Let’s get this straight from the outset: I love music. Can’t get through a day at work without having it on my headphones. Can’t drive a mile in my car without tapping my foot or bobbing my leg to something. Certainly can’t go for a solo walk in my neighborhood or up a trail without something groovy piping out of my earbuds.
But you will never catch me watching the Grammy Awards. Ever.
Music for me has become a pretty personal thing. I spent years recording mixes from CDs to my cassette deck, and now have at least three drawers of cassettes to prove it. This clunky activity has been thankfully replaced with downloads from iTunes or the Internet, but the usage of my music collecting has also changed, not just the nature. I used to make a habit of getting people into my car and trying to subject them to whatever my latest cassette or CD mix was, until I realized that’s a really hard thing to do. People tend to have their own personal tastes in a big way when it comes to music, and often resist anyone interfering with that. Hell, I know I would.
So these days it’s strictly Music for Jeff, and my electronic jukeboxes are in as many places as I can happily access.
The problem with the Grammys is that it seems to have much more to do with sales and corporate branding and publicity firms and the fashion industry and Hollywood than it does with actual music. After being a pretty big rock fan during the 1970s and early 80s, my musical preference changed 180 degrees when I moved to L.A. in ’82. A workmate soon turned me on to African music, which I made tapes of and went to see live for many years. Then another workmate introduced me to electronic music. Then another to Brazilian. Then I began exploring iTunes on my own and discovered wonderful sub-genres I never knew existed, such as retro lounge, downtempo, punk-a-billy, electro-funk, electro-swing, and other hybrids of every stripe. I have an amazing reggae version of a Christmas song sung by Billie Holiday.
All I’m saying is that music is everywhere in every form imaginable, encompasses so many styles and genres, and to pigeon-hole it into award categories (“Record of the Year”? Please.) is a fruitless, absurd endeavor. Music is not TV or the movies; it is a fluid, ever-growing part of our culture that we all can enjoy individually and should be cherished without being idolized, glitterized, and Kanye-ized.
Head down to the New Orleans Jazz Fest sometime and this will all become very clear. On the grounds of a giant racetrack every spring, music fills the air, one kind after another, from cajun to gospel to rock to reggae to Caribbean to whatever the hell, wafting over from various stages and out of big tents along with the aromas of devastatingly good food. It’s a giant cultural stew with no boundaries, pouring over the masses and meant to be gobbled up.
Music has been with us for seemingly ever, and to me, the Grammys represent everything that it isn’t.