The second weekend in February will be an eventful one for Bruce Springsteen. On Feb. 8, the rock icon will receive the Person of the Year award at the annual MusiCares dinner and concert in Los Angeles. Two nights later, he may well pick up one or more Grammys for his latest album, Wrecking Ball.
Nine of the 22 previous Person of the Year honorees have won Grammys that same year. Bonnie Raitt won three awards in 1992, the year she became the first female Person of the Year honoree. Tony Bennett and Stevie Wonder each won two Grammys in their years as the honoree; Gloria Estefan, Elton John, Sting, Brian Wilson, Aretha Franklin and Neil Young each won one.
Is it a case that if an artist agrees to do the dinner (which is the primary fund-raising event for the Recording Academy's MusiCares charity), they'll be more apt to win a Grammy? It's not that simple, but it can't hurt. The artists who are chosen for Person of the Year have all been A-listers (see the list below) and most have been long-time Grammy favorites. All but three of the Person of the Year honorees had previously won Grammys. And those three artists (Estefan, Wilson and Young) finally won in the year of their MusiCares honor. So while there are a lot of factors at work here, I think it's fair to say that being the honoree puts artists front-of-mind and may give them an extra edge.Before we go any further, let me note that Springsteen undoubtedly agreed to do the MusiCares event not as part of a Grammy campaign strategy (the very idea sounds absurd) but because his name-power will enable the event to raise a lot of money, which will help a lot of people.
Besides, Springsteen has won 20 Grammys, so it's not as if he needs any help in bringing home the hardware. Only one Person of the Year honoree had won more Grammys at the time of his or her selection: Quincy Jones, with 26.
The Person of the Year award recognizes both creative accomplishments and charitable work. MusiCares' mandate is to ensure "that music people have a place to turn in times of financial, medical and personal need."
Springsteen has a pretty good chance of becoming the fourth Person of the Year honoree to wind up in the running for Album of the Year that same year. He would follow Raitt, who was nominated for her chart-topping 1991 album Luck Of The Draw; Bennett, who was nominated (and won) for his generation-bridging 1994 album MTV Unplugged; and Paul Simon, who was nominated for his comparatively minor 2000 album You're The One.
Springsteen has been an Album of the Year finalist twice, though he has yet to win the award. He was nominated for 1984's Born In The U.S.A. (which lost to Lionel Richie's Can't Slow Down) and for 2002's The Rising (which lost to Norah Jones' Come Away With Me). (By coincidence, both Richie and Norah Jones also have albums that are eligible this year.)
Springsteen opened this year's Grammy show on Feb. 12 with "We Take Care Of Our Own," a politically-charged song from Wrecking Ball. Despite that high-profile launch, the song failed to crack the Hot 100. (It "bubbled under" the chart, peaking at #106.)
Springsteen's career total of 20 Grammys is equaled or bettered by only 10 artists in Grammy history. But it took Grammy voters a long time to get hip to Springsteen, who was a major star for nearly a decade before he won his first Grammy (for Best Rock Vocal Performance, Male, for 1984's "Dancing In The Dark").
Springsteen's classic 1975 breakthrough album Born To Run wasn't even nominated for a Grammy. (There were no categories devoted exclusively to rock until 1979. Also, the membership at the time was stodgier.) The Grammys have since done an about-face on Springsteen, and on Born To Run in particular. The album was voted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2003. A video about the creation of the album, Wings For Wheels: The Making Of Born To Run, won a Grammy as Best Long Form Music Video of 2006.
Springsteen, who will turn 63 in September, has yet to receive a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award, though he probably will within the next few years.
As I said earlier, all of the Person of the Year honorees have been A-listers, but the last three choices, Barbra Streisand, Paul McCartney and now Springsteen, have taken the franchise to a new level. There aren't many artists left who are at that level. Two obvious candidates: Bob Dylan and Mick Jagger.
Here's a complete list of MusiCares' Person of the Year honorees. 1991: David Crosby; 1992: Bonnie Raitt; 1993: Natalie Cole; 1994: Gloria Estefan; 1995: Tony Bennett; 1996: Quincy Jones; 1997: Phil Collins; 1998: Luciano Pavarotti; 1999: Stevie Wonder; 2000: Elton John; 2001: Paul Simon; 2002: Billy Joel; 2003: Bono; 2004: Sting; 2005: Brian Wilson; 2006: James Taylor; 2007: Don Henley; 2008: Aretha Franklin; 2009: Neil Diamond; 2010: Neil Young; 2011: Barbra Streisand; 2012: Paul McCartney; 2013: Bruce Springsteen.