By Phyllis Pollack
Last night's MusiCares Person of the year Tribute to Bruce Springsteen in Los Angeles attracted a legendary phalanx of famed musicians that paid tribute to the New Jersey native. With live performances of songs from his vast calalogue, with each added their own musical perspective.
At one point, while acknowledging the signature stylistic touches that artists put on his works, Springsteen mused, "Neil Young made me sound like the Sex Pistols."
The Grammy Week gala is the year's biggest fundraiser for the Recording Academy's charity MusiCares. The award was presented to Springsteen by Recording Academy President and CEO Neil Portnow.
Springsteen, a 20-time Grammy Award winner, was honored for his artistic achievements, and for his dedication to many causes, including the Kristen Ann Carr Fund, Community Food Bank, WhyHunger, the Bob Woodruff Foundation, environmental groups, and Veterans of America.
Springsteen has long sung about characters in his music, who are desperate and impoverished, even since early on in his career. His song "Meeting Across the River" on the B-side of 1975's "Born to Run's title track, has the lyric line is "Well, Cherry says she's gonna walk, she found out I took her radio and hocked it."
Springsteen evolved into a spokesperson, both musically and politically, for those that have been oppressed by hard times, or victimized as a result of unwarranted politics. If there has been a wrong committed, Springsteen seems to have addressed it, either at an appearance on stage, or demanding compensation and change in his music.
During last night's speech, Springsteen played down his charitable efforts, and spoke about music. "You can't have a victory without music, because music is life," he said.
The fundraising event for MusiCares also included auctions, one of which was silent.
The most memorable item up for bid was a 1952 Fender Telecaster, signed by The Boss, himself. During the auction, in an effort to raise more funds for MusiCares, Springsteen stunned the audience when he chimed in that along with the guitar, he would add "An hour-long guitar lesson from me, for free!"
The E-Street Band leader then upped the ante by adding eight backstage passes for the winner, good for any show on any of his tours, along with a personal all-access backstage tour, for which he, himself, would serve as personal escort.
To that, he even added, "And a motorcycle ride with me." At first, many members of the audience thought that Springsteen was joking. However, the avid bike rider, who has even cruised Route 66 in Seligman, Arizona, was serious.
The bidding quickly escalated, and was taken for $200,000.00 by a female fan, who passionately hugged and kissed Springsteen upon being declared the winner.
Springsteen introduced his family members that were present, including his mother, who smiled proudly throughout the event. His wife and E-Street Band member Patti Scialfa was present, and participated during his performance.
Between last night's acts, video screens showed musical performances that had been filmed during previous years at the event. A mini-documentary about a musician's struggle during cancer, while receiving help from MusiCares, clearly moved the audience.
Among the tribute performances, John Legend played piano, and sang a jazz influenced, soulful version of "Dancing In The Dark," making it his own.
Neil Young put his stamp on "Born in the USA," which became an explosive, rock hard, inpenetrable wall of sound.
Surprise guest Patti Smith sang her biggest hit, "Because the Night," which was co-written with Springsteen. Introducing the song, she invoked the memory of her late husband and bandmate, Fred "Sonic" Smith, formerly of the Detroit rock group MC5.
Within his comments during the evening, Springsteen referred to the track as "our song," giving a nod to Smith.
Alabama Shakes brought down the house with a rendition of "Adam Raised A Cain." Featuring Brittany Howard on electric guitar and lead vocals, she delivered a rough and tough, street fighting version of the hard-edged Springsteen song.
"My City of Ruins" became a powerful gospel song in the deft hands of Mavis Staples, accompanied by Zac Brown.
Sting, who arrived with his wife and manager Trudy Styler, delivered a mellow version of "Lonesome Day," accompanied by a slew of background singers.
Mumford and Sons lit into a slowed-down study of "I'm On Fire."
An extremely memorable version of the song "41 Shots" was performed by Tom Morello and Jackson Browne.
Morello's powerful guitarwork, shooting through Browne's beautifully delicate voice, delivered an emotional rendition of the song Springsteen penned about the controversial death of Amadou Diallo at the hands of police officers that were acquitted of firing 41 shots at the unarmed 23-year old.
No stranger to Springsteen's Wrecking Ball tour, Browne recently attended Springsteen's December 4, 2012 concert at the Honda Center in Anaheim, and congratulated him backstage at the show.
Country artist Emmy Lou Harris thrilled the audience with her delivery of "My Hometown," while Kenny Chesney offered his take on "One Step Up" from Springsteen's Tunnel of Love album.
Tim McGraw and Faith Hill put their artistic mark on "Tougher Than the Rest."
