The Recording Academy announced its 2010 Special Merit Awards recipients today. This year's Lifetime Achievement Award honorees are Leonard Cohen, Bobby Darin, David "Honeyboy" Edwards, Michael Jackson, Loretta Lynn, André Previn, and Clark Terry; this year's Trustees Award honorees are Harold Bradley, Florence Greenberg and Walter C. Miller; and AKG and Thomas Alva Edison are this year's Technical GRAMMY Award honorees.

The special invitation-only ceremony will be held during GRAMMY Week on Jan. 30, 2010, and a formal acknowledgment will be made during the 52nd Annual GRAMMY Awards telecast, which will be held at Staples Center in Los Angeles on Jan. 31 and broadcast live at 8 p.m. ET/PT on the CBS Television Network.

"This year's honorees are a prestigious group of diverse and prominent creators who have contributed some of the most distinguished and influential recordings," said Recording Academy President/CEO Neil Portnow. "Their outstanding accomplishments and passion for their craft have created a timeless legacy that has positively affected multiple generations, and will continue to influence generations to come. It is an honor and privilege to recognize such talented individuals who have had and will continue to have such an influence in both our culture and the music industry." The Lifetime Achievement Award honors lifelong artistic contributions to the recording medium while the Trustees Award recognizes outstanding contributions to the industry in a non-performing capacity. Both awards are determined by vote of The Recording Academy's National Board of Trustees. Technical GRAMMY Award recipients are determined by vote of The Academy's Producers & Engineers Wing Advisory Council and Chapter Committees as well as The Academy's Trustees. The award is presented to individuals and companies who have made contributions of outstanding technical significance to the recording field.

About the Lifetime Achievement Award Honorees:

With a career that has spanned four decades and 18 albums, singer/songwriter Leonard Cohen has worked with the likes of such artists as Elton John, Willie Nelson, Neil Diamond, and Iggy Pop. He has garnered a number of awards including an induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and just recently won a GRAMMY Award for his participation on the album Herbie Hancock: The Joni Letters, which won Album Of The Year at the 50th Annual GRAMMYs. This past February, Cohen launched an international tour that began with the reopening of the legendary New York City Beacon Theater.

Distinguished Company

The Recording Academy - January 30, 2010 by Bruce Britt (Photo: Rick Diamond)

Leave it to Leonard Cohen, perhaps contemporary music's greatest living musical poet, to sum up the spirit of the Special Merit Awards Ceremony during his Lifetime Achievement Award acceptance speech Saturday at the Wilshire Ebell Theatre in Los Angeles. Dressed in a black suit and speaking in his trademark vampire baritone, the stubbly singer/songwriter thanked The Recording Academy for allowing him to be a part of "this distinguished company…as we make our way to the finish line that some of us have already crossed."

Sobering words. If we are to take away anything from Michael Jackson's senseless, unexpected death last year at age 50, it's that we must appreciate our heroes and loved ones before, and after, they cross over into the unknowable beyond. Appreciation is exactly what the annual Special Merit Awards are all about, and The Academy honored 12 legendary artists, innovators, companies, and behind-the-scenes technicians whose timeless works have helped improve the quality of lives worldwide.

Though Cohen's poetic, fateful words resounded throughout the event, other recipients delivered insightful stories and jokes that appealed more to the funny bone. A frail Clark Terry had to be helped to the stage, but not even illness could dampen the trumpeter's indomitable comic spirit. Hobbling down the stage in his wheelchair, the iconic jazz trumpeter joked that he was going to "keep doing it" until he got it right. Summing up his career, Delta blues singer/guitarist David "Honeyboy" Edwards stated that he "played a lot of blues out there…and I’m still 'knocking 'em dead." The son of late Scepter Records founder Florence Greenberg, who was there to accept a Trustees Award on her behalf, reminisced that "if you called her 'mother' at the office, our pay got docked."

Accepting the Lifetime Achievement Award for the late Bobby Darin, Dodd Darin struggled to compose himself as he remembered his dad. Flanked by his two school-aged daughters, Dodd shared how his multi-talented father was outraged that blacks were not allowed to perform at New York's legendary Copacabana, and recounted how he insisted black comic George Kirby open his show at the nightspot. The club's owner balked at the request, but Darin stood his ground and prevailed.

