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!

Transcript

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.

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?

Transcript

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.

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!

Transcript

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.