Legend upstages the young pups at Grammy Awards

By Kelley L. Carter
February 17, 2005


The pups got their due. But Sunday night’s 47th Grammy Awards was mostly about honoring one of the greats: a man who opened doors and crossed genres.

An eclectic mix of young entertainers including Alicia Keys, John Mayer, Usher, Maroon 5 and rapper Kanye West collected their share of trophies, but it was Ray Charles who won a leading eight Grammys, all springing from the album of duets recorded just before his death, “Genius Loves Company.” That included wins in the evening’s two top categories: album of the year and record of the year for “Here We Go Again.”

The late singer, who intertwined soul, rock ‘n’ roll, R&B, country, jazz, big band and blues, also won for best pop album and best pop collaboration with vocals for “Here We Go Again” with Norah Jones, and best gospel performance for “Heaven Help Us All,” a duet with Gladys Knight. The night was further accentuated by two musical homages to Charles.

“I’m going to thank all of you people on behalf of Ray Charles, who is with us,” said Joe Adams, Charles’ longtime manager, accepting the award for album of the year. “I’ll simply say it again: Humbly we accept this wonderful, wonderful award. And we offer a humongous thanks to you individually and collectively from the bottom of our hearts. Very sincerely. We love you madly. Passionately. And continuously.”

“Genius Loves Company” was a difficult-to-record album, as Charles was ailing at times in the recording studio, and often felt too sick to perform. Not that any of that mattered to the listening public. The album, which was released after his death, is the best-selling album of his career, with more than 2 million copies sold.

“I’m going to cry, actually. It just shows how wonderful music can be. It’s at a 100 percent with Ray Charles. How many millions of people has he made smile with his records? Thanks for letting me be a part of it,” said singer Norah Jones, who sang with Charles on “Here We Go Again.”

The first touching moment of the night was a toast to Charles, and it came early in the show. Keys was joined by Quincy Jones and Jamie Foxx, who portrayed Charles in the bio-pic “Ray” and is up for an Oscar later this month for the performance. Foxx and Keys played piano and sang a Charles signature hit, “Georgia On My Mind.”

It ended with Jones, a longtime friend of Charles, revealing the entertainer’s image on a black T-shirt. Later in the show, Bonnie Raitt and Billy Preston performed another tribute to Charles, with Raitt singing their duet, “Do I Ever Cross Your Mind.”

Of course, the youngsters weren’t left out.

West, who had a leading 10 nominations, took home Grammys for best rap album, best rap song and best R&B song, which he helped write for Keys.

West survived a car accident before recording “The College Dropout,” which won the award for best rap album.

“When I had my accident, I found out at that moment, nothing in life is promised except death,” he said. “If you have the opportunity to play this game of life, you need to appreciate every moment. A lot of people don’t appreciate their moment until it’s passed. But right now, it’s my time. and it’s my moment thanks to the fans. Thanks to the accident. Thanks to God. Thanks to Roc-a-Fella. My mother, thanks to everyone that’s helped me. … I plan to celebrate. I plan to celebrate and scream and pop champagne every chance I get, because I’m at the Grammys, baby!”

West also talked about what he was sure everyone was wondering all night long. Many talked about how upset he was at not winning big at earlier music awards show the American Music Awards.

“Everybody wanted to know what I would do if I didn’t win. I guess we’ll never know,” he said, and then held up his trophy.

The Grammys were rather bleak for Detroit artists, who for the first time in about five years or so didn’t swell any of the categories with nominations or wins. Trophyless were Eminem, Mario Winans and Anita Baker. White Stripes rocker Jack White, tapped for country collaboration for his duet with Loretta Lynn, “Portland, Oregon,” was the only Detroit winner. He appeared on stage as she accepted best country album for “Van Lear Rose,” which he produced.

Host Queen Latifah early on helped set what type of night the Grammy awards would be.

“To me, this is a true music show,” the rapper, singer and actress told the crowd of musical and Hollywood stars. “Where they put everything together the way it’s supposed to be.”

In other words, it was to be a cross-section of entertainment. And it was.

Of course, it’s easy to do that when you have an interesting cross-section of artists up for awards: folks like Charles going up against Green Day and Usher, Ludacris and Lil Jon.

Together, Gwen Stefani, Eve, Los Lonely Boys, Franz Ferdinand, Maroon 5 and the Black Eyed Peas opened the show, interweaving their hits du jour.

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Kelley L. Carter

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