Today on Blogcritics
Home » Music » And the Winner at the Grammys Was…the ’60s!

And the Winner at the Grammys Was…the ’60s!

Please Share...Tweet about this on Twitter0Share on Facebook0Share on Google+0Share on LinkedIn0Pin on Pinterest0Share on TumblrShare on StumbleUpon0Share on Reddit0Email this to someone

The show started off reasonably enough, with a five-woman tribute to Aretha Franklin, and okay, that’s fine: Christina Aguilera sings pretty good soul for a white woman. And then we saw a clip of Aretha herself, who looks the worse for wear.

“And then on to the present,” I thought, when Bruno Mars came on. This good-looking guy carries himself well, and sings pretty well, too. The thing is, though, he doesn’t sing like Bruno Mars, however that might sound. He sings like Sam Cooke, one of the two great sweet soul singers of the sixties (Wilson Pickett is the other).

By this time I was starting to think that something was up, and I knew for sure it was when Lady Antebellum did a tribute to the woman who’s pretty much the polar opposite of Aretha Franklin, as far as women singers go—Dolly Parton.

So that was Aretha Franklin, Sam Cooke, and Dolly Parton—and they weren’t even in the house that night!

Lady Gaga was in the house, and was as spectacular as always. She is not, however, spectacular in any original way. Anybody who cares about the great women singers of the last half-century realizes that she has a clear lineage that goes back to Madonna (another Italian-American girl who rebelled against her Catholic upbringing), and starts with Cher.

So the specter of the ’60s was on display in various ways.

And who was in the house? Let’s see…Bob Dylan, Mick Jagger, and Barbra Streisand, that’s who. Three of the greatest stars in the history of popular entertainment. They are old enough to be the grandparents of Justin Bieber, say. (If Barbra Streisand had been his grandmother, she would have made sure that his suit and shirt fit properly. She’s not a Jewish mother for nothing.) And the point is that they weren’t there just as an exercise in nostalgia, although their names probably helped to broaden the show’s demographic. They are still powerful, mesmerizing performers who can fill huge venues.

And that’s true even though their breakthrough songs, songs that form part of modern world consciousness (“Blowin’ in the Wind”; “Satisfaction”; “People”) were recorded almost half a century ago. Although fads such as disco and grunge have come and gone, Bob Dylan, the Rolling Stones, Dolly Parton, and Barbra Streisand (and the Beatles, of course), endure.

It is time to say that the ’60s was not just an extraordinary period that produced extraordinary stars. It was a time that produced stars with unprecedented longevity. Take Barbra Streisand, for example. She has won every award that show business and the world has to offer her; nobody has ever done as many things as well as she has. And there she was on the Grammys, showing those girls with thinner bodies—and thinner voices!—how it’s done. To borrow a phrase from Tom Wolfe, she gave everybody a whiff of the old right stuff.

A few years back Todd Gitlin wrote a book with a very relevant title: The Sixties: Years of Hope, Days of Rage. I want to offer the guess that it was the intensity of the times, which alternated between the agony of the 6:00 news and the ecstasy of the 8:00 concert, that created an opening for great talent. And the greatest talents of the ’60s, many of whom in one way or another were on display Sunday night, used that intensity to write and perform songs that the whole world still knows and loves.

About jcurtis

  • http://jonsobel.com/ Jon Sobel

    Nicely observed! I disagree about the reason these stars from the era have had such longevity, though. It may say more about the audience – forged in social unity – than about the stars’ talents, great though those may be.

  • Jamie

    The Aretha Tribute was the best bit, all the ladies did amazingly well. And by the way Christina Aguilera is not white, she is Latina and since when does the colour of a person’s skin dictate their ability to sing a particular type of music? A white woman has as much ability to sing soul music as anyone else.

    Lady Gaga was disappointing and boring and a complete rip of of the people before her in so many ways, it took this song to make me a renounced monster.

    Bruno strained on the ears.

    The show started out on a high note with the ladies and then was disappointing from then on.

  • http://jonsobel.com/ Jon Sobel

    Gotta agree with Jamie. Bruno looked the part for ’60s soul, but couldn’t sing it. And Lady Gaga is painfully derivative.

  • jada

    Bruno Mars sound like Sam Cooke paaaallleeeessse. Those women sucked all the soul out of Aretha’s songs, if it wasn’t for Ms. Y Adams it would have been a waste of time, where’s Fantasia when you need her. MICK, showing ‘em how to be a living legend 101. The rest was just ho hum.