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.