Seattle to represent another great success of the Pacific Northwest — Death Cab For Cutie. The band celebrated the 10-year anniversary of their album Transatlanticism by performing it from front to back. While a majority of attendees opted to watch the set from an air-conditioned arena, some of us recognized the uniqueness of this experience and enjoyed the entire set lying in the grass where the entire performance was streamed. 

Monday was the day for soul and folk. Local blues/R&B group Hot Bodies In Motion have been making their way through the Seattle scene with songs such as "Old Habits," "That Darkness" and "The Pulse." Their set was lively and enticing to people who have seen them multiple times or never at all.

My other highlights of the festival included the Maldives, who delivered a fun performance with the perfect amount of satirical humor and folk. They represent the increasing number of Pacific Northwest bands who consist of many members playing different sounds while still managing to stay cohesive and simple. I embraced the return of folk/pop duo Ivan & Alyosha with open arms and later closed my festival experience with local favorite Stone.

For music fans in Seattle and beyond, the annual Bumbershoot festival is a must-attend.

(Alexa Zaske is the Chapter Assistant for The Recording Academy Pacific Northwest Chapter. She's a music enthusiast and obsessed with the local Seattle scene.)

Neil Portnow Addresses Diversity & Inclusion, Looks Ahead During Speech At 2019 GRAMMYs

Neil Portnow and Jimmy Jam

Photo: Michael Kovac/Getty Images


Neil Portnow Addresses Diversity & Inclusion, Looks Ahead During Speech At 2019 GRAMMYs

Jimmy Jam helps celebrate the outgoing President/CEO of the Recording Academy on the 61st GRAMMY Awards

GRAMMYs/Feb 11, 2019 - 10:58 am

As Neil Portnow's tenure as Recording Academy President/CEO draws to its end, five-time GRAMMY winner Jimmy Jam paid tribute to his friend and walked us through a brief overview of some of the Academy's major recent achievements, including the invaluable work of MusiCares, the GRAMMY Museum, Advocacy and more.

Portnow delivered a brief speech, acknowledging the need to continue to focus on issues of diversity and inclusion in the music industry. He also seized the golden opportunity to say the words he's always wanted to say on the GRAMMY stage, saying, "I'd like to thank the Academy," showing his gratitude and respect for the staff, elected leaders and music community he's worked with during his career at the Recording Academy. "We can be so proud of what we’ve all accomplished together," Portnow added.

"As I finish out my term leading this great organization, my heart and soul are filled with gratitude, pride, for the opportunity and unequal experience," he continued. "Please know that my commitment to all the good that we do will carry on as we turn the page on the next chapter of the storied history of this phenomenal institution."

Full Winners List: 61st GRAMMY Awards