Where has all the music gone?

Published 2:33 pm Monday, February 9, 2009

There was a time in life when I looked forward to seeing the Grammys — not so much for who won what, but for the performances.

A favorite — Marvin Gaye singing his comeback song Sexual Healing in 1983.

Ok. So not to make you watch a lot of videos, but thought about a spin through time with Best New Artist. Actually, the first time the Grammys were given out, there was no Best New Artist. That was May 1959.

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The second Grammys were held in November 1959 and Bobby Darin won the Best New Artist. His standard was “Mack the Knife,” a song about a serial killer from “The Threepenny Opera” written by Kurt Weill and Bertolt Brecht. It was written in 1928.

The third, fourth and fifth awards honored Bob Newhart (yes!) for a comedy album, Peter Nero and Robert Goulet.

A blip on the 1960s screen came from The Swingle Singers, who make music as human instruments. Here they are doing the “Mission Impossible” theme.

Then in quick succession came The Beatles, Tom Jones, a missed year, Bobbie Gentry and Jose Feliciano.

Wa-la. the 60s were over and the 1970s brought its own brand of music. The first Best New Artists were considered poets in their own right and had already performed at Woodstock. Crosby, Stills & Nash. But then we also had the ballads of the Carpenters, who made depressive love songs in the early days.

One of my favorites rose to stardom during the 1970s, which seemed to be a good time for women vocalists — Carly Simon. She was the early Best Newcomer. Then came bawdy Bette Middler, and, of course, Natalie Cole.

The folks left off the newcomer list make my head spin. There’s no Madonna and no Supremes or Temptations or Four Tops or Elvis Presley.

During the 1980s and 1990s, some folks popped up and stayed. For instance, there was Cyndi Lauper in 1985. She endures today, although a little older, her energy has yet to diminish.

Imagine that the same year Tracy Chapman won for newcomer, Rick Astley had a nomination along with Vanessa Williams. I will not Rick Roll you here. But listen to Chapman, who sort of disappeared after this, unless you have a penchant for alternative folk music.

I quit watching right after the 1980s because it seemed too much of a labor, but would watch to see who won, just to keep in the mix. Sheryl Crow came on after the boycott, as did Toni Braxton and Norah Jones. I really hated that Fiona Apple didn’t get the win over Paula Cole in 1998.

But, you know, the Grammys might have redeemed themselves in 2009 with Adele getting the nod for Best New Artist.

It ain’t Marvin Gaye, but there may be hope for music yet.