Elton John and Eminem at the 2001 Grammy Awards. (Kirk McKoy / Los Angeles…)
After 28.4 million viewers tuned into the Feb. 10 Grammy Awards, Pop & Hiss had some thoughts on how to improve the show. Some of the suggestions were lighthearted -- no more mimes, for instance -- and others took the Grammys to task for regularly booking familiar faces such as Elton John and Sting.
The telecast's longtime executive producer, Ken Ehrlich, wrote a letter to The Times to respond to the criticisms. Ehrlich, a three-decade veteran of the Grammys, is the architect of many of the show's most memorable moments, including a 2001 pairing of John and rapper Eminem, as well as this year's tribute to the Band's Levon Helm, which featured John, Mavis Staples, Zac Brown, Mumford & Sons and Brittany Howard of the Alabama Shakes.
Pop & Hiss posted its 10 ideas for improvement on Feb. 12, and the article featured contributions from a number of Times writers and editors. The article wondered if there is "some Grammy clause that states that the likes of Sir John and Sting must appear on the Grammy stage a certain number of times per decade."
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What follows is Ehrlich's letter to the editor:
I'm very happy to add the suggestions from the anonymous L.A. Times "music staff" to the thousands of others we receive as to how to "fix" the Grammys [“Grammys, Quit Clowning Around,” Feb. 12], but it could be argued that the ratings and critical success of the show over the past five years at least, and perhaps more, would suggest that the Grammys might not need fixing.
That said, I do feel the need to respond to the snarky comments about multi-Grammy-winning artists Elton John and Sting, which seem particularly out of place. In both cases, these artists, Grammy association aside, have been at the forefront of popular music almost their entire adult lives, and continue to be creative, vital and contributory. The fact that both of their names inevitably surface in any conversation we have with potential Grammy performers gives testament to the fact that they are venerated, admired and loved.
Whether the L.A. Times "music staff" gets this or not, one of the mandates of this show, along with the exposure we give to new and emerging artists every year, is our commitment to recognizing the rich heritage that these and other artists continue to bring to the stage, and to continue to show that music didn't start six weeks ago, six months ago, or six years ago. I'm proud that we're able to do both.
Further to the point is the remarkable support that both of these particular artists give to young artists on a continuing basis, both publicly and through their numerous charitable organizations. Sting’s Rainforest concerts are known for bringing in new and vital artists, including last year's appearance by that very same Bruno Mars with whom he appeared the other night, and Elton reaches out every year for his Academy Awards party (among other numerous charities) to appear with and further the careers of deserving young artists. Personally, many of the conversations I've had with him over the years either begin with or feature discussion of cutting-edge artists who either he or I love to talk about and support.