Elite BMI songwriters number prominently among the list of 2009 Special Merit Award recipients announced December 22 by the Recording Academy. The Blind Boys of Alabama, the Four Tops, and Brenda Lee will receive Lifetime Achievement Awards, while Elliott Carter and Allen Toussaint will each take home the Trustees Award. An invitation-only ceremony Saturday, February 7 in Los Angeles will salute the honorees, who will also be recognized at the 51st Annual Grammy Awards, slated for Sunday, February 8.
- Blind Boys of Alabama
- The Four Tops
- Brenda Lee
For more than 70 years, the Blind Boys of Alabama have both embraced gospel music’s roots and strengthened them, carrying their signature soul-saving harmonies to stadiums and churches alike. Comprising Clarence Fountain, George Scott, Johnny Fields, Jimmy Carter, Eric “Ricky” McKinney, and Joey Williams, the Blind Boys have collaborated with contemporary stars including Ben Harper, John Legend, and Kanye West, as well as icons Peter Gabriel, Bonnie Raitt, and k.d. lang.
The Four Tops emerged as hit-making titans during Motown’s 1960’s golden age. Original members Abdul “Duke” Fakir, Renaldo “Obie” Benson, Levi Stubbs, and Lawrence Payton recorded what would become the soundtrack of a generation and later, an entire nation, created on the strength of timeless hits including “Baby I Need Your Loving,” “Sugar Pie, Honey Bunch,” “Reach Out (I’ll Be There),” “Standing in the Shadows of Love,” and “Bernadette.”
- Elliott Carter
- Allen Toussaint
Brenda Lee segued seamlessly from rockabilly ingénue to pop superstar in the 50s and 60s. Her jaw-dropping album sales topped 90 million, surpassing any other female star of her generation. Although her appeal transcended musical genres, Lee’s twang remained distinct and endearing, earning her membership in the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1997.
Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Elliott Carter mastered musical composition, creating neoclassical orchestral, chamber, solo instrumental and vocal pieces which are recognized throughout the world. However, his original style which he dubbed “metric modulation” proved truly innovative, marked by rapid-fire tempo shifts, atonality and signature rhythmic complexities. Mr. Carter turned 100 years old in December 2008.
Allen Toussaint’s extensive BMI catalog comprises songs which jump between genres and generations, testifying to the revered pianist, producer, songwriter, and artist’s inimitable versatility. BMI Award-winning compositions including “Southern Nights,” “All These Things,” “Java,” “Whipped Cream,” “Mother-In-Law,” and “Working in a Coal Mine” line his hit sheet. His collaborators are a diverse cross-section of music’s finest, including Elvis Costello, Paul Simon, the Band, Boz Scaggs, Patti LaBelle, and Bonnie Raitt. Mr. Toussaint joined the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1998.
The Grammy Awards will be broadcast live on CBS at 8 p.m. ET/PT. For more information surrounding the 51st Annual Grammy Awards, please visit www.grammy.com.