When the ancestors of phonograph inventor Thomas Alva Edison and country singer Loretta Lynn took the stage to accept awards for their famous elders, you couldn't help but think of their distinguished heredity. A Technical GRAMMY Award was given to pro audio company AKG Acoustics, the award-winning subsidiary of Harman International. Classical conductor/pianist André Previn (accepting his award via video presentation), country producer/guitarist Harold Bradley, and longtime GRAMMY telecast producer Walter C. Miller jammed the hilarity meter with their wry speeches.

Finally, former Michael Jackson manager Frank DiLeo took the stage to accept the Lifetime Achievement Award for his late client. Accepting the award for Jackson's three children, DiLeo told the hushed crowd the King of Pop had a tremendous sense of humor, which the singer would reveal when he watched the GRAMMYs. As DiLeo recalled, Jackson would phone him after a particularly weird acceptance speech and say, "Do you believe what that guy just said?"

"Then he would laugh and hang up," DiLeo said.

While Jackson has crossed Cohen's proverbial finish line, his work — along with that of the rest of this year's Special Merit Awards class — will be appreciated and celebrated for many years to come.

Leonard Cohen and Recording Academy President/CEO Neil Portnow at the Special Merit Awards and Nominee Reception on Jan. 30 at The Wilshire Ebell Theatre in Los Angeles

Photos by Frederick M. Brown and AFP

Getty Images - January 30, 2010


Photos by Charley Gallay/WireImage

Life - January 30, 2010

Michael Jackson, Leonard Cohen win special Grammys

Reuters - January 30, 2010 by Dean Goodman

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Michael Jackson won yet another posthumous honor on Saturday, joining six other musicians including Leonard Cohen and Loretta Lynn who received Grammy awards for lifetime achievement.

But Jackson's family, whose members rarely turn down an opportunity to share his spotlight, did not attend the ceremony at the Wilshire Ebell Theater, despite speculation that some of his children might accept the statuette on his behalf.

Instead, Jackson's former manager, Frank DiLeo, did the honors, describing the pop star as "a funny guy, he had a sense of humor like none of you ever knew."

Jackson, who died of a drug overdose last year, aged 50, won 13 Grammys in his lifetime.

An unshaved Cohen, sporting a fedora and bolo tie, wryly noted that he never won a Grammy for any of his recordings.

"As we make our way toward the finish line that some of us have already crossed, I never thought I'd get a Grammy award. In fact, I was always touched by the modesty of their interest," he said to loud applause.

The 75-year-old Canadian folk poet did receive a Grammy two years ago as one of the featured artists on Herbie Hancock's surprise album of the year winner.

As a bonus, he recited the lyrics of his comic tune "The Tower of Song" featuring such lines as "I was born like this, I had no choice. I was born with the gift of a golden voice."

Bobby Darin, the man behind such hits as "Mack the Knife" and "Splish Splash," was another posthumous winner. The award was accepted by his son, Dodd, who tearfully recalled that his father knew "he wouldn't be around for the long haul."

Bobby Darin, who had been born with a heart defect, died after surgery in 1973 when he was 37 and his only son 12.

Noting that his father would be 73 now, Dodd Darin told Reuters that his father could have followed a similar trajectory to Tony Bennett, "connecting with 25-year-olds."

"Had he lived I think he would be performing and producing other artists. He loved music. I think he'd still be very active. He never had any quit in him," he said.

Age was also no impediment for another honoree, 95-year-old blues guitarist David "Honeyboy" Edwards, who just completed a European tour. "I can still knock 'em dead," he said.

Another veteran, 89-year-old jazz trumpeter Clark Terry was also honored.

Country star Loretta Lynn, marking her 50th anniversary in the music business this year, was a last-minute no-show because her brother was ill. The award was accepted by her twin daughters, Peggy and Patsy Lynn.

Classical pianist, conductor and composer Andre Previn was prevented by ill-health from accepting his award, but sent in a video message.

Leonard Cohen: He's Grammy's Man

Spinner - January 29, 2010 by Joshua Ostroff

Some artists, like the Rolling Stones back in 1986, get their Grammy lifetime achievement recognition too early; others come, as with Michael Jackson this year, sadly too late. But 75-year-old Leonard Cohen has, as always, impeccable timing.

Cohen's Grammy 2010 Lifetime Achievement Award arrives at the height of the iconic septuagenarian's umpteenth comeback. A wildly acclaimed two-years-and-counting world tour has seen Cohen storm the gates of popular culture as crowds clamoured for sold-out tickets and artists increasingly name-dropped his influence.

