1995 Michael Greene Grammy Speech

The 37th annual Grammy Awards were held on March 1st, 1995 at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles. The big winners were Tony Bennett and Sheryl Crow and it was the first and last time I got to hang with Selena since she died later that year. One of the subjects of my speech in 1995 had to do with governmental funding for the arts and the proposal before Congress to de-fund the National Endowment for the Arts and Humanities. Newt Gingrich and a wave of Republican freshmen had taken over the House and Senate in January and Gingrich became the Speaker of the House. His band of merry freshmen followed in lock-step to Newt’s onerous “Contract with (on) America”. Interestingly enough, Newt and I both did stints at West Georgia College in Carrolton, Georgia where Newt was characterized as brilliant history teacher, yet ultimately was denied tenure and bolted.

Jane Alexander was a great friend of everyone in the arts and at the time was Chairwoman of the NEA and Speaker Gingrich had patently refused to meet with her about the Endowment’s future. All of this nonsense just royally pissed me off and as a result I had made the decision to deliver a pointed advocacy speech on the telecast about this and other issues surrounding the support of the arts. Ultimately we used the speech to generate telegrams to Congress by telecasting an 800 number. Bob Lynch, the head of Americans for the Arts and many other fine folks from NAMM and other arts, music and arts advocacy associations helped us assemble phone banks to generate missives from our viewers directly to their congress people to help save the Endowments. Tens of thousands of telegrams were sent!

CBS Television executives always got to see my speeches, and even though I never allowed them to change anything a couple of the executives always wanted to share their “point of view”. The CBS look at Mike’s speech drill in 1995 was very different. I was called in to talk with the newly appointed President of CBS who in no uncertain terms told me I could not deliver the speech I had written. I patiently listened and then told him I had no intention of allowing the network dictate anything to me or the Academy ever, (to be fair, most of the CBS Presidents never did and supported the Academy’s advocacy agenda). However, this dude was livid and barked, “if you give that speech we will turn off your teleprompter”. I asked if I was dismissed and he shooed me and Pierre Cossette, who was with me away like an annoying mosquitos.

Before I went on stage I got to thinking about the prospects of staring into a blank teleprompter screen and took stock of the situation. Since I had written the speech that would merely be an annoyance, but then realized that one thing could present a problem… the most important thing; the 800 number!  So, just to be safe I wrote the number on a piece of paper and took it to the podium with me. Watch closely, 2/3rds of the way through the speech you can see when they turn off my teleprompter, forcing me to have to pull out my piece of paper and read the number.

So many people called that night that the phone banks almost crashed, and in the words of many in the Endowments and Arts Agencies that defining action by our Grammy viewers helped save the NEA and NEH!


The extraordinary artists and recordings, we pay tribute to here tonight, remind us of music’s powerful influence in our lives. Music in the arts are healing therapeutic force, that lifts our spirits and unites us as a culture. But the fact is, our culture is at serious risk. Viewers around the world may not be aware that the funding necessary to ensure the survival of our proud legacy of jazz, blues, and virtually all other forms of indigenous American music, is being severely threatened. Our National Endowment for the Arts could have its budget slashed by 40% next year, another 40% the year after, and zeroed out the year after that. And folks, National Public Radio and PBS will most certainly be next. We are here tonight on the brink of becoming the only industrialized nation in the world with absolutely no federal support for the arts. They say it is a matter of money, yet it costs taxpayers about $1 a year to keep jazz, blues, folk, classical music on the public radio airwaves and for the Arts Endowment to bring theater, dance, and music to communities all across America. Is it really about money? You know if the Pentagon tried to operate on the Arts Endowment annual budget, they’d have to shutdown in 5 hours. The arts are an economic plus, The arts are an absolute economic plus. They are second only to aerospace as our most lucrative national export. Despite all of this, our Speaker of the House has yet to agree to meet with the Chairmen of the Arts Endowment. It’s hard to imagine that the Secretary of Commerce or the Secretary of Defense would be treated with such total disregard. Since the arts and humanities endowments were founded by partisan support 30 years ago, they have enjoyed the support of every single President, Republican or Democrat. Our leaders knew that politicizing our arts agenda would cripple the accomplishments and make America a leading cultural force. We must not allow the arts to be politicized, privatized, commercialized, sanitized, neutralized, or zeroed out. You know artists, you know artists, whether it is musicians or visual artists, they push the envelope, they stretch everything to the limits. Controversy is both the part of the price and the value of artistic freedom. Lest we forget one of the endowments most controversial grants was the funding of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington DC. Today it’s the most heralded and most visited tourist attraction in our nation’s capital. To see to it that the arts retain their proper place within our society, you folks at home grab a pencil and I’ll tell you what we can do, on Tuesday, March 14th, a campaign of unprecedented scope will be waged. It’s called the National Call In Day for Arts and Culture. This campaign begins tonight by your calling 1-800-225-2007, for options that will see to it that your congressional representatives know that you support the continued funding for these vital programs. When Winston Churchill was asked, right in the middle of the World War II, to cut the British Arts Council budget, he didn’t waste any words, “Hell no!”, said Churchill, “what have we been fighting for?!” Folks without arts education, (clapping) just a little courage is all we need from these folks, folks without art education, the Arts Endowment, music and the love of it will no longer be a cultural treasure, but more and more a privilege tied to personal, family, and class economics. Lets join together tonight in a triumphant effort to keep the arts alive. Our very culture depends on it. Thank you very much. (clapping) Thank you. (Clapping) Thank you very much. (clapping) Thank you. (clapping) Thanks a lot.