Another country artist, former Dixie Chick Natalie Maines, joined Ben Harper and legend Charlie Musselwhite to revamp Springsteen's hit "Atlantic City."
Maines is currently working on a solo album that will be produced by Harper, and which will feature a slew of high-profile guest artists. The Dixie Chicks had generated 13 Grammys before Maines left the group.
Elton John impressed the crowd while taking on "Streets of Philadelphia," a song far from his own 1975 hit "Philadelphia Freedom."
Gifted Columbian singer, songwriter and guitarist Juanes, who has sold more than 15 millions albums, rocked the crowd with the fan favorite "Hungry Heart." Starting it as a Latin ballad, he soon turned it into a rocker that had audience members on their feet.
The audience couldn't get enough of Tom Morello, who performed one of the evening's highlight performances, "The Ghost of Tom Joad." Exchanging guitar solos with Jim James, the song from Springsteen's moody Nebraska album recalled the character from the book Grapes of Wrath, with a vengeance.
Its lyrics exemplify the search for justice and equality that Springsteen has long come to represent: "Wherever there's somebody fightin' for a place to stand,
Or decent job or a helpin' hand, Wherever somebody's strugglin' to be free
Look in their eyes Mom you'll see me."
Throughout the evening, members of the audience chanted, "Bruce, Bruce," a classic ritual that has become a part and parcel of all of Springsteen's shows.
The party further ensued when Springsteen urged the crowd to move closer to the front, for his own delivery of his hits, including "We Take Care of Our Own," a theme song about helping others, which served as the perfect anthem for the evening's cause for MusiCares.
The song's lyrics include, "From Chicago to New Orleans, From the muscle to the bone, from the shotgun shack to the Superdome, we yelled 'help' but the cavalry stayed home, there ain't no-one hearing the bugle blown, we take care of our own, we take care of our own, wherever this flag's flown, we take care of our own."
When the floods hit New Orleans, MusiCares immediately got involved, helping to replace guitars, and to help musicians that were in need in other ways, as well.
With Springsteen's Grammy nominated song as a backdrop to the evening, the message of need for funding for MusiCares was very clear.
The song was introduced as the musical opening for the 54th Annual Grammy Awards last year, prior to its release. In his speech last night, Springsteen stated it was at that time last year that he was asked to accept this year's MusiCares Person of the Year award.
Springsteen's "We Take Care of Our Own" is nominated this year for two Grammy Awards, one for Best Rock Performance and Best Rock Song, and his Wrecking Ball album is up for Best Rock Album.
After playing that anthemic song, Springsteen then broke into "Death To My Hometown," taking the audience into a frenzy.
Springsteen's musical unit gathered together musicians including Nils Lofgren, and Jake Clemons, nephew of the late sax player Clarence Clemons. Clemons, a co-founder of the East Street Band, died last year after complications from a stroke.
During Springsteen's concerts, Clemons memory has been invoked on the big screens during the shows at the venues.
"Thunder Road" and "Born to Run" tore down the house. Those that moved up front, sang all the lyrics, along with the band.
With members of Springsteen's band in tow, including Jake Clemons, E-Street drummer Max Weinberg, Lofgren, E-Street bassist Garry Tallent, Scialfa and E-Street keyboardist Roy Bittan, the house was on its feet.
The world's most beloved boss ended the evening by breaking into "Glory Days" with an all-star jam.
An Acura RLX with audio speakers tuned by 7-time Grammy winner, record producer Elliot Scheiner, was another item auctioned last night that raised funds for MusiCares.
Also up for grabs in the auction were many celebrity VIP experiences, including two tickets to Elton John's Oscar Viewing Party.
Many vacation getaway packages were available, as well as a museum's worth of music memorabilia. Guitars and other gear were there for the taking, including collectors items donated by recording artists and record companies. Proceeds were earmarked towards MusiCares.
Thousands of dollars worth of jewelry, including a $200,000 pair of diamond earrings were also quickly snatched by MusiCares benefactors. Photographs shot by some of rock's most notable photographers were also bid on.
Among Springsteen's many other non-profits he has helped is the Melanoma Research Alliance. The Danny Fund that he supports was founded in honor of his late keyboardist Danny Federici, who died in 2008 from the disease, which can be fatal those who contract this form of cancer from sun exposure.
Springsteen has played at concerts to raise money and awareness for many causes. Beneficiaries of these shows have included a wide range of organizations included the Red Cross and most recently, Hurricane Sandy victims.
In addition to major movers and shakers in the music business that attended the MusiCares Person of the Year event honoring Springsteen, there were also many generous donors from outside of the entertainment industry that came to express their appreciation to music they love by supporting MusiCares.
