Recording Academy President Neil Portnow Talks About The 2010 Grammy Tribute To Michael Jackson

Sources: Huffington Post – By Matthew Jacobs| Edited By – All Things Michael

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HuffPost Entertainment chatted with National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences president Neil Portnow, who’s overseen the Grammys since 2003. Here an excerpt from that conversation about how the show’s all-star moments come together:

Sometimes the collaborations are less obvious than others. I’m thinking of Celine Dion joining Smokey Robinson and Jennifer Hudson for the Michael Jackson tribute in 2010.

When we think about these things, we are thinking from a musical perspective, and not from a limited point of a view. That is, “What might an artist be capable of doing if we asked?” and “What might an artist actually enjoy doing that’s out of the predictable or what we’ve seen them do and that’s an opportunity for them to stretch and really fill a side that others maybe haven’t had a chance to see in a safe environment?” When you think about that, you come up with ideas that aren’t necessarily ones that everyone else would come up with. So, if you want to use your example of Celine in the Michael Jackson piece, what is it about Michael Jackson that connects with Celine?

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A couple of things: One is Michael is one of the finest singers ever in popular music; so is she. Michael was renowned for extraordinarily high level of repertoire, so the songs that Michael recorded, whether he wrote them or collaborated on them or whether he found them, were always the greatest, which is why the legacy of the music will be here forever. Same is true for Celine; she records the finest songs. If you look at that bridge there, then you start to think, “Well, that’s not far-fetched at all,” and then the bottom line is, “How does she feel about it?” She clearly was a huge fan of his and his music. She really savored the opportunity to pay tribute to him. (Read here)

In 2010, Celine gave the following interview before the performance:

After rehearsals on Saturday, Dion was asked how it felt to sing “Earth Day” while images of the King of Pop scrolled by on massive screens overhead.

“Very emotional,” said Dion, clad in a grey embroidered T-shirt and jeans, with a white leather jacket and thigh-high grey suede boots.

“Very honoured and emotional at the same time. It’s kind of an awkward feeling. Sadness, and mad at the same time that he was top shape.

“You see a lot through the newspapers and it’s unfortunate sometimes that people have this (distorted) image, but Michael was on top of his gig and on top of his talent, and seeing the movie and seeing him, how top-shape he was, it’s very difficult to accept.”

Special glasses are available only in the United States at Target stores, so Canadian viewers might not get the full effect of the visuals, which feature a small girl dancing through a lush jungle and falling asleep to images of polar bears, elephants and zebras charging around onscreen.

The song, however, will still pack a punch. As Dion swayed and danced onstage alongside the others, the group harmonized with pre-recorded vocals from Jackson.

For Dion, Jackson was an “amazing source of inspiration.” So much so, that she said he was part of the reason she decided to learn English.

“I wanted the same life – show business,” she explained.

“I wanted to sing onstage like him. … I wanted to be onstage someday with Michael Jackson, especially (to) sing onstage with him maybe one day.”

Dion said she didn’t want to meet the King of Pop and be unable to tell him how honoured she was because of a language barrier.

“It was because of him in a way that I went to school to learn English,” she said.

The Grammy performance is difficult for her, the singer added.

“It is, because I’m not only a fan, but I knew him personally a little bit, I met with him, and it’s difficult to know that he was doing perfectly well and that he’s no longer with us,” she said.

“It’s just heartbreaking.”

So she took one more opportunity to explain what made Jackson such a special performer.

“Michael was not only a great musician, he was a great dancer, he was a great visionary, he had every instrument inside of his body, he knew exactly what he wanted to hear, what he wanted to do, he was feeling everything,” she said.

“I hear ‘HOO,”‘ she says, imitating Jackson’s signature high-pitched flourish. “I hear this, it’s not even a song, but for me it means everything. …

“He was very, very special. I’m a big fan of Michael Jackson, period. That’s all I can say.”

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2 thoughts on “Recording Academy President Neil Portnow Talks About The 2010 Grammy Tribute To Michael Jackson

  1. “…he had every instrument inside of his body…”

    Thank you, Celine, and thank you, Mr Portnow. It’s way past time when Michael should get his due for the quality and abundance of his work.

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