Tag Archives: Grammy Awards

Song: “Unforgettable”

Natalie sang with her father on one of his biggest hits, and made it even more memorable. Uploaded to Flickr by Don3rdSE.

This is one of the greatest songs from the Great American Songbook. Nelson Riddle arranged it, and Nat King Cole (Great American Things, November 2, 2009) sang it. That’s a potent combination no matter what the material. It’s even more potent considering the song’s source.

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Sometimes people have one accomplishment in life that nothing else they do can even approach. “Unforgettable” is so far beyond anything else songwriter Irving Gordon wrote that it’s stunning. While he had a few songs make the charts, his next biggest songs are “Mr. and Mississippi” and “Allentown Jail.”

Nat’s daughter, Natalie, helped expose a whole new generation to this classic tune. While Nat originally recorded it in 1951, he sang a non-orchestrated version in 1962, this time in stereo. Natalie sang along with this version of her daddy’s hit, creating the Song of the Year, Record of the Year, and Best Traditional Pop Vocal Performance in the 1992 Grammy Awards.

Here’s Nat and Natalie, singing – and being – Unforgettable:

Singers: The Blind Boys of Alabama

They started singing together in 1939, but the Grammy people didn't recognize them until 2002. Uploaded by pac.unlv.edu.

The Rolling Stones formed in the early sixties. That’s a career span coming up on 40 years, which is remarkable. But the Blind Boys of Alabama started singing in 1939 at the Alabama Institute for the Negro Blind in Talladega. And though only two of the original members are still living, they’re still touring, still performing.

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For most of the group’s history, the Boys performed pure gospel music in the traditional black churches and gospel music venues. Then in 1983, they appeared in The Gospel of Colonus on Broadway, and their new audiences were thrilled. So were other well-known artists, who asked the Blind Boys to record with them. In fact, they’ve featured some of these sessions on their album Duets, in which they sing with Ben Harper, Timothy B. Schmidt, Bonnie Raitt, Jars of Clay, Lou Reed, and others.

They released their first album in 1948, the intriguingly titled I Can See Everybody’s Mother But Mine. They’ve released dozens of albums since, and the Grammy folks finally took notice a few years ago. The group received the Grammy Award for Best Traditional Soul Gospel Album every year between 2002 and 2005. And in 2009 they were awarded the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award.

Though they’ve expanded their appeal, they haven’t abandoned their faith. Here’s one of their great performances. Head over to YouTube and catch some others. It’s still not too late to get on the bandwagon.

Song: “Bridge Over Troubled Water”

Remember when that mustache was cool? And that hair? Uploaded by pladevenderne.dk.

Paul Simon wrote it. Art Garfunkel sang it. And America loved it. “Bridge Over Troubled Water” won the Grammy Awards for both Record of the Year and Song of the Year in 1971. And Rolling Stone named it number 47 in its list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.

But, coming as it did near the end of Simon and Garfunkel’s partnership, it didn’t come into being without some travail. Although Simon wrote it for Garfunkel’s voice, he has stated that he wishes he’d sung it himself. “He felt I should have done it,” Simon told Rolling Stone in 1972. “And many times I’m sorry I didn’t do it.”

It was their last album together. Uploaded by images.amazon.com.

Since the recording industry organization BMI named it the 19th-most-performed song of the twentieth century, it should come as no surprise that several excellent covers have been recorded. Aretha Franklin won a Grammy for Best Female R&B Performance for her 1972 version. Johnny Cash (Great American Thing No. 59) and The Jackson 5 recorded it.

And perhaps those who know that Elvis (Great American Thing No. 121) sang a lot of gospel music might have expected his outstanding version of “Bridge Over Troubled Water.” He recorded it in 1970 and performed it in two documentaries: Elvis – That’s the Way It Is and Elvis on Tour.

By the way, when Simon and Garfunkel sing the song now during their regular reunion concerts, they alternate singing the verses. “Your time has come to shine…”

Singer: Ella Fitzgerald

My hometown girl. Uploaded by wijsf.com.

My hometown girl. Uploaded by wijsf.com.

What would you call the most popular female jazz singer over a period of 50 years? Who won 13 Grammys and sold more than 40 million albums? You could only be talking about Miss Ella, and you’d call her “The First Lady of Song.”

Ella and I have something in common, besides our golden voices. We were both born in Newport News, Virginia. But Ella endured a difficult early life – a father who left early, a mother who died when Ella was 15, a brief time in a reformatory after being orphaned. Only one thing got her through, and that was singing.

Uploaded by edsmart.com

Uploaded by edsmart.com

An appearance at an amateur night at the famous Apollo Theater in Harlem gave her the confidence to know that performing is where she felt truly at home. She mastered the art of scat singing as no one has before or since. She finally had her first million seller, “A-Tisket, A-Tasket” at the ripe old age of 21.

Ella was greatly admired by her fellow musicians and those who wrote her songs. “I never knew how good our songs were until I heard Ella Fitzgerald sing them,” was how Ira Gershwin put it. The “Great American Songbook” was her text, and she was a master interpreter.

“I know I’m no glamour girl,” Ella said, “and it’s not easy for me to get up in front of a crowd of people. It used to bother me a lot, but now I’ve got it figured out that God gave me this talent to use, so I just stand there and sing.”

Singer: Tony Bennett

Think of all the people who lose it as they get old. Not Tony. Uploaded to Flickr by General Erin.

Think of all the people who lose it as they get old. Not Tony. Uploaded to Flickr by General Erin.

Anthony Benedetto turned 83 in August, and here’s a news flash: The man can still belt a tune. My wife and I went to see him in Atlanta a couple of years back, figuring we might not have another chance. But he’s still touring, and still “has it.”

Tony is one of “The Greatest Generation”, a World War II veteran who began his singing career after the war. He was discovered by Pearl Bailey, and signed to his first major record contract by Mitch Miller. He recorded his first number one song and million seller, “Because of You,” in 1951.

1951. As in 58 years ago.

Uploaded by alscenter.org.

Uploaded by alscenter.org.

Tony has always stayed true to himself and his style, even when rock music seemed to sweep away all the attention from those who sang jazz standards. He went through some difficult years, a divorce, financial hardship, and finally no recording contract. Oddly, the person who helped change his life was his son, Danny. He booked Tony on David Letterman and Conan O’Brien so he could be seen by a younger audience. And they liked him. Tony remembered, “I realized that young people had never heard those songs. Cole Porter, Gershwin – they were like, ‘Who wrote that?’ To them, it was different. If you’re different, you stand out.”

Over the years he’s received the recognition he’s due. Fifteen Grammys, two Emmys, recognition by the Kennedy Center Honors, and a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award. He’s an incredible talent, and no less a critic than Frank Sinatra said of him, “For my money, Tony Bennett is the best singer in the business. He excites me when I watch him. He moves me. He’s the singer who gets across what the composer has in mind, and probably a little more.”

Bingo. Benedetto.