Are Any Grammy Award Winners From Our Area?

I know that, like a good parent thinking about her offspring, I, as a pop-culture blogger, should love all awards presentations equally. But, in truth, I hate the Grammy Awards.

For starters, there are just too many categories. The official Grammy website has 78 categories listed—and that’s whittled down from the more than 100 awards given out last year. Do we really need a separate awards for category for things like “Best Surround Sound Album?” The sheer number of awards makes it so that they’re only meaningful if, like Adele, artists can win them in groups of half-dozens—like White Castle hamburgers, you need a sack of them to feel fulfilled.

Also, to me, the Grammy categories are so vague that I’m not sure if the people who are voting for them even know what they’re voting for. In 2012, what does it mean to have the “Best Alternative Music Album”? Alternative to what? And how long can someone be around before they’re longer eligible to be considered a “Best New Artist”? (Bon Iver, last night’s winner in that category, released his first album in 2008—and, by Grammy standards, that’s pretty good. Fountains of Wayne were nominated for Best New Artist in 2004, and they released their first album in 1996.)

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Still, those gramophone statues are meaningful to somebody—and quite a few somebodies in our area. Sure, none of our locals can unseat the mighty power that is Adele, but I did notice some of our neighbors being recognized. (I might’ve missed a few buried around the “Best Banda Or Norteño Album” categories—if you catch something I missed, let me know in the comments.)

For starters, if it weren’t for North Salem resident Alan Menken, we’d never get to brag about winning music awards. Menken won the award for “Best Song Written For Visual Media” for his “I See The Light,” which was featured in the Disney movie Tangled.

Even farther north, Woodstock stalwart Levon Helm won for “Best Americana Album” for Ramble at the Ryman. The award, though, is bittersweet: Though most of his “Midnight Rambles” take place in the Hudson Valley, the actual award-winning performance featured on the album was recorded at Nashville’s Ryman Theater, so we don’t get the full glory. Helm’s Woodstock neighbor, Steve Earle, was also nominated for “Best Folk Album.”

And, while our locals don’t dominate the pop charts, we do seem to have a foothold in the jazz arena. Though neither came away the winners, Hudson Valley jazz denizen Joe Lovano was nominated for “Best Jazz Instrumental Album” for his Bird Songs, and Purchase College professor Arturo O’Farrill and his Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra were nominated for “Best Large Jazz Ensemble Album” for their 40 Acres and a Burro.

While it’s hard for me to muster enthusiasm for the actual Grammy Awards, the night is more about the performances anyway. Here’s Adele showing off her six-Grammy-award chops. She does not sound like someone who just had vocal surgery (which she did).

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The most talked about performance, though, was Jennifer Hudson’s tribute to Whitney Houston.


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