The 2001 Michael Greene Grammy Speech

2001 was a year that the Grammy Awards highlighted diversity and was my last Grammy speech. U2, Destiny’s Child, Steely Dan and Eminem were some of the big winners and rap and hip hop lyrics continued to be a hotly debated social enigma burning across many social and political circles. One of the most notable and controversial performances was the duet Stan by Eminem and Elton John. When we decided to approach Elton and Eminem about doing the duet I knew the backlash from the gay community would be a heat seeking missile, and I would be in its cross hairs. Never the less we all felt that it was an important way to advance the public discourse and move the conversation toward a potential positive outcome. When Elton and Eminem agreed to perform, the production company went to work on the staging and concept with Eminem and Elton and I conducted over 50 separate interviews and town hall style meetings about extreme lyrics, censorship, homophobia, and in some cases the accusations that we were doing it as a ratings stunt. The speech you will see here is entitled, “It Takes Tolerance to Teach Tolerance”. There were 8 separate gay and lesbian organizations who picketed the show at Staples Arena, I was hung in effigy (not the first time) and the anticipation of the performance was electric. Eminem had been getting a lot of bad press from the gay community because of some of his extreme song lyrics and our hope was that by him performing with one of the world’s most celebrated openly gay performers, Elton that some modicum of understanding and healing could begin… the world collectively held its breath. A heartfelt hug was exchanged between the two singers at the end of the Grammy performance and I believe the dialogue generated by the event was ultimately very positive. Once again the bully pulpit of the Grammys was used to remind the world-wide public that art is many things, and certainly not viewed through the same cultural lens by everyone… art soothes, angers, incites, entertains and makes some people recoil… but that’s its job and we must fight for its right to be all of those things and against the constant pressure to censor out things we don’t agree with.


Welcome back ladies and gentleman. This obviously is the moment we have all been waiting for. Are you ready to meet the President of the Recording Academy? Are you ready?

He’s the Pres.., Michael Greene.

Thank you John. On behalf of the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, welcome to the 43rd Annual Grammy Awards. First I want all of you to help me congratulate this year’s producer of the year, Dr. Dray. Stand up Dr. Dray. This has certainly been a dynamic year for music. All you have to do is look at the diversity represented on this stage here tonight to witness the walls of division crumble under the weight of a connected world. Of late, the controversy over extreme lyrics has been a heat seeking missile, and it’s important to remember that the Academy is not here to defend or vilify, commercialize or censor art. We are here to recognize those recordings that are notable, noticeable, and ofttimes controversial. People are mad and people are talking and that’s a good thing, because it is through dialogue and debate that social discovery and progress can occur. Listen, music has always been the voice of rebellion. It is a mirror of our culture, sometimes reflecting a dark and disturbing underbelly obscured from the view of most people of privilege; a militarized zone, which is chronicle by the CNN of the intercity, rap and hip-hop music. We can’t edit out the art  that makes us uncomfortable. Remember that’s what our parents tried to do to Elvis, the Stones, and the Beatles. The white teenagers from the suburbs buy a majority of the music in question. They live out their rebellion, and delineate their right of passage vicariously through this music. And most of the adults who pass judgment, have never listened to, or more to the point, have never even engaged their kids about the object of their contempt. This is not to say that there is not a lot to fear in this violence drenched society of ours. We should genuinely be concerned about the younger kids; the latchkey kids, who are not experienced and don’t have a relevant parenteral connection to help them understand what’s real, and what’s shock theater. And accept the fact that musicians, movie stars, and athletes are not perfect. They make mistakes and can’t always be counted on to be role models. Art incites, it entices, it awes and it angers. It takes all it’s various incarnations to maintain the balance, vitality and authenticity of the artistic process. Let’s not forget folks that sometimes it takes tolerance to teach tolerance.

1992 Mike Greene Grammy Speech

Mike Greene Grammy Speech 1992

The 1992 Grammy Awards were Unforgettable, quite literally… Natalie Cole and her deceased father, Nat King Cole were awarded the Grammys for Record, Album and Song of the year for “Unforgettable”, and technology enabled us to produce a marvelous duet between Natalie and her father on the show. The 1991-92 Grammy eligibility year also was the year we formed the National Coalition for Music Education with our good friends at NAMM and MENC. The findings of our Commission and the work of the Coalition provided undeniable evidence that music and the arts are critical to the development of our children, and we took this message to communities all over the country in many forums all year long. To that end my 1992 Grammy speech concentrated on arts education and access to it for all of America’s children.

In 1991 President Bush (1) announced a new imperative for education called America 2000. The core subjects were listed as English, math, science, history and geography. Astonishingly, music and the arts were nowhere to be found! All of our Coalition’s requests to add the arts were met with blunted replies of “No” from then President Bush, and Secretary of Education Lamar Alexander (former Governor of Tennessee). And then, in November of 1991 Secretary of Education Alexander, the highest ranking education official in this country and himself a musician, called music and arts education “Extracurricular”! For the previous 2-1/2 years the coalition battled for the arts inclusion and recognition as part of education reform. All suggestions and requests for change were constantly rebuffed. No matter how strong the case being made and no matter how influential the leaders bringing the issue forward on the community’s behalf. But, in one ten day time period because of the efforts of just a few people, everything changed, and it all started with the 1992 Grammy speech.

