How Bogus Were the ’89 Grammys?

•  It was the first year with a Rap category and a Hard Rock/Heavy Metal one, too           

•  So, how did that go?

•  The struggle for Grammy relevance was real . . and still is

Evil Duke: Put them in the iron maiden.

Ted: Iron Maiden?

Bill & Ted: Excellent! [air guitar]

Evil Duke: Execute them.

Bill & Ted: Bogus!

Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure came out in 1989. If it was a snapshot of popular culture at the moment, so were the 31st Annual Grammy Awards that year. They were bogus, too.

The Grammys had become so hopelessly out of touch, there’d been a drive to recruit youthful new voting members to the Recording Academy, which was gray around the temples.

And that year’s show, at the Shrine Auditorium in LA, featured some new categories. One was Best Rap Performance. Yes – shocker – rap had been ignored to this point. Nominees included Salt-n-Pepa, Kool Moe Dee, J.J. Fad, and LL Cool J, yet the winner was DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince’s parent-friendly “Parents Just Don’t Understand.”

Leaving aside the artistic merits of that outcome, the Recording Academy nonetheless shot itself in the foot by handing out that award in the untelevised part of the ceremonies, leading Will Smith and Jazzy Jeff to boycott the show.

The other new category was Best Hard Rock/Metal Performance. You’ll hear in this 33-second voicer, customized for rock stations, that I played it straight . . . had no commentary on the fact that Metallica outrageously lost out to ‘60s staple Jethro Tull:

’89 Grammy Rock Net Wrap

(Sinead had unveiled her buzzcut around that time.)

Now, what follows is a ten-part Grammy preview. It lasts for an agonizing 8 minutes and 44 seconds, but it contains some soundbites I think are worthy of your time. You’ll hear the late George Michael, for instance . . . Aimee Mann and Suzanne Vega singing the praises of that year’s Best New Artist Tracy Chapman . . . Bobby McFerrin trashing George H. W. Bush for using his song without permission at campaign rallies . . . Rick Derringer, who sang “Hang on Sloopy,” and wrote “Rock and Roll Hoochie Koo,” predicting a folk explosion . . . and Bono and the Edge thanking Bo Diddley for a borrowed beat. How could you not listen to all that?

Grammy Preview ’89 10-part

In the More Things Change the More They Stay the Same department:  in ’89 Kool Moe Dee accused Will Smith of “trying to turn [the rap snub] into a race thing.” See Wikipedia entry for “Racism in Grammy Awards” to see how far things have come. Or not.

And the unapproved usurping of hit rock and pop songs by political campaigns continues apace. Especially egregious is the Trump campaign, leaving the likes of Neil Young, The Rolling Stones, R.E.M. and Aerosmith tearing out what’s left of their hair.


See all two years’ worth of posts here.

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