Right this moment, the top iTunes download is Justin Timberlake's cover of Cohen's 'Hallelujah,' which the pop star performed with Matt Morris at the recent Hope for Haiti telethon, quietly using Cohen's songcraft to outshine a superstar collaboration between U2, Rihanna and Jay-Z.

JT's just the latest in a winding line of singers covering that classic, including baroque-pop star Rufus Wainwright, country legend Willie Nelson, folk hero Bob Dylan, 'American Idol' wannabe Jason Castro, pop-punks Fall Out Boy, X-Factor winner Alexandra Burke and, most famously, the late singer-songwriter Jeff Buckley. The latter pair even simultaneously nabbed the top two spots on the UK charts in Christmas 2008 while Cohen's own version also entered the Top 40 for the first time. (Though when the song subsequently appeared in 'The Watchmen' last summer, Cohen echoed many fans' thoughts, telling CBC Radio "I think it's a good song, but too many people sing it.")

Ironically, 'Hallelujah' appeared on Cohen's 1984 album 'Various Positions,' a synth-fuelled record which Columbia refused to release in America despite it also containing such now-classic songs as the achingly romantic 'Dance Me to the End of Love' and mournful ballad 'If It Be Your Will.' That temerity would be unlikely to occur again as Cohen is rumoured to be prepping a new album of material after road-testing a few new songs last year. If that record does see a 2010 release it will be arrive more than a half-century after Cohen first began shaping our culture.

Cohen, known by some as the prince of pessimism, came by his musical darkness naturally. His father, a clothier, died when he was nine and brought the illogical nature of death, and of the world, into stark relief early on. That perspective would serve Cohen well as he came of age during the Beat Generation, becoming a hero poet in the mid-'50s Montreal coffee-house scene with the release of his first poetry collection, 'Let Us Compare Mythologies.' In 1961, his second book of poems, 'Spice Box of Earth,' made him an international presence.

Though he'd always been interested in music, having formed the country trio Buckskin Boys at age 17, Cohen spent the early '60s in seclusion on the Greek island of Hydra, writing poems and books (including 'Beautiful Losers,' which has since sold about 800,000 copies) and living with his muse Marianne Jensen until 1966 when he split for Nashville to start a music career. Even before he released a single song, he'd already sold 'Suzanne' to Judy Collins, who recorded the first of a reported 2000 (!) Cohen covers.

By the summer of 1967 he was working the folk festival circuit and that winter released his debut, 'The Songs of Leonard Cohen,' which included 'Suzanne,' 'Sisters of Mercy,' and his ode to Jensen, 'So Long, Marianne.' His next two albums, 'Songs from a Room' and 'Songs of Love and Hate' cemented his iconic status with tracks like 'Bird on a Wire' and 'Famous Blue Raincoat.' As Lou Reed would say when inducting Cohen into the Rock&Roll Hall of Fame, he had entered the "highest and most influential echelon of songwriters."

Though never a chart-topper -- his songs were ultimately too weighty to float in the mainstream -- Cohen created an enduring, multi-generational and international cult following. Combining Serge Gainsbourg's Euro sexuality, Elvis Presley's innate charisma and Bob Dylan's pop poetics, Cohen added his own deep rumbling baritone to give an aura of prophesy to every lyric, be it biblical or boudoir based.

Though his influence waned in the 1980s, he came back with a force at the turn of the decade with 1988's blackly comedic 'I'm Your Man' and the apocalyptic techno-pop of 1992's 'The Future' ("I've seen the future, brother," Cohen intones. "It is murder.") These arrived just as the alt-rock revolution was gearing up to take over music and Cohen was being introduced to a younger audience via Hollywood.

In the 1990 teen cult classic 'Pump Up the Volume,' a high-school pirate radio DJ began each of his phony-exposing shows by lighting a cigarette and dropping the needle on Cohen's midnight-black anthem 'Everybody Knows,' a sonic exercise in cultural cynicism whose only true equivalent is the late J.D. Salinger's book, 'Catcher in the Rye.' (It has recently been used to similar anti-establishment effect as bumper music for Alex Jones' hyper-conspiratorial radio show.)

The following year came the tribute album 'I'm Your Fan,' which included covers by R.E.M., the Pixies, John Cale and Nick Cave, giving Cohen further cred with the Lollopalooza generation. (A second covers album in 1995, 'Tower of Song,' aimed a little older with the legendary likes Billy Joel, Elton John, Peter Gabriel, Don Henley, Sting and Bono).

