Technical GRAMMY Award: Ikutaro Kakehashi And Dave Smith

GRAMMY-winning artist/producer Dave Stewart pays tribute to MIDI innovators Ikutaro Kakehashi and Dave Smith

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.)

Working away in the dark attic of a picture framing factory back in 1982, Annie and I were in experimentation mode. I was obsessed with finding a new sound, a new way to surround Annie's incredibly soulful voice with a juxtaposing edgy feeling in the music.

We didn't have much money and were basically using very cheap equipment and a limited amount of keyboards, a Roland SH-101, a tiny Wasp synthesizer, and occasionally we borrowed an Oberheim OB-X that belonged to the owner of the factory. We were attempting to make an album on an 8-track Teac tape recorder and were struggling to get all our ideas down on seven tracks (at the time we saved the last track for time code). We used a newly invented drum machine referred to as Movement MCS Percussion Computer. This was a large machine and quite difficult to control but we struggled along trying to marry these sounds with natural sounds like hitting empty bottles (for the bridge of "Sweet Dreams"), slide guitars mixing with sounds of an underground railway station, etc. What was missing was the "glue." We spent hours, days, weeks trying to get these synthesizers and drum machines in time with each other and often would have to do a mix hundreds of times playing manually along with the drum machine synced to tape!

One day I was going past a music store in Camden Town and there was a crowd inside so I went in and there was a kind of hush whilst someone was explaining that this Sequential Circuits Prophet 600 had MIDI! Once I grasped what they were talking about I felt quite faint, my head spinning with the possibilities. I've never been the same since and neither has the rest of the world. 

It was in 1983 that a collaboration between competing manufacturers resulted in a new technology that was introduced at the winter NAMM show where Ikutaro Kakehashi, founder of Roland Corporation, and Dave Smith, president of Sequential Circuits, unveiled MIDI. They connected two competing manufacturers' electronic keyboards, the Roland JP-6 synthesizer and Sequential Circuits Prophet 600, enabling them to "talk" to one another using a new communications standard. The presentation registered shockwaves at the show, and ultimately revolutionized the music world.

Sequencers, sampling, digital drum machines, dedicated computer control, ultimately a complete revolution within the recording industry … it is hard to imagine that any of these technologies or developments would have occurred, or certainly have been as wide-reaching, without the glue of MIDI. Dave Smith and Ikutaro Kakehashi, you turned my world upside down and in doing so gave birth to a revolution that will never end.

(As a member of Eurythmics with Annie Lennox, Dave Stewart won a GRAMMY in 1986 for Best Rock Performance By A Duo Or Group With Vocal for "Missionary Man." Artists he has collaborated with include Tom Petty, Bob Dylan, Aretha Franklin, Mick Jagger, Alison Krauss, and Stevie Nicks. In 2012 Stewart released his latest solo album, The Ringmaster General.)


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.


Technical GRAMMY Award: Waves Audio Ltd.

Producer/engineer Steve Lillywhite on 2011 Technical GRAMMY Award recipient Waves Audio's breakthroughs in the field of recording

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. 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 53rd Annual GRAMMY Awards, will present the tributes to the 12 Special Merit Awards recipients for 2011.

Once upon a time, while sitting in a recording studio back in the distant '90s, a strange thing occurred. A computer appeared near the mixing desk and men crowded around the screen, and appeared to be "looking" at the music. I dismissed this as a passing fad and continued with my old-fashioned Luddite way of "using my ears"....

The years passed by and one day I decided to join those men looking at the computer and imagine my surprise when my engineer shared with me what was hidden behind the screen!

I had been producing hits for more than 30 years in top studios on many different consoles and if I had known when I started that one day I could carry every console I had ever worked on in my back pocket, along with as much high-quality outboard gear as I needed, I would have thought I was going crazy. I now arrive at my sessions with my iLok stuffed with the Waves Mercury bundle and I am ready to go!

I still have no idea exactly how the company's wonderful founders, Gilad Keren and Meir Shaashua, and their team managed to put so much stuff in such a small space, but I don't need to know. All I know is that when I compare the Waves version to the "real" version, I cannot tell the difference, especially with my favorite plug-ins, the SSL G-Equalizer and API 550B 4-Band Equalizer.

Today, technology has completely changed the way we make music but Waves has enabled me to stay true to my original roots while retaining a technical standard that we need in today's marketplace. It's a standard that was set when the company was founded in 1992. That same year Waves introduced its first audio plug-in, the Q10 Paragraphic Equalizer. The company has grown now to more than 150 employees with offices in the United States, Israel and China, and is expanding into the consumer electronics arena, as well as film and video games. A true leader in professional audio.

Waves' commitment to safeguarding the intellectual property rights of their clients is something I highly commend and I think our industry could learn a thing or two from them.

As George Martin said, "Waves is synonymous with excellence." I know that without my iLok and my Waves bundle I would not be able to continue making the quality music I still demand of myself.

(Steve Lillywhite is a five-time GRAMMY-winning producer/engineer. He has worked with an array of artists, including Dave Matthews Band, Matchbox Twenty, the Rolling Stones, and U2. He won the prestigious Producer Of The Year, Non-Classical GRAMMY in 2005.)

Presented by vote of The Recording Academy's National Trustees, the Technical GRAMMY Award recognizes individuals and companies that have made contributions of outstanding technical significance to the field of recording. The Technical GRAMMY was first awarded in 1994. To view a complete list of Technical GRAMMY Award recipients, click here.