Robert Morrison was heading up NAMM’s Coalition efforts in 1991-92 and is now the President of Quadrant Arts Education Research Corporation. In 2011 Mr. Morrison wrote the following article regarding the back story to the 1992 Grammy speech:

The Bully Pulpit of One

Mike Greene, angered by the lack of progress with national leaders, took the stage at the Grammy Awards on Tuesday, February 25, 1992 and in front of 1.5 BILLION people and like a preacher at the pulpit launched the following salvo:

” America’s creative environment affords all of its citizens the opportunity to create and appreciate music, and that begins with education. In the near future, you’re going to be hearing a great deal about the government’s plan for education. It’s called AMERICA 2000. It’s a supposed educational blueprint for the next millennium. And guess what? Among the goals, the words ‘art’ and ‘music’ are not even mentioned one time. The very idea that you can educate young people in a meaningful way without music and art is simply absurd….If current trends persist, music will no longer be a universal entitlement, but one of the markers future historians point to as the beginning of a cultural caste system tied to personal and class economics….If a child has never been inspired by a poem, if a kid has never been moved to tears by a great symphonic work…why on earth should we believe that our future generations could even be bothered by the banning of records or the burning of books?”
Immediately following the show Secretary Alexander called a friend in Nashville’s music business and asked (sanitized for publication): “Who is Mike Greene and what is his <<#@$$>> problem?”
In an effort to head of the negative press, Secretary Alexander announced from a pay phone in an airport to an education reporter for the Tennessean Newspaper in Nashville Tennessee the creation of the “America 2000 Arts Partnership” just in time to be printed in the paper the day of the concert (March 6, 1992). Think about this.

A major new education initiative for music and arts education for the country coming from the US Department of Education is announced to an education reporter in Nashville!

Which brings us to the main question: Did this decision have anything to do with….children? The answer unfortunately is no. It was all about politics and perceptions. This is a VERY important lesson that has driven the modern day arts education advocacy movement. It would be three weeks before the formal details of the plan were released. When they were music and arts education were at least invited to the table: The America 2000 Arts Partnership. The plan spoke of National Standards for Arts Education but stopped short of embracing the arts as a core subject. It would take a change of administration and a new Secretary of Education to make this happen.

The New Administration Seals the Victory

With the change of administration after the 1992 election a new Secretary of Education, Richard Riley, entered the scene. After being in office for less than one month – on February 23, 1993 (we know for a fact this was strategically released on the eve of the Grammy Awards), new US Secretary of Education released the following statement on the importance of Arts in education:
“As we work to improve the quality of education for all children, the arts must be recognized as a vital part of our effort. The arts–including music, theater, dance, and visual arts–are a unique medium for communicating what is common to all of us as human beings and what is special to each of us as creative individuals. The arts provide valuable opportunities for understanding our cultural heritage and that of all other civilizations. The arts also enhance our nation’s economic competitiveness by developing creative problem-solving skills, imagination, self-discipline and attention to detail. Emerging national education standards will, for the first time, provide a clear vision of the knowledge, skills, and concepts that all students need to learn through studying the arts. Building on existing arts education partnerships, the Department will implement and support new education reform efforts which insure that the arts are an integral part of every child’s education.” I guess he saw the Grammy Awards from the previous year!

The overwhelming response to this statement from music and arts educators, advocates, and supporters from across the country gave the Secretary the courage to then change the National Education Goals and add the Arts as a core subject to the new education legislation “Goals 2000.” On March 31, 1994 the President signed Goals 2000 and now music and the arts are codified into federal law as a core subject. That same month the National Standards for Arts Education were released. Not long after new research studies would be published connecting music and arts education to all sorts of educational benefits.

Mike Greene had nothing to gain by taking the Grammy stage on February 25, 1992 to deliver what is now the most important speech ever delivered on our behalf.


Honoring excellence through our Grammy awards is only one of the goals of the academy but of even greater importance is the Academy’s year round work representing the interests of the creative community and ensuring that America’s creative environment affords all of its citizens the opportunity to create and appreciate music and that begins with education. In the near future, you are going to be hearing a great deal about the government’s new plan for education, it’s called America 2000, it’s a supposed educational blueprint for the next millennium and guess what, among all the goals, the words arts or music are not mentioned even one time. The very idea that you can educate young people in a meaningful way without music and art is simply absurd. Through NARAS initiatives, like the National Coalition for Music Education, Grammy in the Schools, the National Student Music Awards and the McDonald’s All American High School Band, the academy is working at the grassroots level to keep music and art in America’s schools for all our kids. If current trends persist, music will no longer be a universal entitlement, but one of the markers future historians point to as the beginnings of a cultural cast system,  tied to personal and class economics. You know in the past few years, our industry has spent a lot of time accentuating the importance of intellectual properties and fighting against censorship. But if a child has never been inspired by a poem, if a kid has never been moved to tears by a great symphonic work, or if a minority child has never been told that it was his or her people who gave us most of our great indigenous American music, why on earth should we believe that our future generations could ever be bothered by the banning of records or the burning of books.

The Year 2000 Michael Greene Grammy Speech

Michael Greene Grammy Speech 2000

Santana swept the major categories in the 2000 Grammy Awards and an unknown singer named Christina Aguilara beat out a very popular Brittany Spears for Best New Artist.

The Grammy All American High School Jazz Bands, Grammy in the Schools and our National Coalition for Music Education were all in full furl and arts education remained one of my obsessions! In that regard I decided that we needed to do something on the telecast to emotionally, visually and viscerally connect these education imperatives with the Grammy audience. To that end we conducted a national search for the best and brightest young performers we could find with the idea that we would showcase them during my speech segment to drive the inspirational performance message of kids and music like a dagger into the viewer’s hearts and minds!

