“If the afternoon ends and there’s still a dry eye in the house then we haven’t done our jobs,” Recording Academy prexy Neil Portnow said Saturday during the presentation of lifetime achievement awards to seven honorees, including the Beatles, Kris Kristofferson and the Isley Brothers.
“It’s a lifetime achievement award but I feel like we’ve all got a lot more life in us,” Ringo Starr said in accepting the award for the Fab Four. “Beatles music is still out there and that’s the thing I’m most proud of.”
Yoko Ono (pictured above with Starr) and Olivia Harrison, widows of John Lennon and George Harrison, were also on hand for the presentation as part of Grammy’s Special Merit Awards ceremony at the Wilshire Ebell theater. (Paul McCartney was busy rehearsing for Monday’s taping of the CBS special commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Beatles’ U.S. debut on “The Ed Sullivan Show.”
“George was my favorite Beatle,” Harrison said with a laugh. Ono’s remarks where characteristically offbeat but a sigh was heard throughout the theater when she observed: “I’m here because I think John would have wanted to be here.”
Kristofferson also struck an emotional chord in noting that head trauma from his early years as a boxer has taken a toll on his memory.
“I can’t say that I’m not moved by this but I can say that I can’t think of anything to say,” Kristofferson said. “I’d better go before I say something really stupid.”
Isley Brothers members Ernie Isley, Ronald Isley and Chris Jasper also delivered emotional remarks, noting that the band had been together long enough to have counted Jimi Hendrix as one of its sideman, many decades ago.
Other lifetime achievement honorees recognized were German techno-pioneers Kraftwerk, zydeco great Clifton Chenier, pioneering female classical musician Maud Powell and singer-songwriter Armando Manzanero.
Trustees Awards for achievement were presented to Muscle Shoals producer Rick Hall, the late photographer Jim Marshall and prolific film composer Ennio Morricone.
Saturday’s ceremony, a precursor to Sunday’s main event, also included the presentation of the inaugural Music Educator Award by the Recording Academy and Grammy Foundation.
Kent Knappenberger, music teacher from Westfield Academy Central School in Westfield, N.Y., was selected from a field of more than 32,000 applicants. Knappenberger earned hearty applause from the crowd when he emphasized that music education should not be considered a “frill” for students.
“Music helps us construct who we are,” he said. “It makes us become more fully human.”