Among other celebrities and famed musicians in the house were actor Sean Penn, musician and addiction specialist Bob Forrest, television host Gayle King, and iconic singer Tony Bennett.
Many of the artists walked the red carpet, and posed for photos, while declining to be interviewed about the event.
Former Rolling Stone writer Bill Werde, now Editorial Director of Billboard Magazine, spoke on the carpet about the 119 year-old trade magazine's support of the event with its coverage.
Multi-platinum, Grammy nominated John Rzeznik, best known for his work with the Goo Dolls, has a long career that was set off with their debut album release in 1985. The highly anticipated release of their 10th album Magnetic is slated for release on May 7.
The band hit Billboard's Number 1 slot for their single "Iris, which won Grammy Awards for 1998's Record of the Year, Song of the Year, and Best Performance by a Duo or Group. The Goo Goo Dolls won another Grammy for Best Rock Performance by a Duo or Group in 2000 for "Black Balloon."
Having started in the business at a young age in the genre of rock, Rzeznik expressed his understanding of what artists experience. "I think it's really important that an organization like this exists that can help really sensitive, very creative people."
"Sometimes very fragile people get through a rough patch in their life, then get on with their lives and do what they're supposed to do, which is to make the world a little bit better with what they create," he said.
I think these musicians, and other people, are now finding out that childhood trauma and alcoholism and drug addiction are very much linked together in a lot of cases, because of post traumatic shock disorder (PTSD)," he reflected.
"You see it in a lot of soldiers coming home, and they're finding that the same parts of the brain are stimulated by watching your father beat your mother, or whatever other childhood trauma issues one experienced," he offered.
"You can be really devastated, and carry a lot of stuff around inside you, and sort of sublimate it. It manifests itself in all kinds of crazy perversions of your own personality. So I think it's important they're actually finding out that PTSD is a real thing, and that they're finding ways to treat it," he revealed.
Many musicians in that phase don't realize what's going on, and it sometimes requires an intervention from caring others, who contact an organization like MusiCares.
"I think it makes it a lot more difficult," Rzeznik observed. "You bury it, and you start acting out. And there is really that question of why. Why is this person acting this way? It needs to be taken apart very slowly and very carefully," he said.
Emmy Lou Harris noted on the carpet about MusiCares, "We're all a family. We're all musicians. We're in a position where we can give back. Who knows when someone is going to fall on hard times? It could happen to anyone."
Harris stressed, "Everybody in the industry, we're part of a family. We have to take care of each other. And this event gives us a chance to give back, and make sure we can help our family."
Among her stellar works from earlier in her career, many consider her duets recorded with the late Gram Parsons to be unparallel works when it comes to country-rock pair-ups. Parsons famously died in 1973 from an overdose of drugs at Joshua Tree.
In those days, little to no treatment was available for drug addiction, and certainly not aimed at musicians with issues.
When pointed out to Harris that such confidential help was not available in the business until recent years, with the help of the MusiCares MAP fund, she did not mention Parsons by name, but acknowledged the importance of the organization.
"We've known that's been a problem since the dawn of time," she noted.
"So at least, now we're recognizing it, and giving an avenue for people to get help. But obviously, they (addicts) have to put the effort, the commitment in. We have the interventions, so we can get people there, and if it takes, and they stick with it, they have a chance to get their lives back," she emphasized.
"So at least, there's hope. At least, we have it now," she said. Harris is currently recording a project with Rodney Crowell.
Addiction specialist Dr. Drew Pinsky was one of those who walked the red carpet. Pinsky noted that many who work in music have experienced childhood trauma. "They turn to music, and some of them become quite successful, but that doesn't solve the problem," he said of those that have unresolved traumas.
"Studies have shown the high addiction rate among musicians," he added.
Pinsky knows the danger of addiction. His work has saved some addicts from death, while other Celebrity Rehab alumni were unable to kick their habits, including the late Mike Starr of Alice In Chains.
"You know me. I supported Buddy Arnold," he said, referring to the late jazz saxophonist, who helped many artists wean from drugs, after kicking his own heroin addiction.
In 1992, the former longtime addict co-founded the MusiCares Musicians Assistance Program (MAP) Fund, which helps those in the music industry with substance abuse problems, with his wife, Carol Fields. He died 11 years later, due to a stroke.
Dr. Drew commented on the carpet, "We should really be honoring him tonight. He really created MAP, the MAP Fund, and I worked with him for 20, 25 years."
Invoking a Springsteen title, the Celebrity Rehab internist added, "What I can say is probably no industry takes care of their own better than musicians."
"And somebody asked me a few minutes ago, 'Why is that?' And I think they have a bigger problem than most other industries, and they knew it," stated Pinsky, who also hosts a self-titled show on CNN.