Tapes and DVD’s came in from all across the country and we assembled an inspired panel of judges to select the final 5 kids. That process reminded all of us that our mission to keep music in the schools needed to remain at the top of our Academy agenda! Finally, when the selections were made I went to my dear friend and inspired kick-ass arranger Patrick Williams to work with the kids on learning the charts and to scare away all the Grammy telecast butterflies. Pat and I chose the Thelonious Monk tune “Straight with no Chaser” for the kids to play. Matt Brewer from Albuquerque, N. M. was our bassist; Julian Lodge from Santa Rosa, California was on guitar; Tony Royster Jr. from Hinesville, Georgia was our drummer; Eldar Djangirov from Kansas City, Mo. was on piano and Rachael Lee from Scarsdale, N.Y, on violin. Enjoy!!!


Narrator: Ladies and Gentleman the President of the recording academy, Michael Greene.

Michael Greene: Good evening. It is my pleasure to welcome you to the 42nd Annual Grammy Awards. You know this is the time in the evening that I usually give my little speech. Well tonight you are in luck because I have invited some of my very special friends to do my talking for me.

Michael Greene walks around to each child, they say their name, age, where they are from.

“My name is Matt Brewer, I am from Albuquerque, New Mexico.”

Michael Greene: “Hey Matt.”

“Hi, my name is Julian Lage. I am 12 years old from Santa Rosa, California.”

“My name is Tony Royster Jr., I am 15 years old from Hinesville, Georgia.”

Michael Greene: Hinesville, Georgia, that’s close to Atlanta.

“My name is Eldar Djangirov , I am 13 years old from Kansas City”

“Hi, my name is Rachel Lee, I am 11 years old, from Scarsdale, New York”

Michael Greene: One, Two, Three, Four. (above introduced children continue to play music)

Michael Greene: Give it up, give it up.

This is what it is all about folks, right here. Thank you sir.

Music is a magical gift. Music is a magical gift, which we must nourish and cultivate in our children, especially now as scientific evidence proves that an education which includes the arts, makes a better math and science student, enhances spatial intelligence in newborns. And let’s not forget that the arts are a compelling solution to teen violence, they are certainly not the cause of it. Tonight we urge everybody, in this time of prosperity, especially you hi-tech and dot.com billionaires, to join with the Recording Academy, the arts endowments, educators, music therapists, and our federal government, to usher in a new age of cultural philanthropy. One more time for the kids.

1997 Mike Greene Grammy Speech

1997 Mike Greene Grammy Speech

1987 was my first year as President of the Academy and the Grammys were held at L.A.’s Shrine Auditorium. Paul Simon’s Graceland won Album of the Year and there were no categories for Alternative, Hard Rock, Metal, Rap… well yawn, you get the picture. The Academy had always used music personalities to host the show (in the previous year it was Kenny Rogers) but this year I proposed that we use a young man who was on a late night network episodic called “Soap”. His character was named Jodie Dallas, and the little known actor-comedian’s name was Billy Crystal. It was Billy’s first hosting gig! Needless to say that many of the Academy’s trustees were apprehensive about the decision, but in hindsight, not a bad choice! I was petrified at the thought of giving this speech and was the most relieved person in the world when it was over! This speech was probably my most institutional and is a good one if you need to be lulled into taking a nap!


As we stand on the threshold of a new millennium, we have a marvelous opportunity to cast aside the baggage of intolerance. Division has really, really crippled this country and to enter into the new century with only those hallmarks of the society, which will bond us together as people and celebrate the very best of our substance and spirit as a nation. When we look at the body of evidence, that the arts contribute to our society, it’s absolutely astounding. Music therapists are breaking down the walls of silence and affliction of autism, Alzheimer’s, and Parkinson’s disease. American industry now clearly understands that to advance as an economic power, we must ensure that innovation, invention, and creativity are a key component of every worker’s tool kit or briefcase. And as we continue to elevate education’s priority in our society, new research findings will be released this Friday, demonstrating that music training is far superior to even computer instruction in enhancing early childhood development. Yet despite this compelling evidence, political and media opportunists continue their mean spirited attack on the arts, rather than creating scapegoats, we must join together to solve the real problems that confront our society. We as an artistic community must stand firm to protect first amendment rights, not allowing retail, radio, or radical elements to dictate what we create and with that freedom, must also come, an equal measure of individual responsibility on the part of artists, and parents alike, to carefully consider their position on art that promotes violence, degrades women, or glorifies the use of drugs. Lest we forget, lest we forget there is a very important difference between documenting the ills of the society and advocating dangerous devices and hateful actions. Our recording industry is the proud caretaker of a rich component of America’s cultural heritage. Yesterday the President’s committee on the arts and humanities presented a report entitled “Creative America” and in 2 weeks the Recording Academy and Americans for the Arts will sponsor Arts Advocacy Week in our nation’s capital. Such initiatives will point the nation toward a great celebration of American culture and we applaud all efforts to ensure that our cultural resources and institutions from artists, musicians and writers, to museums, libraries, and theaters are not sacrificed to the expediencies of partisan politics. Creativity, commitment, and courage will preserve and advance a culture, which speaks to the soul and helps instill civility, joy, and a nurturing spirit to our world.