In 1993, Oliver Stone snagged three songs from 'The Future' for his agit-pop tour-de-force 'Natural Born Killers,' including giving the ballad 'Waiting for the Miracle' a prominent spot on the smash soundtrack.

After touring 'The Future,' Cohen went into seclusion again, this time at a Zen retreat on Mount Baldy, California. He spent five years out of sight -- becoming a Buddhist monk and going by the name Jikan, or 'silent one' -- only emerging in 1999. Though he released a couple of albums in the 2000s, as well as the new poetry collection, 'Book of Longing,' the biggest news came mid-decade when Cohen announced he was nearly broke after his manager Kelly Lynch embezzled $5 million from his savings (which has yet to be repaid).

But this dark cloud for Cohen had a silver lining for his fans as it lay the groundwork for his triumphant tour -- including now-legendary headlining performances at Glastonbury and Coachella -- and late-career revival.

When he accepts his Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award on Sunday, we should remember that the lesson of Leonard Cohen -- a man whom Angelica Huston once aptly described as "part wolf, part angel" -- is ultimately the opposite of his bleak 'Everybody Knows' worldview. Even if the fight is fixed, the poor stay poor and the rich get rich, Cohen has now taught us that sometimes the good guys do win.

Knelman: Bashful Leonard Cohen thankful at Canadian tribute

Toronto Star - January 31, 2010 by Martin Knelman

LOS ANGELES—Always a class act, Leonard Cohen demonstrated the power of minimalism with a brief but unforgettable appearance on Thursday evening at a Canadian government bash celebrating honorees at Sunday night's Grammy Awards.

Avoiding an adoring mob that included scribes and photographers as well as fans, the great 75-year-old troubadour skipped the shmooze but materialized magically on stage at the right moment to say a few well-chosen words before disappearing again, almost in a puff of smoke.

We won't know until Sunday night's telecast who or how many of the Canadians nominated in 13 categories – including Nickelback, Michael Bublé and Drake – will be among this year's Grammy winners. But no matter what happens, two of this country's icons are bound to be celebrated.

Cohen receives a lifetime achievement award, which was presented Saturday afternoon at a special advance ceremony.

And Neil Young, chosen as person of the year for his charitable work as well as his music, was the guest of honour Friday night at the annual $1,200-a-plate Musicares fundraising dinner.

The mood was ebullient at the elegant Hancock Park official residence of consul-general David Fransen, despite the fact that a number of the honorees did not show up, most notably Young, who has reportedly been devastated by the sudden death last week of his close friend and filmmaking collaborator of many years, Larry Johnson.

Among the nominees who were at the party: David Foster, the powwow band Northern Cree and the Montreal electronic duo Beast, who will segue from the glitter of the Grammy awards to the grittiness of the Horseshoe Tavern for a performance on Friday.

The guests enjoying Niagara wine and Molson beer included many notables from the music world, including producer/musician Daniel Lanois and singer Emmylou Harris, who ended the evening on a bubbly note by performing an unscheduled duet.

They upstaged several emerging Canadian artists who were given a chance to be in the spotlight by playing their music during the party – Vancouver songwriter Dan Mangan, Newfoundland's Hey Rosetta! and Toronto hip-hopper K'Naan who performed his song "Wavin' Flag," now the official anthem of this year's World Cup.

When he was invited to the party, Cohen told the consul-general he would like to participate – if he could avoid being the centre of attention.

"Leonard is a very gracious man," says Fransen. "I think he was concerned because he did not want to distract attention from the other honorees."

Robert Kory, Cohen's manager and lawyer – who kept Cohen in a kind of plastic bubble, seeing no one during his exhausting world tour – negotiated a plan that would shield him at the party.

Instead of mingling with other guests, Cohen – wearing his trademark fedora – was ushered to the private den of Fransen and his wife. Then at the right moment, he went directly to the stage appearing in a kind of chorus line with other Grammy hopefuls.

And then he delivered a message that, like his greatest songs, came across as true, pure, courtly and straight from the heart.

"My great grandfather, Lazarus Cohen, came to Canada in 1869," he began. "On this occasion, because of the great hospitality accorded to my ancestor, who came here over 140 years ago, I want to thank this country for allowing us to live and work and flourish in a place that was differ from all other places in the world."

When the presentation was over, one of Cohen's friends from those golden days of his youth in Montreal, Aviva Layton Whiteson, stepped onto the stage to give him a kiss and murmur: "Leonard, you're an icon."

