Bruce Springsteen | Norah Jones | Faye Dunaway
Grammy Upset: Another Case of Dangling Chads?
I can tell you that from the eighth row in Madison Square Garden last night there was literally a gasp when Norah Jones' name was read for Best Album of the Year.
Even though Jones and masterful producer Arif Mardin had made Come Away With Me a terrific, breezy jazz album, no one thought it could beat Bruce Springsteen's The Rising.
Later, at Sony Music's elegant party at the Hammerstein Ballroom, Springsteen told me it didn't matter so much to him.
Sitting on a banquette surrounded by his wife, Patti Scialfa, his mom, Adele, and friends, The Boss said, "What are you gonna do?"
I replied, "Start all over. Make another album?"
He said, "Okay. We could try that."
But Scialfa wasn't so sanguine about the situation. "I want a recount!" she said. "Don't get me wrong. Norah Jones is wonderful and she deserved all those Grammys. But..." her voice trailed off.
Adele Springsteen also took up the cause.
"What about all those songs? 'Empty Sky' is my favorite. What can we do?" she said with the same hopefulness as a Democrat in Palm Beach the morning after Election Day.
Indeed, it did seem strange that Springsteen's phenomenal effort, an album that will outlast Jones' insofar as its substance, did not win the biggest award of the night. It was some consolation that The Rising was Best Rock Album, a category that for my money was the Best Album award.
Famed rock promoter Ron Delsener explained it to me.
"She's good, she's good. But she's also the flavor of the month. It happened with Alanis Morissette and it's happened with others. Springsteen is forever," he said.
In fact, the whole experience recalled Grammys past when Janis Ian or Roberta Flack would sweep the show over more important artists of the time. And we mustn't forget that Christopher Cross' song "Sailing" once won Best Song. Who? What? Exactly.
Springsteen's two performances at the Grammys — of "The Rising" and later of the Clash's "London Calling" with Elvis Costello, Dave Grohl and Steve Van Zandt — were beyond excellent. They helped make Pierre Cossette's first New York show in five years his best ever. Ever.
I've sat through a lot of live Grammy shows and some of them, especially in recent years, were calamitous. But Cossette, who's done the awards for 30-plus years, rose to the occasion. The sets, the lighting, the pace, the presenters, the performances clicked like never before.
Especially gorgeous was Coldplay's "Politik" with the New York Philharmonic, the Dixie Chicks playing "Landslide," and James Taylor with Yo Yo Ma on "Sweet Baby James." The latter got a wild standing ovation in the Garden.
But the biggest ovation of the night certainly came at the very start. Cossette and Ken Ehrlich put a small portable round platform out in the first section of seats. Right as the countdown to live air came off, Simon and Garfunkel climbed aboard.
They did not speak to each other, but it didn't matter. When they commenced singing "The Sound of Silence" the way it had been when they first recorded it — acoustic, just them, no drums or anything else — it sent chills up the collective spines. When it was over, the Garden exploded into applause. And it continued well past what you saw on TV.
I saw Garfunkel backstage afterwards, drenched in sweat. "I'm exhausted," he said.
Did he feel the energy?
"At the end I did, yes. It was amazing. At the beginning, I was trying to hear what we were doing. I couldn't tell if there was applause or what."
There was, I assured him.
Garfunkel has not performed at a Grammy show in a long time, if ever, and not any show with Simon for ten years. Handlers were trying to give him food, a schedule, information, while we chatted.
He listened to it all, and then like a good Sixties rock 'n roller he quipped: "They don't smoke joints any more do they?" He has a good sense of humor.
But as historic as Simon and Garfunkel's appearance was, it didn't translate all the way down the board. MTV, for example, had no interest in interviewing him because of his age (he's 61). His publicist tried to make it happen, but they only wanted the next act, Gwen Stefani.
Isn't that too bad? I think MTV is unwittingly creating an ignorance of music history based on age-ism, frankly. It's not enough to show clips from 40 years ago. They've got to let older people (and not exactly senior citizens — Garfunkel has a 12-year-old son) speak to their audience about their experiences.
Cossette's mini-stage, by the way, solved a big problem for Simon and Garfunkel. They consequently didn't have to speak or accept an award together. No actual presentation was made, and that's good since they really are not speaking to each other.
Simon has insulted Garfunkel publicly so many times that that would not have happened. But when they sang, it was magic, wasn't it?
Garfunkel, by the way, has a new album coming out at the end of April, and will tour to promote it. A show he did on Friday night at New York's Town Hall was sold out and garnered raves from the people I spoke to. Congrats, Artie!
Did Norah Ignor-ah Her Dad?
And then there's the really strange story of Norah Jones, the nearly 24-year-old who swept the Grammy's with her little jazz album. There's lots of trivia in this story, enough for three gossip columns.
In her many acceptance speeches, Jones thanked her mother but never mentioned her father, Indian composer Ravi Shankar. Not once.
Now, Jones resembles her father physically — she is small and dark and cute and looks very much like her half-sister. She does not look like her mother, who is tall (like five-eight), thin and has a head of curly gray hair.
At EMI's after-party at Blue Fin, when I asked the mother if there was music in her family, she said, "No. But I have a great record collection!"
When I said, "It must come from Ravi's side?" she snapped, "No!"
Then she said, "Don't go there, leave me out of this! I want to stay normal!"
Jones is now in the weird position of being famous and of having a famous dad who didn't raise her and didn't know her. As such she joins Liv Tyler, Bridget Fonda, Angelina Jolie and, to some extent, Jennifer Aniston, among others, in a rarefied little club.
Once the child is famous, the missing parent comes back into the equation. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. But I don't think we'll be seeing Ravi Shankar opening for Norah Jones in concert any time soon.
Jones's mom, by the way, had about a five-year relationship with Shankar in the '70s when she was his — and sometimes George Harrison's — tour manager.
Meanwhile, you might be interested to know that Jesse Harris, who actually wrote Jones's songs and won the Best Song award last night, has his own soap opera. Literally. His mom is Marie Masters, the actress and writer who's played alcoholic doctor Susan Stewart on As the World Turns since around 1968.
Someone should tell Les Moonves that. The CBS honcho probably has no idea that his Grammy show and one of his soaps had one degree of separation. Maybe he can get Jones on the soap to boost ratings.
Faye Dunaway In Measure For Measure
Finally, before any more time passes, I have to tell you a story from Clive Davis' bash on Saturday night.
Oscar-winning actress Faye Dunaway was there. She's known for being eccentric, but fellow diners at her table got a surprise the other night. Dunaway removed a digital food scale from her purse and proceeded to weigh each item the waiter brought.
"She took the lobster and the chicken, weighed them individually, and chose the chicken. She said she only has four ounces of protein a day," said the man sitting next to her. "Then she asked for my broccoli. I told her I'd trade her a tomato."
Dunaway, for the record, is slim and fabulous-looking. And that's how she does it, I guess.
More tomorrow from the Grammy parties...