The 1994 Mike Greene Grammy Speech

The 1994 Mike Greene Grammy Speech

In 1994 the Grammys were held at Radio City Music Hall in New York City. Whitney Houston won Record and Album of the year and perhaps her greatest live performance ever, “I Will Always Love You” was the highlight of the show! One of the more memorable moments that year was when Bono introduced Frank Sinatra, who received his Living Legend Award on the air. It’s notable that Frank appeared on the very first Grammy telecast, and 1994 was the last time that Frank graced the Grammy stage. I remember Bono sitting for hours at a time during rehearsal days, up in the rafters of the Radio City Music Hall writing the incredible introductory remarks to Mr. Sinatra… we would send him up water every so often! He carried the same crumpled-up piece of paper to the stage and read from it. Frank seemed lost toward the end of his acceptance speech and the production company and his manager cut to commercial… that turned out to be a very unpopular move that I was defending to the press for weeks!

My speech heralded new research regarding how including the arts in a child’s education increases math and science test scores by 30 to 40 points; outlined the ongoing governmental slashing of arts education, especially in urban and rural school systems and noted the tricky dichotomy of standing up for the first amendment and against censorship, and at the same time reminding the artistic community of their responsibility to not glorify violence, substance abuse or the degradation of women. Many politicians were still trying to convince the public that music was the prime cause of teen violence and substance abuse. Very little has changed in 17 years!


Now more than ever music must serve as a means of promoting the tolerance and understanding that allows us to live together with civility and with joy. This begins when we offer our children access to a quality arts education. Instead we find that the arts continue to be slashed in our schools, and folks that’s a problem. The scholastic testing service tells us that students who study the arts, source an average of 30 to 40 points higher in both math and science. Yet we now have half the number of children participating in high school band and choral programs than just 8 years ago. And where are these arts programs being cut first? Well it begins in the intercity and the rural school systems, the very people, the very places that have given us most of our cherished and emulated indigenous musical forms. First our society rips the arts from their lives and now these same bureaucrats and political opportunists convene congressional hearings to supposedly protect society and what I believe to be our most important, authentic and provocative contemporary musical forms, voices which communicate the stark and troubling reality suffered by those whom society has forgotten. This irony exposes a national crisis, and only we can solve it, nobody else, just us. We’ve got to make our voices heard. And what is our role as a music community? What is our responsibility? One of the most important things we do all year long is to fight for the protection of our artistic rights, the right to express ourselves with the power and immediacy unique to music; and the right to protest, provoke, and even sometimes, hey most of the time, partially drive home the realities of being excluded from the American dream. But through the influence of our medium, we also have the right, and I believe the responsibility, to be a source of pride and positive influence in the lives of our children, many of whom see jail as a step up from their daily existence. We have been and continue to be a healing force between different cultures and communities and we have the obligation to honor, not tear down, the image of women in this country, some of whom work two jobs in order to support three kids, who come home from school, (clapping) some of whom work two jobs to support three kids. These kids come home from school to a television set where our videos serve as their prime time entertainment. When over 2000 kids go to school everyday with a gun in their lunch box, the glorification of violence and substance abuse and the bashing of those who are different from us, it serves nobody’s interest. And we’ve got to remember one thing in closing. You know we may not all see ourselves as role models, but in a world which does so very little to provide hope or to instill pride, it is our children who have the absolute right, and I believe should even demand, the very best that we have to offer as an industry. Thank you. Thank you very much.

Michael Greene Grammy Speech of 1999

The Michael Greene Grammy Speech of 1999

The 1999 Grammys were held at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles and the major categories were all about girl power! Celine Dion’s “My Heart Will Go On” won Record and Song of the year, and newcomer, Lauryn Hill took Best Album and Best New Artist honors. Stevie Wonder was the Musicares honoree and Elton was presented with a Living Legend Award. My speech started in the audience where the Grammy audience behind me said thanks to the fans with a standing ovation. I spoke about arts education, music therapy and announced two new Academy programs. The first was a program we produced in partnership with Mead Johnson called “Smart Symphonies”. We saw to it that millions of new moms went home from the hospital with a special take-home bag containing lots of baby goodies and most importantly an Academy produced special classical CD. This CD contained Grammy winning tracks that had been hand-picked by researchers who had conducted the ground breaking research connecting playing classical music for babies and an increase in their spatial intelligence. The second announcement concerned the Academy’s partnership with the then 1st lady, Hillary Clinton called “ The Arts through Education Initiative”. This program saw to it that every child received arts classes in schools, especially concentrating on the inner city and rural school systems. The Academy was rapidly becoming one of the most prolific non-governmental education program producer in the world.


Mr. Michael Greene Grammy President and CEO of the Recording Academy

Good evening folks and on behalf of the Recording Academy, we hope you are enjoying the 41st Annual Grammy Awards. There’s over a billion of you out there in more than 180 countries. You’re the fans, you are the music lovers, the main reason that we are all here tonight, and before the last chance of the new millennium slips away, all of these wonderful and talented people here, want to say thanks. Thanks for buying our music. Thank you very much for coming to our concerts, and for making us reach higher by always demanding our very best. So from all of us here to all of you, our partners, a great big thank you.

