Not your granny’s Grammys

By Mike Murphy

This year’s Grammy awards show has come and gone to mixed reviews.  Sam Smith won big with his sappy falsetto “Stay With Me,” a title which likely echoed the show’s sponsors’ plea to the television viewing audience as the broadcast slogged along for over three hours.

The Grammy Awards originated back in the 1950s as a means of honoring those in the music industry.  The Academy first considered calling the awards the Eddies after Thomas Edison, inventor of the phonograph.  Later, based on the term gramophone, they eventually settled on “Grammys,” narrowly edging out the alternative “Phonies.”  Rather ironic when one considers that the majority of today’s youthful awards winners probably have no idea what that thing is on the trophy.

The first three years of the awards, 1958-60, Alvin and the Chipmunks were tops in several categories.  I tried to find videos of the Chipmunks accepting their Grammys but so far have failed.  After a few years off to gather nuts, they made a comeback in 1964 winning again with “The Chipmunks Sing The Beatles.”

Throughout the 1960s Bill Cosby completely dominated the Comedy Album category with six consecutive Grammys.  It appears that, based on recent revelations, his 1968 winner “To Russell, My Brother, Whom I Slept With,” could be renamed “To (Fill in the blank) Whom I Slept With.”  He even had a Best Recording for Children winner called “Bill Cosby Talks To Kids About Drugs.”  Hmmmm.

You get some idea of the downhill direction our culture was headed when Cosby finally lost his spot as king of comedy to Cheech and Chong who won the Grammy in 1973.  Although, again, compared to Cosby maybe the two pot-smoking comedians actually symbolized an upgrade in society’s morals!

The year 1971 marked the first time the Grammy awards were broadcast live, adding to other disasters that took place that year like tornadoes, earthquakes, and the birth of Snoop Dogg.  Highlight of the Grammys that year occurred when singer Andy Williams joked that John Lennon appearing nude on an album cover proved that he was not one of the Lennon Sisters!

For me, the Grammys lost much of their luster back in 2009 when polka was dropped as a separate music category by The Recording Academy so as to “stay relevant and responsive.”  No polka!  Why that’s as inexplicable as the Grammys never having a separate category for yodeling.

Imagine how this must have devastated such polka stars as The Jolly Jammers and The Sausage Swingers!  I’m sure my dad did a Bohemian national pivot turn in his grave when he heard the news since he and Mom would polka all evening once Dad felt adequately fueled.  When it comes to dancing, I too happen to follow the philosophy of Cicero: “No one dances while he is sober unless he happens to be a lunatic.”

Some of the newest Grammy categories are Best Music Video, Best Urban Contemporary Album, Best New Age Album, and a lot of Visual Media stuff since young people today can’t seem to just listen and visualize, they have to actually watch something—like in school.

And why are some categories labeled as “Album” when music today occurs on just about anything but albums?  Shouldn’t categories be like “Best Rap CD, Terrestrial Radio, Podcast Download, Software Piracy, Streaming Radio, Satellite Radio goes to . . .”?

The older generations did have some representation at this year’s awards.  Tony Bennett along with Lady Gaga performed, sort of a Beauty and the Beast pairing with Bennett as the Beauty, since he looks and sounds good at 88 years old. I realize their duet album is popular but, really, I think Tony must have left something besides his heart in San Francisco, like his brain, for teaming up with her.

For some strange reason 72-year old Paul McCartney performed with rapper Kanye West who presented a stark contrast to the classy Beatle.  Sure, back in the day the Beatles shook their mop tops a bit while performing, but at least they didn’t strut around grabbing their crotch like they have severe jock itch while singing “She loves you, yeah, yeah, yeah.”

I think everyone is getting tired of Kanye jumping on stage and protesting every time he or Beyonce fail to win an award.  Even President Obama called Kanye a “jackass!”  Can you imagine if Kanye butted in while Frank Sinatra accepted one of his eleven Grammys?  Why, Kanye would soon have the Italian Mafia making him an offer he couldn’t refuse which likely would involve a new pair of cement shoes.

As usual nowadays there was Major Cleavage at the Grammy red carpet—and I’m not talking about some honored military guest.  Whereas, the most risqué moment back at the first awards in 1958 was the announcement that the winner for Best Dance Band Performance was “Billie May’s Big Fat Brass.”

Mike Murphy, of Pocatello, retired after a 35-year teaching and coaching career. He has a master’s degree in English from the University of Nebraska and is an Associated Press award-winning columnist.