The Recording Academy has announced their recipients for this year’s Special Merit Awards.
These awards are voted by the academy’s trustees and are divided into three categories:
Lifetime Achievement Award – Honors performers who have made contributions of outstanding artistic significance to the field of recording. This year’s recipients:
Earth Wind & Fire
Trustees Award – Recognizes similar contributions as the Lifetime Achievement Awrd in areas other than performance. This year’s recipients:
Technical Grammy Award – Given to individuals and companies who have made contributions of outstanding technical significance to the recording field. The honorees:
Dr. Harvey Fletcher
The following, from the academy’s press release, details the careers of each recipient:
Lifetime Achievement Award Honorees
Ruth Brown* began her musical career in the church choir at the tender age of 4. A singer/songwriter, record producer, composer, and actress noted for bringing a pop music style to R&B music, Brown became one of the undisputed architects of the genre. She recorded a number of hit songs, including I’ll Wait For You, I Know, 5-10-15 Hours, and Mambo Baby. She later went on to have a successful theater career.
Celia Cruz* was one of the most popular salsa singers and performers in history. Known internationally as the “Queen of Salsa,” the Cuban-American Cruz was a larger-than life-personality. She recorded 23 gold albums and was a recipient of the United States National Medal of Arts. Cruz received three GRAMMY Awards and four Latin GRAMMY Awards.
Six-time GRAMMY winners Earth, Wind & Fire were one of the most important and innovative contemporary pop/R&B musical forces of the 20th century. Members Philip Bailey, Larry Dunn, Johnny Graham*, Ralph Johnson, Al McKay, Fred White, Maurice White, Verdine White, and Andrew Woolfolk built the group’s distinctive signature sound, which has remained profoundly influential. Successfully breaking down all musical genre boundaries since forming in 1969, they recorded seven #1 R&B singles and eight Top 10 pop albums. Earth Wind & Fire earned more than 50 gold and platinum album certifications and more than 90 million albums worldwide, placing them on the list of best-selling musical artists of all time.
One of the most revered and idiosyncratic figures in jazz, Herbie Hancock has been at the forefront almost every development in electronic and acoustic jazz and R&B. A stylistically diverse and ever-intriguing canon of songs, including Maiden Voyage and Rockit, has helped earn him 14 GRAMMY Awards during his impressive five-decade-plus professional solo career.
Marty Balin, Jack Casady, Spencer Dryden*, Paul Kantner, Jorma Kaukonen, and Grace Slick comprised Jefferson Airplane, pioneers of counterculture-era psychedelic rock. Emerging from the San Francisco scene to achieve international mainstream success, performing at the three most famous American rock festivals of the 1960s — Monterey (1967), Woodstock (1969), and Altamont (1969). Their 1967 album Surrealistic Pillow is regarded as one of the key recordings of the “Summer of Love.” Two hits from that album, Somebody To Love and White Rabbit, are among Rolling Stone’s “500 Greatest Songs of All Time.”
With roots in the Los Angeles country and folk-rock scenes, Linda Ronstadt is one of the most popular interpretive singers of all time, earning a string of platinum-selling albums and Top 40 singles. Throughout the 1970s, her laid-back pop never lost sight of her folky roots, yet as Ronstadt moved into the 1980s, she began to change her sound with the times, adding new wave influences. Her later years saw the 10-time GRAMMY winner exploring traditional pop, Latin, and musical theater.
RUN DMC, comprising of Darryl “DMC” McDaniels, Jason “Jam Master Jay” Mizell*, and Joseph “Reverend Run” Simmons, were one of the most influential and best-known acts in the history of rap. They were the first group in the genre to have a gold album (RUN DMC., 1984) and to be nominated for a GRAMMY Award. They were also the first hip-hop group to earn a platinum record (King Of Rock, 1985), and the first to earn multiplatinum certification (Raising Hell, 1986).
Trustees Award Honorees
John Cage* was an avant-garde composer whose inventive works and unorthodox ideas profoundly influenced the entire music industry. His innovative ideas on composition and performance influenced a broad spectrum of artists including fellow musicians, dancers, choreographers, painters and more. Cage remained on the leading edge of both playful and profound experimentalism for the greater part of his career. One of Cage’s best-known and most sonically intriguing innovations, the prepared piano, has become an almost commonplace compositional resource.
Music entrepreneur Fred Foster contributed a great deal to the Nashville music scene of the 1960s and 1970s as a producer and as the head of one of the city’s strongest independent labels, Monument Records. He is best known for producing many classic hits by Roy Orbison. He also played a vital role in the career of Kris Kristofferson, and worked with Willie Nelson, Dolly Parton, Ray Stevens, among others. From 1960 to 1964, Foster produced the overwhelming bulk of hit songs with which Orbison is associated: Only The Lonely, In Dreams, Running Scared, Blue Bayou, Blue Angel, Dream Baby, Crying, Candy Man, Mean Woman Blues, It’s Over, and Oh, Pretty Woman.
Chris Strachwitz has made his living celebrating the music he loves – music that forms the fabric of both American and international culture. He is the founder of Arhoolie Records and produces much of the content he releases. To blues fans he is a legend, releasing seminal works by Mississippi Fred McDowell, Mance Lipscomb, Charlie Musselwhite, Rebirth Brass Band, Big Joe Williams, Big Mama Thornton, Lightnin’ Hopkins, Earl Hooker, and Elizabeth Cotten, and many others. Strachwitz also produces Cajun music, highlighted by his releases by Clifton Chenier, and also focused on Mexican recordings, especially Norteño music.
Technical GRAMMY Award Recipients
Known as the father of stereophonic sound, Dr. Harvey Fletcher* was a prominent physicist, credited with inventing the hearing aid and the first audiometer. Through his research, he was able to document and demonstrate the spatial effects of sound, which he called auditory perspective, or stereo. However, it was his profound interest in music that led Fletcher to partner with Leopold Stokowski and the Philadelphia Orchestra, and this collaboration produced more than 100 stereo recordings. In his tests, listeners were often unable to distinguish the difference between the live orchestra and the recordings.
EMT (Elektro-mess-technik) was founded in Berlin in 1940, originally manufacturing high-end turntables. In 1957, the company made a huge breakthrough with the release of the EMT 140 Reverberation Unit — the first plate reverb. Upon its introduction, the EMT 140 Reverberation Unit quickly garnered popularity, providing a smoother substitute to spring reverb systems, simplifying the process of affecting recorded sound while providing the engineer with a more versatile and customizable interface than acoustic chambers. With the plates’ introduction, the sound of popular music changed dramatically as evident in English recordings made at Abbey Road by the Beatles and Pink Floyd, as well as RCA Victor recordings by Nashville’s Chet Atkins and many others.
* Indicates posthumous award.
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