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.