Thank you folks, this partnership, that’s so very nice. This partnership between you and the arts grows stronger every year in new and exciting ways. Recent groundbreaking scientific research astounds us. Building upon a compelling body of evidence that music is fundamental. Music is magic. Music therapists prove every single day that music is powerful medicine. Tearing down the walls of silence and affliction of Alzheimer’s, depression, Parkinson’s, and autism. And did you know the kids who study the arts, do an average of 40 points higher in math and science? Yep. And that music education is superior to even computer instruction in enhancing early childhood mental capacity and spacial intelligence. Soon the Academy is going to be announcing a groundbreaking nationwide program in support of early childhood development. Seeing to it that mothers of newborns leave the hospital with a very, very special resource kit; it includes education materials and a classical CD, produced specifically to help build the very fertile minds of newborns. And we’re also pleased that the Academy has joined with first lady, Hillary Rodham Clinton, to celebrate the Arts Through Education Program. This will ensure that the arts will be made available for every child with special emphasis on those kids who live in disadvantaged neighborhoods, because the arts provide self-esteem, self-reliance, and instill hope in these very places where hope and dreams are in short, short supply. So let’s fight for the arts because the arts advance our society, they speak to the soul, they bring different cultures together and now we know they just make us a lot smarter.

The 1996 Mike Greene Grammy Speech

The 1996 Mike Greene Grammy Speech

L.A.’s Shrine auditorium was home to the 1996 Grammy Awards with Alanis Morissette and Seal taking home the big prizes. I recall having to persuade the U.S. State Department to intervene in allowing Seal to even enter the country to perform. It seemed that there was this little issue of his being a convicted felon in Great Britain… we barely were able to get him to rehearsals before the telecast. He was a stone cold star and we all knew it would be well worth the effort. Our Musicares person of the year was Quincy Jones and the US Congress was still about the dirty business of trying to blame the arts for all the nation’s ills. My speech was titled the Declaration of War on the U.S. Culture and I lambasted the congress for their attempts to dismantle the arts endowments. In turn I laid out the case for the NEA as a great agent for economic progress and pointed out that if the governmental cultural strip mining persisted that only the privileged and rich children would have access to an arts education. I recall asking the reporters and interviewers in the press room after the show what great forms of artistic achievement they could name that the rich in America ever gave us… not surprisingly, no answers were readily available. The call to action was to urge viewers to reach out to their congress people, a bunch of posturers who were woefully out of step and culturally gridlocked… sound familiar?


The music we honor here tonight, builds upon the rich legacy, which makes American culture our most precious, popular, and profitable export. The arts also cut across class and culture; bridging sacred and secular, forging a sense of community in a very jagged and fragmented society. Yet those who preach the politics of division continue to target our culture as public enemy number one. This past year, the National Arts Endowment was slashed by 40%, cutting grants from $3800 to less than $700. Our government has now turned its back on programs that preserve Appalachian folk arts, inner-city initiatives that give African-American and Hispanic children the keys to their cultural heritage, kids summer reading programs and projects where elderly artisans teach traditional crafts to the young. These cuts and bruises aren’t just inflicted to the big metropolitan centers. We are talking about small and rural towns, who are already extremely sparse in access to touring programs. They’ve been cut in half as a matter of fact. Those extremists would dismantle our arts institution and envision an America where only the rich, the powerful, and the privileged have access to the arts. But, you know, it is really not for them to decide. What they don’t tell you is that America’s nonprofit arts institutions generate $36 billion in economic activity and support 1.3 million jobs. During the endowment’s three decades, before this cultural strip mining began, the number of symphony orchestras doubled, theater and dance companies grew by a factor of ten. We must not allow this genuine progress to be undone by the short sightedness of a Congress that is setting the stage for the complete elimination of Federal Arts Funding. (clapping) You have to remember something, when you think about this dilemma in the real context; small town arts organizations, music therapists, individual music teachers, they don’t possess the powerful political action committees, which buy influence inside the beltway. What we do have though, is the resolve of the vast majority of Americans, who will not be scared off. They won’t be driven off or bought off. Your elected officials have got to hear from you. We must join together as a unified force, a loud and an insistent force, an undeniable force against those who declared war on America’s culture. Ladies and gentleman thank you. Thank you very much.

The 1993 Michael Greene Grammy Speech

1993 Michael Greene Grammy Speech

In 1993 the 35th annual Grammy Awards were held in L.A. at the Shrine auditorium. Eric Clapton‘s 6 Grammy wins followed the death of his son Conor, who fell out the window in his New York City apartment and Eric’s song “Tears in Heaven” was about the incident. The song won Record of the Year, Song of the Year and Best Pop Vocal Performance, Male and Eric won Best Album as well.

Michael Jackson received the Grammy Legend Award from his sister Janet. A really nice clip called “How to Become a Legend” narrated by Janet  was shown telling us all how her brother became a legend. Natalie Cole was our Musicares Person of the Year and my speech once again featured elements about censorship, tolerance, governmental arts funding and music’s power to create cross cultural understanding and heal. Tipper Gore’s PMRC had been railing all year against metal, rap and alternative music forms, and I had been in several debates with Tipper and her legions who had been trying to label and censor certain music forms, so inevitably freedom from outside entities telling the artistic community what it could and couldn’t say was a common theme of mine.

The Shrine Auditorium is literally right around the block from the primary scenes of the previous year’s LA riots and we provided tickets and transportation to 300 kids South Central to come to the show… you will see me recognize them from the stage. I talk about the importance of arts education, especially in the inner city school systems and highlight Congress’ ongoing war on arts and culture. I reference the government of Japan, which at the time spent $5.00 per person on the arts against the United States who was spending $15 cents… a chilling wake-up call! I also called for the Clinton administration to make the arts mandatory core curriculum subjects!


Ladies and gentleman, the President of the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, Mr. Mike Greene.

