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On Saturday afternoon, the Grammys’ special awards ceremony returned in person for the first time since 2019.
Held at the historic Wilshire Ebell Theater in Los Angeles, the ceremony honored Bobby McFerrin, Nirvana, Ma Rainey, Nile Rodgers, Slick Rick, The Supremes and Ann Wilson and Nancy Wilson of Heart with the Recording Academy’s 2023 lifetime achievement awards.
In his acceptance speech, 10-time Grammy winner McFerrin performed a live and impromptu a capella song with his children onstage. Additionally, Nirvana’s Dave Grohl, Krist Novoselic and Pat Smear accepted the band’s award.
“They said Kurt was witty or maybe he was a smart ass,” said Novoselic, thanking the late Kurt Cobain in his acceptance speech. “He said teenage angst has paid off well, and it has.”
While holding back tears, Rodgers delivered an emotional speech thanking the likes of David Bowie, Madonna, Diana Ross, Mick Jagger, The B-52s, Michael Jackson, Avicii, Pharrell Williams and Daddy Yankee, among several others. “I know I can’t thank them all because it would be longer than all of the sequels of Star Wars combined,” Rodgers joked. “I beg you to put up with me because when I was informed by the academy that I would be [receiving this award], I told [Recording Academy CEO Harvey Mason jr.] that I didn’t see this shit coming at all.”
While Diana Ross was not present at the awards, the daughters of Florence Ballard and Mary Wilson accepted the award on The Supremes’ behalf.
“Thank you to Miss Mary Wilson, may she rest in peace, for never leaving me and my sisters’ sides,” said Ballard’s daughter Lisa Chapman. “I also want to give special thanks to Miss Jennifer Hudson for dedicating her Oscar win to my mom.”
Although I wish mom was here physicaly tonight, I know that she, along with Flo are celebrating with us spiritually tonight, sipping on the finest champagne,” said Wilson’s daughter Turkessa Babich.
Former recipients of the Lifetime Achievement award include Simon and Garfunkel, The Grateful Dead, The Staple Singers, Pinetop Perkins, Jefferson Airplane, Black Sabbath, Dionne Warwick, Bee Gees, Run-DMC, The Beatles, The Ramones, Iggy Pop and Julie Andrews.
Legendary music photographer Henry Diltz was honored with the Trustees Award for his contributions to the industry, having photographed musicians like Linda Rodstadt, The Doors, Joni Mitchell, The Eagles, Neil Young, Jimi Hendrix, Paul McCartney and more.
The late Ellis Marsalis was posthumously recognized with the Trustees award for his contributions to jazz music and education, along with late producer and Stax Records founder Jim Stewart for his contributions to the R&B industry during the 1960s and ‘70s.
The Special Merit Awards also include a technical Grammy awards, which were awarded this year to the Audio Engineering Society and Dr. Andy Hildebrand, who invented Auto-Tune over 25 years ago. The ceremony also honored De Soto High School choir director Pamela Dawson with the 2023 music educator award.
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