Grammy Hall of Fame inductees help correct show’s slights

[21 January 2008]

By Ben Wener

The Orange County Register (MCT)

I’m typically the first person in a group of blowhards to resort to Grammy-bashing, very often because the choices voters and committee selecters sometimes make are inexplicably narrow-minded.

The current album of the year nominees, for instance. Kanye West and Foo Fighters are safe, so-so sops to the industry and a feeble attempt to stay up-to-date. Vince Gill is a sentimental choice. Herbie Hancock (who I strongly suspect may win) is welcome (but also safe) jazz tokenism. And Amy Winehouse would get my vote. That’s a remarkably poor field, further proof that the advances made in diversifying and de-stodgy-fying nominations in key categories in the late `90s are slowly being repealed.

I can go on like that all day. But let me note this, for it never gets the notice it merits: Every year the Grammys (or, more accurately, the Recording Academy) corrects its chronic myopia regarding current music by inducting dozens of classic and historic recordings into the Grammy Hall of Fame.

They’ve been doing this since `73, initially as a means to recognize works that came before the Grammys started handing out trophies in 1959. More recently, it has taken on the same time marker as the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame - all honorees have to be at least 25 years old.

I’m always fascinated to see the complete, eclectic list of inducted singles (in quotations) and albums. Year in, year out, I’m struck by what a worthy assortment has been assembled; I can’t remember a batch that didn’t somehow manage to touch on the artistically important, the culturally significant, the sensations of the day, the inarguably great performances from throughout the last century.

Honestly, at this point, with the increasingly exclusionary Rock Hall so stingy with its honors, the Grammy Hall of Fame is becoming a much better barometer of what popular music has had lasting impact and value. Click to take a gander at the 70-strong Class of 2008, and if that intrigues you, the Wikipedia entry about it has the complete rundown of inductees.

“Alfie,” Dionne Warwick (1967)

“Always on My Mind,” Willie Nelson (1982)

“At Seventeen,” Janis Ian (1975)

Ballads, the John Coltrane Quartet (1962)

Beethoven: The Five Piano Concerti (Complete), George Szell conducting the Cleveland Orchestra; Leon Fleisher, piano (1959-61)

Beethoven: Symphony No. 5, Arthur Nikisch cond. the Berlin Philharmonic (1914)

Bellini: “Casta Diva (From Norma),” Rosa Ponselle; Giulio Setti cond. the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra and Chorus (1929)

Bizet: Carmen, Rise Stevens, Jan Peerce, Licia Albanese and Robert Merrill; Fritz Reiner, conductor; Robert Shaw, choral director; the RCA Victor Orchestra; the Robert Shaw Chorale (1951)

Breezin’, George Benson (1976)

Cabaret, Original Motion Picture Soundtrack, (1972)

“Choo Choo Ch’Boogie,” Louis Jordan and His Tympany Five (1946)

Company, Original Broadway Cast (1970)

“Crying in the Chapel,” the Orioles (1953)

“Dead Man’s Curve,” Jan & Dean (1964)

Don’t Go to Strangers, Etta James (1960)

Forever Changes, Love (1967)

“Free Bird,” Lynyrd Skynyrd (1973)

Gade: “Jalousie,” Arthur Fiedler cond. the Boston Pops Orchestra (1935)

“Gentle on My Mind,” Glen Campbell (1967)

“Give My Regards to Broadway,” Billy Murray (1905)

“Goldfinger,” Shirley Bassey (1964)

The Harder They Come, Jimmy Cliff with Toots & the Maytals, Desmond Dekker, the Melodians, Scotty, and the Slickers (1973)

“Help!” the Beatles (1965, single)

“He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands,” Marian Anderson (1936)

Hoodoo Man Blues, Junior Wells (1966)

Hotel California, Eagles (1976)

“I’m a King Bee,” Slim Harpo

“Indian Love Call,” Jeanette MacDonald & Nelson Eddy (1936)

“It Don’t Mean a Thing (If It Ain’t Got That Swing),” Duke Ellington & His Famous Orchestra (1932)

“It’s Not for Me to Say,” Johnny Mathis (1957)

Ives: Symphony No. 2, Leonard Bernstein cond. the New York Philharmonic (1958)

“The James Bond Theme,” the John Barry Seven and Orchestra (1962)

“Juke,” Little Walter (1952)

“King Porter (Stomp),” Benny Goodman and His Orchestra (1935)

Korngold: Violin Concerto, Jascha Heifetz with Alfred Wallenstein cond. the Los Angeles Philharmonic (1949)

Liszt: Sonata in B Minor, Vladimir Horowitz (1932)

“The Look of Love,” Dusty Springfield (1967)

Mahler: Symphony No. 2, Otto Klemperer cond. the Philharmonia Orchestra (1963)

“Monday, Monday,” the Mamas & the Papas (1966)

1999, Prince (1982)

Off the Wall, Michael Jackson (1979)

Oliver!, Original Broadway Cast (1962)

“Over There,” Nora Bayes (1917)

Prokofiev: Peter and the Wolf (Opus 67), Serge Koussevitzky cond. the Boston Symphony Orchestra; Richard Hale, narrator (1939)

Ravel: Daphnis et Chloe (Complete Ballet), Charles Munch cond. the Boston Symphony Orchestra (1955)

“Roxanne,” the Police (1978)

“Seven Come Eleven,” the Benny Goodman Sextet (1940)

“Sh-Boom,” the Chords (1954)

“Shining Star,” Earth, Wind & Fire (1975)

Shostakovich: Cello Concerto No. 1 in E Flat, Op. 107, Eugene Ormandy cond. Philadelphia Orchestra; Mstislav Rostropovich, cellist (1960)

“Sittin’ on Top of the World,” the Mississippi Sheiks (1930)

“Someone to Watch Over Me,” Gertrude Lawrence (1927)

“St. Louis Blues,” Louis Armstrong (1929)

The Stranger, Billy Joel (1977)

“Strangers in the Night,” Frank Sinatra (1966)

Strauss: Also Sprach Zarathustra, Op. 30, Serge Koussevitzky cond. the Boston Symphony Orchestra (1935)

Strauss: Der Rosenkavalier, Op. 59 (Abridged), Robert Heger cond. the Vienna State Opera Chorus & Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra; Lotte Lehmann, Elisabeth Schumann and Richard Mayr (1933)

Strauss: Der Rosenakavalier, Herbert von Karajan cond. the Philharmonia Orchestra; Elisabeth Schwarzkopf, Christa Ludwig and Teresa Stich-Randall (1957)

“A Taste of Honey,” Herb Alpert & the Tijuana Brass (1965)

Thriller, Michael Jackson (1982)

“Top Hat, White Tie and Tails,” Fred Astaire (1935)

The Velvet Underground & Nico (1967)

Verdi: Otello, Arturo Toscanini cond. the NBC Symphony; Herva Nelli, Ramon Vinay and Giuseppe Valdengo (1953)

The Wall, Pink Floyd (1979)

“The Wallflower” (aka “Roll With Me Henry”), Etta James (1955)

“The Way We Were,” Barbra Streisand (1974)

“We Are Family,” Sister Sledge (1979)

“Weather Bird,” Louis Armstrong & Earl Hines (1928)

“What the World Needs Now Is Love,” Jackie DeShannon (1965)

“You’re the Top,” Ethel Merman (1934)

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