Following Michael Jackson, this is exactly what I had in mind tonight.  I think Michael’s right. Creativity is the one thing that is going to heal this world and lets give him another big round of applause for that. On behalf of the Recording Academy, I want to welcome you all to the 35th Annual Grammy Awards. You know music is often said to reflect the diversity and articulate the condition of society, and we could hardly ask for a more diverse and dynamic world than that which is reflected on our stage here tonight. Music also speaks to our hopes and our dreams and it can uncover the inequities and injustices in our world. I believe when given an unencumbered uncensored opportunity to do so, music can serve as that important pressure release for urban and racial tension and a marvelous healing force for our society. We gather here tonight just a few blocks from last year’s riots, through the Academy’s work with the children of South Central Los Angeles, some of these marvelous kids are our guests here tonight. It’s quite clear (welcome, welcome) it is quite clear that what is dangerously, it is quite clear that what is dangerously missing from their lives is a sense of hope and a source of pride. Music is their primary means of communication. When kids are given the opportunity to study the arts, they stay in school. Children who are exposed to music do considerably better in both science and mathematics and when America’s minority children are shown the beautiful tapestry of the roots of American music, they’re handed the keys to their very cultural heritage. They take pride in the amazing contributions of their forefathers and mothers and that pride instills hope and that, ladies and gentleman, is what we are all about here tonight. For the last 15 years, our government has been about the dirty business of gutting music, art, dance, and creative writing from the curriculum of America’s schools. One look at our art spending policy reveals just how quickly America is becoming a cultural wasteland. The Japanese government, the Japanese government, the Japanese government spends almost $5 per person on arts. Germany spends about half of that, and Canada and Great Britain about $1.20 cents each. And where’s the United States in this survey?  What are the arts worth to all of us? One dime and one nickel, 15 cents. We’re confident that when the Clinton administration reveals its art policy, it will become the seminal call to redeploy resources and ensure that the arts are mandatory core curriculum for graduation.

1987 Mike Greene Grammys Speech

1987 Mike Greene Grammys Speech

1987 was my first year as President of the Academy and the Grammys were held at L.A.’s Shrine Auditorium. Paul Simon’s Graceland won Album of the Year and there were no categories for Alternative, Hard Rock, Metal, Rap… well yawn, you get the picture. The Academy had always used music personalities to host the show (in the previous year it was Kenny Rogers) but this year I proposed that we use a young man who was on a late night network episodic called “Soap”. His character was named Jodie Dallas, and the little known actor-comedian’s name was Billy Crystal. It was Billy’s first hosting gig! Needless to say that many of the Academy’s trustees were apprehensive about the decision, but in hindsight, not a bad choice! I was petrified at the thought of giving this speech and was the most relieved person in the world when it was over! This speech was probably my most institutional and is a good one if you need to be lulled into taking a nap!


Ladies and gentlemen, it is my pleasure to present to you the President of the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, who’s already getting a standing ovation. Ladies and gentlemen, Mr. Michael Greene.

Thank you. Before I start this speech, I would like for all of us to give a hand to something very special tonight and I think the embodiment of it is on this stage; to the diversity of talent in our music family. Music is one of the indelible watermarks of a time and a civilization, a powerful, powerful symbol of society’s triumphs and its failings. But music is also the life’s work of professionals and has become the lifeblood of a great international industry. That industry requires support and leadership, effective collective action to ensure that the legal environment keeps pace with technology, that artistic freedoms remain secure and that intellectual property, that’s our songs and their performances, are protected. Our industry also requires the understanding of consumers, those of you who are out there who purchase and enjoy recorded music. As we work to ensure that creative people are fairly compensated and remain free to pursue every excursion of their imaginations in these matters, the Recording Academy stands beside other industry organizations and reaches out to the larger society through our National Student Awards, Grammy in the Schools and other educational programs.

Michael Greene Grammy Speech 1990

Michael Greene Grammy Speech 1990

The 1990 Grammy Awards were held at the Shrine Auditorium in L.A. and were witness to Bette Midler’s “Wind Beneath my Wings” winning Record and Song of the year. Bonnie Raitt won Album of the Year for “Nick of Time” and the train wreck of Milli Vanilli briefly took home Best New Artist and created a firestorm of public conversation regarding lip synching (wonder where that same debate is today regarding auto tuning)? As everyone will remember, the word spread throughout the industry that Milli Vanilli (Fab Morvan and Rob Pilatus) had been caught lip synching at a concert a few weeks after the Grammys and then everyone who worked with the group came forward to spill the beans that the boys didn’t actually sing on their recordings at all. You talk about a circus… we held a press conference where I rescinded their Best New Artist Grammy and I must have done 200 interviews thereafter. Truth be told, I felt bad for the boys… when all was said and done they were also victimized by music industry pros who worked with them and certainly knew better.

My speech was the formal announcement that the Academy was embarking on a very new course of public advocacy. Advancing music, art, archiving, first amendment protection and arts education were just a few of the issues we were standing up for. This was a very new and controversial agenda item for the old girl, Ms. NARAS. I also announced to the world that Musicares was serving and educating the community on the issues relating to substance abuse intervention and prevention and sent a strong message to legislators that censoring and labeling recordings would be fought vigorously! 1990 was the year when the Academy shed her skin and assumed the role of industry and community advocate!