Lifetime Achievement Award: Julie Andrews, Roy Haynes, Juilliard String Quartet, The Kingston Trio, Dolly Parton, Ramones, George Beverly Shea
Trustees Award: Al Bell, Wilma Cozart Fine, Bruce Lundvall
Technical GRAMMY Award: Roger Linn


Annie Wants To Be With You
Annie Lennox at the 37th Annual GRAMMY Awards in 1995

Photo: Steve Granitz/


Annie Wants To Be With You

Early Annie Lennox in this week's Forgotten Videos

GRAMMYs/Dec 3, 2014 - 05:06 am

Welcome to Forgotten Videos. Well, for some forgotten, for others just filed away, and for others still, a totally brand-new discovery. Whichever category you fall into, each week we'll feature a video that's possibly been collecting dust when what it really deserves is a fresh look. Or, we'll be giving a fresh look at a video that deserves to be collecting dust. We're not here to judge, we just want to take you on a little trip down memory lane. Yep, you'll remember when hair was really that big, when drums were that up front in the mix, when video was young(er) and so were you.


The Tourists

"I Only Want To Be With You"

It will be surprising to some that from these semi-auspicious beginnings sprang the Eurythmics. In 1980 the Tourists, featuring a young and very colorful Annie Lennox on vocals, and a young and almost unrecognizable Dave Stewart (we're pretty sure he's the one with the Three Musketeers moustache) on guitar, hit No. 83 on the Billboard Hot 100 with this pleasant cover of the Dusty Springfield hit. This was three years before Eurythmics would launch to stardom with the No. 1 hit "Sweet Dreams (Are Made Of This)." We're not sure if the video is of inferior quality, deliberately over-saturated in '80s fashion, or just really old. (Yes friends, 1980 was 30 years ago.)

Bonus: Watch Annie Lennox put on her makeup.

Got a recommendation? Leave us a comment.


Top Moments From The 2014 Special Merit Awards Ceremony

GRAMMYs/Dec 3, 2014 - 04:22 am

By Chuck Crisafulli

Spirits run high all throughout GRAMMY Week, but perhaps emotions are sweetest and deepest at the Special Merit Awards Ceremony & Nominees Reception. The GRAMMY Awards on Sunday will rightfully honor particular musical brilliance from the preceding year, but on Jan. 25 at the Wilshire Ebell Theatre in Los Angeles a group of exceptional artists and trailblazing innovators were recognized for their extraordinary achievements.

Below is a list of the top moments and quotes from the 2014 Special Merit Awards Ceremony that are sure to make you laugh, or cry — or both.

"I'm prone to emotional breakdowns at any time, that's your only warning," said Kent Knappenberger, the first-ever recipient of The Recording Academy and GRAMMY Foundation's Music Educator Award. "Music is a reminder of who we are, and an expression of who we'd like to be. Thank you for honoring and encouraging those of us on the front lines of music education."

Oliver Berliner, grandson of inventor Emile Berliner, who received the Technical GRAMMY Award, framed his grandfather's achievements this way: "What did my grandfather and his invention do? It created the record industry. That's why we're all here."

Photographer Amelia Davis accepted the Trustees Award for her late friend and fellow photographer Jim Marshall. "Jim was a really difficult human," she said. "You either loved him or hated him. As he used to say himself, if he loved you, he'd lay down in front of a truck for you. If he hated you, he'd be driving the truck that would run you down. But friend or enemy, everyone could agree that he was a genius."

Ralf Hütter of Lifetime Achievement Award recipients Kraftwerk used some of the band's lyrics to "The Robots" to accept their award: "We're charging our battery/And now we're full of energy/We're functioning automatic/And we are dancing mechanic/We are programmed just to do/Anything you want us to/We are the robots. Thank you."

Ernie Isley was coaxed to the microphone by brother Ronald Isley to accept the Isley Brothers' Lifetime Achievement Award. Ernie Isley couldn't speak until a hug from Ronald gave him the strength to continue: "I want to thank our parents, and the hand of divine providence that gave us such longevity. Not everybody gets that. And I want to thank Neil Portnow for a phone call that now I wish I had recorded."

Lifetime Achievement Award recipient Kris Kristofferson kept his acceptance short and sweet: "I can't say that I'm not moved, but I can say that I can't think of anything to say. The only thing I remember well these days is my wife, my kids and my songs. It means more than I can say that you would even think I deserve this award, so I better get off before I say something really stupid."

Ringo Starr received a rousing standing ovation accepting on behalf of the Beatles: "It's a Lifetime Achievement Award but I happen to think we've got a lot more life left in us." Earlier on the red carpet, Starr remarked that he preferred to think of it as a "Longtime Achievement Award."

Yoko Ono, who was there to accept on behalf of her late husband John Lennon, said, "I'm here today because I think John would want me to be here. … Now the Beatles music is waiting and ready to go to planets all over the universe. I'm very excited about that."

Olivia Harrison, the late George Harrison's wife, said, "Here's something you probably know: George was my favorite Beatle." Then, becoming very emotional, she continued, "But here's something you might not know. Aside from their music — as people — they are the most supportive and generous friends in my life. The Beatles are extraordinary people, and I'm thankful to be part of this extraordinary family."

As the event came to a close, Ono snuck back to the mike one more time to address the crowd: "Can I just say that I love you? I love you."

But, insisting on the last word, Starr jumped to the mike and added: "I really want to say thank you. So, thank you."

(Additional 2014 Special Merit Award honorees included zydeco king Clifton Chenier, Mexico-born singer/songwriter Armando Manzanero and American violinist Maud Powell, who received Lifetime Achievement Awards, and composer Ennio Morricone and producer Rick Hall, who were honored with Trustees Award. Audio manufacturer Lexicon received the Technical GRAMMY Award.)