Sat, Mar 02, 2002 - Page 11 News List

Grammys marked by warning

THE GUARDIAN , LOS ANGELES

The big prizes may have gone to old favorites, U2, to young New York singer Alicia Keys and to depression-era blue grass music, but perhaps it was words rather than music that may linger in the memory from the 44th Grammys ceremony in Los Angeles.

Michael Greene, president of the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, whose 13,000 voting members chose the winners, used the occasion to launch a broadside against internet piracy, which he described as "a life and death issue" for the music business.

In a controversial address, Greene claimed that "the most insidious virus" of piracy was now out of control on a "world wide web of theft and indifference." He warned that many artists, including the newer ones, were in immediate danger of being "marginalized out of business." Some members of the audience booed him but there was applause as he called for government help to stamp out international piracy. Another war seems in the offing.

The main business of the evening, however, belonged to U2 who walked off with the record of the year for Walk On and gave a series of rambling acceptance speeches for their four Grammys until drowned out by the orchestra.

Singer Bono told a friendly Staples Center crowd that it was a relief to win after being nominated for eight awards. "Being Irish, if you got eight nominations and no awards, they wouldn't let you back in the country," he said. "So this is a public safety issue."

The young chanteuse Alicia Keys was the big solo winner of the night, winning both the best new artist and the song of the year awards. She was finally rendered speechless when she won the latter award with Fallin', one of her five Grammys.

But perhaps the most surprising triumph came for those behind the album that accompanied the Coen brothers' film, O Brother Where Art Thou?

They took five Grammys, including the album of the year, for which they beat both U2 and Bob Dylan. The 75-year-old banjo picker Ralph Stanley won the male country vocal for O Death, a song from the album, his first Grammy. Producer T Bone Burnett saw the awards as a triumph as many country stations have ignored the album.

There was success for British act Sade who won the best pop vocal album with Lovers Rock, for Fatboy Slim with best short form video for Weapon of Choice, and, perhaps most spectacularly, for Sir Colin Davis and the London Symphony Orchestra who won both the classical album and opera album categories with Berlioz's Les Troyens.

Eric Clapton won the best pop instrumental performance for Reptile, and Jeff Beck the rock instrumental performance for Dirty Mind.

OutKast were the main winners in the rap categories, with Stankonia winning best album and Jackson winning the best performance award.

Lenny Kravitz won a fourth consecutive Grammy for male rock vocal, beating Eric Clapton and also Bob Dylan, though he picked up the Folk award.

In the spoken word awards, George Carlin won the comedy album prize and Quincy Jones the album category with Q, his autobiography.

There were also wins for some names who might not immediately be associated with the event: Mel Brooks won two awards for his hit musical The Producers and novelist Walter Mosley shared the album notes Grammy for his sleeve notes to Richard Pryor's compilation album.

As with all public events in the US these days, echoes of Sept. 11 were never far away.

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