The recognition of excellence is just part of the Grammy story. Working with our seven chapter cities, our officers and trustees and our national chairman, Mr. Bill Ivy, the Academy is entering a new era of advocacy and involvement in issues facing our industry. We’re working to improve the quality of music education through Grammy in the Schools and the National Student Music Awards programs, and working to ensure that the historical legacy of music on record is preserved for future generations. Through MusiCares, our academy has brought our music community together to issue an effective public statement on substance abuse and most importantly, we are working on behalf of artists and our industry, against the legislative efforts to label and censor our music. Such governmental (interrupted by clapping) such governmental intervention undermines the basic artistic freedoms, which we must passionately fight to protect.

How Does the United States’ Public Art Support Stack Up?

In 1993, then-Grammy CEO and president of the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, Michael Greene gave a scathing, no-holds-barred speech at the 35th Annual Grammy Awards. In it, Greene touched on what he called the “dirty business of gutting music, art, dance, and creative writing from the curriculum of America’s schools,” and identified the federal government as the primary culprit.

It’s important to remember the sociopolitical context for Greene’s speech. Not even 12 months earlier, rioters had looted and burned neighborhoods adjacent to the glamorous Shrine Auditorium, the Grammys’ longtime home. It was no longer possible to ignore the existence of two parallel Americas: one affluent, comfortable, culturally dominant and largely white; the other poor, struggling, culturally marginalized and increasingly diverse.

As Greene noted in his speech, young residents of the “second” America were “dangerously missing…a sense of hope and a source of pride.” They were being told that they couldn’t express themselves — that, to fit into contemporary society, they had to act in strict accordance with a dominant cultural narrative.

Greene identified music as a “primary means of communication” and a key source of the hope and pride that young, economically marginalized Americans lacked in the early 1990s. That was surely a powerful message to the hundreds of disadvantaged Angelenos in attendance at the ceremony at Greene’s own behest.

He went on to excoriate the Reagan and Bush administrations for their open hostility to public funding for cultural education and initiatives. (At the beginning of his first term, President Reagan actually proposed abolishing the National Endowment for the Arts before a committee convened for that purpose and recommended maintaining it in present form.) He fretted that the federal government’s tepid-at-best support for the arts would turn America into a “cultural wasteland,” deploying some terrifying statistics that appeared to support his point. At the time, Japan spent $5 per person on public support for the arts, Germany about $2.50, and the U.K. and Canada about $1.25 apiece. What did America spend? A measly 15 cents per person.

Greene closed on a hopeful note: “We’re confident that when the Clinton administration” — which had taken power earlier that year — “reveals its art policy, it will become the seminal call to redeploy resources and ensure that the arts are mandatory core curriculum for graduation.”

It’s unclear whether Greene delivered this statement with any irony. The Bill Clinton administration faced a host of controversies during its eight-year tenure, of course, a handful of which centered on public support for controversial artists and musicians. It faced repeated questions about whether the federal government should even be in the business of supporting the arts in the first place. Things didn’t get any easier for musicians, artists and pursuers of higher truths once Clinton left office. If anything, they got tougher.

Let’s take a closer look at some of the key controversies that have buffeted the National Endowment for the Arts and other public-facing arts initiatives since Michael Greene’s 1993 Grammys speech, and determine where public support for arts and music stands today.

Great Moments in National Endowment for the Arts History


  • National Endowment for the Arts v. Finley, 1993-98: This long-running court case centered on the criteria by which work supported by the NEA could be judged. The central question: Could controversial subject matter disqualify artists and their work? Cultural conservatives wanted certain provocative material banned from inclusion in NEA’s portfolio under this standard. Ultimately, the Supreme Court ruled that controversial subject matter wasn’t grounds for disqualification.
  • Newt Gingrich’s Anti-NEA Campaign, 1994-97: After Congressional Republicans swept to power in 1994, House Speaker Newt Gingrich led a fierce, acrimonious campaign to abolish the NEA. Though he enjoyed grassroots support, he was ultimately unsuccessful.
  • The NEA Conference Call Fiasco, 2009: On a conference call in early 2009, a NEA executive appeared to endorse active cooperation between NEA and the Obama administration — a huge no-no for the politically independent organization. Conservatives used the opportunity to call for the NEA’s abolition, but the drive fizzled.

A Snapshot of the National Endowment for the Arts Today

Where does the National Endowment for the Arts stand today? What about public support for the arts writ large?

According to a 2013 fact sheet released by the National Endowment for the Arts, the organization’s current federal allowance hovers just south of $150 million. For perspective, that’s just over one-hundredth of one percent of the total federal discretionary budget, which isn’t even close to the total amount the federal government spends each year.

Since the early years of the Obama administration, NEA funding has actually declined markedly. From 2010 to 2013, the total allowance declined by about 13 percent. This is a shame since every dollar in NEA grants complements up to $9 in additional funding from public and private sources. In other words, the federal government’s NEA contribution amounts to only a small slice of the total NEA funding pie. However, it’s an important slice that effectively greases the skids for the bulk of the largess that pours into NEA’s coffers each year.

Perhaps most importantly, NEA funding has an undeniable stimulus effect. According to the factsheet, the nonprofit arts sector is responsible for more than $135 billion in economic activity and supports more than 4 million jobs. Taking away the catalyst for such activity implicitly threatens some of those jobs — not exactly what we want during a period of ongoing economic uncertainty.

Meet the New Boss…

So what has changed in the 20-plus years since Michael Greene’s 1993 Grammys speech? Unfortunately, not much. By some measures, public support for the arts has actually eroded. It’s now up to Americans who feel strongly about the role of art and music in public life to stand up and say, loudly, “No more!”