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So... the awards season is over. From the Golden Globes to the Grammys, the Winter Olympics to the Oscars, it's been a long and winding road.
Among people competing for the various honors and annual awards, one of the more popular topics of conversation was: OK, let's say I am the winnerwhat then? Good question.
Of those who believed they deserve the recognition (which is all of them) only those who had previously received one of the honors knew that the little statue at the top of the mountain doesn't really hold more career opportunities, more money, more love or better sleep at night. But it's okay, because the real payoff is something more valuable than all those things: the admiration of your peers. After a lifetime of being ignored, denied, rejected, underpaid and invalidated, to have your hard work acknowledged at last means that you can go back to liking yourself again.
But some odd things can happen at the top of the mountain. Celebrity, for example, when the artist becomes the object of that admiration, instead of the art.
The nominees for Record of the Year at the 17th Annual Grammys ceremony held on March 1, 1975, were:
Elton JohnDon't Let the Sun Go Down on Me Roberta FlackFeel Like Making Love Joni MitchellHelp Me Olivia Newton-JohnI Honestly Love You Maria MuldaurMidnight at the Oasis
Of the five nominees, only one of the songs failed to survive the 1970s. Four of the five got admitted to the big circus tent of "classic rock," which by now includes nearly any popular music (aside from gutbucket blues or straight-ahead jazz) written in 2/2, 2/4, 4/4 or 6/8 between 1955 and 2005, from jump blues to rockabilly to soul to R&B to rock & roll to folk rock to hard rock to progressive rock to grunge to whatever you call what Beck does. It includes every related musical formfrom the sharpest on the edges to the smoothest in the middleonce played on AM and FM radio stations and now on their internet equivalents.
Perversely, it was that very song that history has left behind which actually won the top Grammy honors in 1975 for Record of the Year. It was the sort of marshmallow-soft confection that no one ever seems to want to claim association with in retrospect. Call it pop, short for "popular," or pop as in the sound bubblegum makes when it deflates on contact with anything solid or pointed.
Years ago now--in Rhodesia--listening to Voice of America with Willis Conover I heard Bunk Johnson play When The Saints Go Marching In, and Billie Holiday sing Don't Explain. I knew then there was no other life for me than jazz.