Then Cohen made a fast yet dignified exit, braced for bigger crowds and more adulation as Grammy weekend continues.

Leonard Cohen offers thanks to Canada

Globe and Mail (Toronto) - January 29, 2010 by Nick Patch

With the Grammy Awards about to honour Leonard Cohen, the 75-year-old Montreal legend decided to pay respect to his home country during a party at the Canadian consul general's residence on Thursday.

Cohen, clad in a dark suit with his trademark fedora shading his eyes, climbed onstage alongside a group of other artists at the gathering – held annually in honour of Canadian Grammy nominees – before making a brief speech to the cheers of a grateful crowd.

“My great grandfather, Lazarus Cohen, came to Canada in 1869, to the county of Glengarry, a little town in Maberly,” Cohen said.

“It's customary to thank people for the help and aid they've given. On this occasion, because of the great hospitality that was accorded my ancestor who came here over 140 years ago, I want to thank this country, Canada, for allowing us to live and work and flourish in a place that was different from all other places in the world.

“So I thank Canada for the opportunity that was given me to work and play and flourish. ... Thank you, friends.”

While Cohen made only a brief appearance at the party, his presence carried weight with the other attendees.

“It's nice to be up there with an icon,” said Steve Wood of Alberta powwow dance group Northern Cree, nominated for a fifth time for best native American album, who stood next to Cohen onstage.

Cohen will be honoured on Saturday with a lifetime achievement award from the Recording Academy, which puts on the Grammys.

The celebrated musician and poet, oddly, has only ever won one Grammy and it wasn't for one of his own albums. He earned a trophy for contributing vocals to Herbie Hancock's River: The Joni Letters, which won album of the year in 2008.

The group of Canadian Grammy hopefuls who attended the poolside party on Thursday could then potentially match Cohen's tally at Sunday's 51st Grammy Awards (Global, 8 p.m. ET).

Nominees in attendance included Montreal trip-rock band Beast and producer David Foster, whose brief visit was long enough to brighten fellow nominee Melanie Fiona's night.

“I was very excited to meet David Foster,” said the beaming Toronto singer, who's up for best female R&B vocal performance.

“I got to meet him as soon as I came through the door.”

The showcase featured performances from Toronto hip-hop artist K'naan, St. John's indie-rockers Hey Rosetta and Vancouver singer-songwriter Dan Mangan.

While Cohen might have been considered the guest of honour, it was producer Daniel Lanois who was the life of the party.

Clad in a black leather jacket and snug jeans with a pair of sunglasses obscuring his eyes, a smiling Lanois arrived toward the beginning of the party, happily chatting with anyone who approached him. When asked by a reporter if there were any stars he was hoping to meet at Sunday's gala, he shrugged and said “Satan?” before laughing and clarifying that he was only joking.

Later, he hopped onstage unexpectedly for an impromptu after-show bonus performance with his guests, country legend Emmylou Harris and singer Trixie Whitley. It was one of the only moments during which a chatty crowd composed of musicians, Grammy organizers, industry folk and journalists actually fell silent.

And for Lanois's finale, he rode into the balmy night atop a motorcycle, pausing to wave to a cluster of valets and party-goers who were lingering around the driveway.

Lanois has won seven Grammys. He isn't directly nominated this year, but he produced and co-wrote several tracks on U2's No Line on the Horizon, which is up for three awards.

He says he thinks the Grammys are moving in the right direction.

“I think they're catching people on the rise rather than waiting for people to get to the top,” he said.

“Because when we're on our way up, that's when we need the most help. So it's nice when you can get someone complimenting you and encouraging you as you're building your career.”

Meanwhile, Pierre Cossette wasn't far from the minds of many attending the party. The Valleyfield, Que., native – considered by most to be the father of the Grammy Awards – died in September.

A collage of photographs of Cossette stood next to the stage, along with a TV screen looping a slide show of Cossette pictured with stars including Celine Dion and Will Smith.

Cossette's wife, Mary, spoke in his honour.

“My very deepest gratitude and thanks for honouring my husband, Pierre Cossette, who spent his life loving music and encouraging music of all kinds to be written and recorded and produced and thereby making the world a happier place,” she said.

“His greatest pride was his Canadian heritage.”

Listen to the full audio version of Leonard's speech on
CBC Radio from Marie Bartlett's blog.

Thanks to Mollydog for the point.

Picture and video from Canadian Consul General's Reception

January 28, 2010 by Marie-Joelle Parent

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