- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 25, 2003

The smart money was on Bruce Springstreet. But not only did "the boss" have his name mispronounced by an actor (Justin Hoffman) paid untold millions to memorize lines at the 45th annual Grammy Awards Sunday night, he didn't walk off with the top awards as expected. Instead, we all learned a new name to memorize: Norah Jones.

Miss Jones, the 23-year-old daughter of sitarist Ravi Shankar, took home five major gramophone trophies, including the awards for album of the year for "Come Away With Me," record and song of the year for the breathy, jazz-infused piano ballad "Don't Know Why" (written by Jesse Harris) and best new artist.

"This song was recorded as a demo, and I can't believe what's happened to it," Miss Jones said of "Don't Know Why," produced by the legendary Arif Mardin, who won a Grammy in his own right for his work on "Come Away With Me."

CBS' 3½-hour broadcast of the Grammys was a little misleading, as the vast majority of awards fully 93 of them were handed out earlier Sunday afternoon.

Mr. Springsteen, in fact, won a handful of Grammys: for best rock album for "The Rising," his September 11-inspired collection, and best rock song and male rock vocal for the album's title track.

The evening was far from a bust, then, for the boss, who performed "The Rising" live with the E Street Band. Later he was joined by Elvis Costello, the Foo Fighters' Dave Grohl and Steven Van Zandt for a tribute to the late Joe Strummer.

The four guitarists traded verses on "London Calling," the title track to the Clash's seminal punk album from 1979. Mr. Strummer died of a heart attack in December.

Held at New York City's Madison Square Garden, the Grammy Awards got off to a rocky start when a seemingly bewildered Dustin Hoffman introduced Simon and Garfunkel, performing together for the first time in a decade.

Mr. Garfunkel had trouble hitting his high-harmony notes in a ragged rendition of the spooky classic "TheSound of Silence," but the audience rewarded the duo with raucous applause anyway, perhaps feeling a twinge of nostalgia for "The Graduate," the 1967 movie starring Mr. Hoffman and featuring a suite of Simon and Garfunkel songs.

The ceremony lacked a host, too, a first in Grammy history. Returning the show to the Big Apple after five years on the West Coast, Grammy organizers opted to let the people of New York act as symbolic hosts.

The no-emcee format allowed for some creative transitions between performances and award presentations. One example: a trifecta of uninterrupted live songs from Vanessa Carlton, who introduced John Mayer, who introduced James Taylor, calling him "the blueprint."

Mr. Mayer, nominated for best new artist, won best male pop vocal performance for "Your Body Is a Wonderland."

There were rumors beforehand that CBS had gone to great lengths to discourage any Iraq-related commentary. The network got its wish, for the most part, on both the anti-war and general profanity fronts.

Even the potty-mouthed rapper Eminem, who won for best rap album for "The Eminem Show," acquitted himself without incident. The equally potty-mouthed Missy Elliott won for best female rap solo performance for "Scream a.k.a. Itchin'."

The controversy-prone Eminem performed the song "Lose Yourself," off the "8 Mile" soundtrack, backed by the hip-hop fusion band the Roots. It was an electrifying rendition and a reminder of how powerful rap music can sound when played by hand unlike the sterile, karaoke rendition of "Hot in Herre" and "Dilemma" by Nelly and Kelly Rowland, who won the prize for best rap performance by a duo or group.

Fred Durst of the hard-rock band Limp Bizkit lodged the only overt anti-war remark of the night, saying, "I hope we're all in agreeance that this war should go away as soon as possible." And these barely lettered anti-war rock stars have the chutzpah to misunderestimate President Bush?

Two other anti-war cavilers included Bonnie Raitt, who said, "Let's build some peace," and Sheryl Crow, who wore a peace-sign necklace, a guitar strap that sported the words "NO WAR" and what appeared to be new cheekbones.

Miss Crow, already a multiple Grammy winner, was awarded the Grammy for best female rock performance for "Steve McQueen," an ode to fast cars from her "C'mon, C'mon" album.

Country crossovers the Dixie Chicks won three Grammys Sunday night: best country album ("Home"), best country instrumental and best country performance by a duo or group.

Emily Robison and Martie Maguire both alluded to the group's troubles with Columbia Records before "Home," the Chicks' third album, went public. The album, which Miss Robison feared the group would have to release independently through its Web site, went multiplatinum and spent weeks atop the Billboard 200.

After a jokey introduction by Queen Latifah, the trio performed their cover of Stevie Nicks' "Landslide."

Coldplay won for best alternative rock album for "A Rush of Blood to the Head." Also, a single from that album, "In My Place," was chosen best rock performance by a duo or group with a vocal.

The critically acclaimed British band performed another track from "Rush," called "Politik," accompanied by the New York Philharmonic. Conductor Michael Kamen kept alive his streak of composing bombastic string arrangements for rock bands.

Avril Lavigne, the 18-year old punkette from Canada, was nominated for five Grammys and took home none. During MTV's coverage of the red-carpet arrivals, Miss Lavigne predicted Miss Jones would collect every prize for which she was nominated. She was right.

The impetuous Miss Lavigne played "Sk8er Boi" before a makeshift mosh pit of young fans. During the song's opening chords, she opened the inside of her jacket to reveal what must have been an objectionable screed. CBS' cameras were shooting safely behind the Canadian singer's back.

The most touching moment of the night came with a tribute to the late Maurice Gibb of the Bee Gees.

After a video montage of early Bee Gees footage narrated by "60 Minutes" contributor Ed Bradley and an a cappella medley by 'N Sync, complete with Justin Timberlake's beat-box grunts for "Stayin' Alive," Barry and Robin Gibb took the stage to accept a lifetime-achievement Grammy.

"The measure of a man is his family," a choked-up Barry Gibb said. Cameras shifted to the audience, where Maurice Gibb's family was visibly emotional. The late Mr. Gibb's son, Alan, humbly accepted the award on behalf of his father and the legendary Australian trio.

At one point Sunday night, Recording Academy President Neil Portnow, who must be acutely aware of declining music sales, gave the audience a pep talk.

"The music industry is very much alive," Mr. Portnow said, contrary to what "doomsayers" may report.

Everyone seemed to be "in agreeance" on that point.


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