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.