Reflections on Grammy Weekend
MusiCares Person Of The Year - 2010
January 29, 2010 - Los Angeles, California
Photos by Kevin Winter/Getty Images North America on Zimbio
We would think that for most Neil Young fans, this weekend represented somewhat of a breakout.
Without getting too bogged down with "what does it all mean?", it just seems self evident and we wonder why we even bother to point out the obvious. But -- clearly -- after browsing reviews and comments, it still seems as if Neil's career remains an enigma for so many.
One would think that simply scrolling through the list of bands performing to honor Neil Young as the 2010 MusiCares Person Of The Year, would be sufficient. Wilco's Jeff Tweedy said:
"He's right up there in terms of a constant in my musical life as an influence and as a mentor. He's kind of just a force of nature. And I take him for granted sometimes like I take the sun for granted ... I'm really happy the sun comes up every day and I'm happy Neil Young keeps making records."
We really couldn't say it any better.
OK, so the music industry honored Neil and his incredible commitment to charitable work and worthy causes. And the Music Academy even awarded Neil Young and longtime artistic collaborator Gary Burden a Grammy for boxset design. Not the music inside the box. Or the breakthrough technology. Or just the release itself. Not taking anything away from Gary or Jenice here whatsoever.
Year after year after year, we've have blogged on the injustice of the Grammy Awards handed out by industry elites, so none of any of this should come as a surprise to anyone.
But, as G.B. observed:
"A friend of mine noted that Neil Young winning for packaging is like Martin Scorsese winning an Oscar for costume design."
"Thanks a lot, everybody."
Jenice Heo, Neil Young, and Gary Burden
Photo by Matt Sayles/Associated Press
From comment on Neil Young Wins First-Ever Grammy Award for Archives Box by Dan:
All I can say that if the Grammy's, after 50 years of Neil rockin the rock n' roll industry, can only manage to give him a grammy for the artwork on his box set, it shows that the whole thing is a ridiculous farce ...
I actually agree that giving him a grammy now for the art on the box set is insulting to him as an artist and at the same time it demeans the whole Grammys institution ... I mean, how can people like Taylor Swift (no disrespect meant to her or her work) or Beyonce walk away with an armload of awards, and this kind of thing has been happening for literally years and decades, and a true authentic artist like Neil has created tens of albums and hundreds of songs of all flavors, and genre's, Jeez he's probably created a few genere's in the process and they can't come up with one measly award for his MUSIC??
Sorry, its a joke, its ridiculous, you'll rarely see me ranting like this, but its preposterous, and it proves the whole Grammys thing is bankrupt, its bogus, its fake, its pretentious, its political ... otherwise its totally unexplainable ...
Neil is a class act to show up and receive the art award ... he's a gracious person who doesn't need their false, pretentious accolades, but the whole thing when you think of it is so ridiculous ya can't do much more than call it out ...
ten years from now these grammy winners and their carefully manicured songs will be long forgotten and Neil and his substantive music will live on, aging gracefully as always...
Neil, Long May You Run!! You truly set the real standard.
Another comment by Matthew Lintzenich:
Oh come on, people, they deserve the award for such great art direction. The artistry is awesome. I agree that Neil deserves a Grammy for his music, and doesn't get half the overall recognition he deserves, but that shouldn't take anything away from the artists who did such a fine job creating the packaging for the Archives.
What y'all need to understand is that mainstream people in our society and the music industry aren't looking for creativity or the quality of personal expression, or your ability to channel the universe in music.
They are much more shallow than that. The people want what's sold to them, they want to be part of the popular crowd, they aren't interested in identifying personally with a song in a profound, emotional way.
They far outnumber the people who enjoy music because it moves them or titillates their minds, because of how it effects them personally, both emotionally and intellectually.
The music industry, by-and-large, plays to this tendency. It releases shallow garbage, people buy it and pretend they like it in order to satisfy their need to be accepted. This is mainstream American pop culture we're talking about here, not the land of smart, thoughtful, multidimensional individuals.
So obviously the chances of Neil Young winning a Grammy are much, much slimmer than Taylor Swift, even though he writes better music. Neil writes better music than almost anyone. It's not about good music - it's about popularity. It's about who sold the most albums because they were aggressively marketed by the industry to the shallow mainstream cult of popularity.
I'd be happy if Neil Young did get the recognition he deserved, but Neil isn't after recognition (thank GOD, because his music wouldn't be half as good as it is), and he doesn't need it, so who really cares?
In some sense it might even be a travesty to award him a Grammy, considering that winning one basically indicates that you're simplistic and derivative enough to easily market to sheep.
And the always thought provoking ranting of Bob Lefsetz:
I saw the Buffalo Springfield. In those days, there were no sponsors. The Fortune 500 ran. Music was dangerous. Neil Young knows the truth, that these companies themselves are dangerous. And that an artist has to march forward and explore unencumbered. Hell, he held up a sign during the show telling the performers to "Just do what you want to do. Don’t listen to anyone else."
That’s the key. To go on your own journey. Not the one people want you to. Hell, did you read all the negative reviews of "Catcher In The Rye" in the Salinger obits? Even the "New York Times" panned it. Unfortunately, the blowback contributed to Salinger’s pullback from society. We lost out, because the powers-that-be needed to tear him down, make him their size.
Thank god Neil Young never succumbed to this. He’s the poster boy for doing it your own way. And that’s why CSN’s business blows up when he performs with them, and he can go out solo to great business and the rest of the players cannot. Because we believe… That Neil Young is giving his all.
Friday night Wilco gave their all. And that’s why their fans believe in them just like oldsters believe in Mr. Young. Punch the clock and people know. Sing from the heart, take your music seriously and the audience knows. Jeff Tweedy wasn’t distracted by looking at the teleprompter, the words were embedded deep inside, just like they are in us.
Grammy weekend. Whatever your thoughts are about the "music industry", it was a time to celebrate. A well deserved celebration for Neil and his friends, at that.
Neil Portnow, president of the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences and Neil Young