Pinsky explained the popularity of donating to the MAP, noting, "There are people who got sober, and decided they wanted to give back. They take care of their own now."
Pinsky has long been popular with his L.A. based radio show Loveline, which was previously televised. With Adam Carolla, he takes call-ins from young people, and gives them advice for their problems, relating from sexual abuse to drug addiction. In 1998, the two previously co-wrote an advice book about life and love.
Dr. Drew Pinsky has also penned books including "Cracked," a groundbreaking book about addiction and family trauma, and The Mirror Effect: How Celebrity Narcissism is Endangering our Families, and How to Save Them."
Dr. Drew also penned the tome "When Painkillers Become Dangerous: What Everyone Needs to Know About OxyContin and other Prescription Drugs."
Pinsky is a strong advocate against narcissism in popular culture, a far contrast to Springsteen's lyrics encouraging humanism, caring and generosity.
Dr. Drew commented on Springsteen's positive outlook evident in his lyrics while dealing with harsh realities of life.
He said of the iconic recording artist, "His vibrance is one that I think we could all use, instead of lingering in negativity. I think his music can be a little bit therapeutic for us."
Established in 1989 by The Recording Academy, MusiCares provides a safety net of critical assistance for music people in times of need. Its services and resources cover a wide range of financial, medical and personal emergencies, and each case is treated with integrity and confidentiality.
The MusiCares Foundation offers programs and services to members of the music community including emergency financial assistance for basic living expenses such as rent, utilities and car payments; medical expenses including doctor, dentist and hospital bills.
Other services that are arranged for include psychotherapy, treatment for HIV/AIDS, Parkinson's disease, Alzheimer's disease, hepatitis C, and other critical illnesses.
MusiCares offers nationwide educational workshops covering a variety of subjects, including financial, legal, medical, and substance abuse issues, and programs in collaboration with healthcare professionals that provide services such as flu shots, hearing tests, and medical/dental screenings.
MusiCares also offers nationwide educational workshops covering a variety of subjects, including financial, legal, medical, and substance abuse issues, and programs in collaboration with healthcare professionals that provide services such as flu shots, hearing tests, and medical/dental screenings.
Staffed by qualified chemical dependency and intervention specialists, MusiCares Safe Harbor Rooms, supported by the Bohemian Foundation, offer a support network to those in recovery while they are participating in the production of televised music shows and other major music events.
MusiCares holds weekly addiction support groups for people to discuss how to best cope with the issues surrounding the recovery process. The MusiCares Sober Touring Network is a database of individuals across the United States who can take music people to recovery support meetings while on the road.
Established in 1957, The Recording Academy is an organization of musicians, producers, engineers and recording professionals that is dedicated to improving the cultural condition and quality of life for music and its makers.
Internationally known for the Grammy Awards, the preeminent peer-recognized award for musical excellence and the most credible brand in music, The Recording Academy is responsible for groundbreaking professional development, cultural enrichment, advocacy, education and human services programs.
The Academy continues to focus on its mission of recognizing musical excellence, advocating for the well-being of music makers.
The Academy also includes in its mission the goal of ensuring music that remains an indelible part of American culture, through its many initiatives that support education. For more information about The Academy, please visit www.grammy.com.
For breaking news on the upcoming 55t Annual Grammy Awards and exclusive content, follow @TheGrammys on Twitter, like "The Grammys" on Facebook, and join The Grammys' social communities on YouTube, Tumblr, Foursquare, GetGlue, and Instagram.
Established in 1957, The Recording Academy is an organization of musicians, songwriters, producers, engineers and recording professionals that is dedicated to improving the cultural condition and quality of life for music and its makers.
The Grammy Awards are the only peer-recognized award for musical excellence and the most credible brand in music. The Recording Academy is responsible for groundbreaking professional development, cultural enrichment, advocacy, education and human services programs.
For more information about The Academy, please visit www.grammy.com. For breaking news and exclusive content, follow @TheGrammys on Twitter, like "The Grammys" on Facebook, and join The Grammys' social communities on Foursquare, GetGlue, Google +, Instagram, Pinterest, Tumblr, and YouTube.
For the first time ever, the Pre-Telecast Ceremony for the 55th Annual Grammy Awards will be streamed live worldwide at Grammy.com/live and online at CBS.com. Historically, this will mark the first time that the public will be able to view the Pre-Telecast Ceremony.
The televised portion of the music industry's “Biggest Night of the Year” will take place live on Sunday, Feb. 10, at Staples Center in Los Angeles. It will be broadcast in high-definition TV and 5.1surround sound on the CBS Television Network from 8:00 to 11:30 p.m. (ET/PT).
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