Since 1991, the Recording Academy's MusiCares -- which aids musicians in need -- has presented a Person of the Year Award during Grammy Week, honoring the likes of Aretha Franklin, Stevie Wonder, Tony Bennett, Bruce Springsteen, Luciano Pavarotti and other superstars during a gala ceremony.
With that kind of event prohibited by the pandemic, MusiCares went smaller on Friday night, March 12 -- but wound up making an even larger and certainly more global statement.
Instead of a person it was People of the Year, honoring grass roots musicians and industry backline workers with "Music on a Mission," a 70-minute virtual concert and fundraiser. Mixing new performances and archival clips from previous events, it drew nearly 18,700 during the premiere streamcast, illustrating the good work MusiCares does via testimonials from the recipients -- including a backstage VIP coordinator and the touring drummer for Little Big Town -- and past honorees such as Elton John, Carole King, Gloria Estefan and Bonnie Raitt among others.
The treat, of course, was seldom-seen material from those previous ceremonies, from Cirque du Soleil's "LOVE" cast and Paul McCartney and his band in 2012 to Lady Gaga's solo rendition of "You've Got a Friend" to honor Carole King two years later. Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers and Stevie Nicks teamed up for a blazing "Stop Draggin' My Heart Around" in 2017, while Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band tore through "Born to Run" from 2013 and the Jonas Brothers honored Aerosmith from "Crazy" at last year's ceremony.
Highlights among the fresh clips, meanwhile, included BTS' energetic rendition of "Dynamite" in an empty theater, H.E.R.'s retro soulful "Fight For You" and HAIM's lively "The Steps." John Legend also took the solo route, playing his "You Move I Move" in front of a wall of his Grammys at his home.
"Music on a Mission" remains accessible via grammy.com/musicares. Tickets are $25.
The 63rd Annual Grammy Awards, meanwhile, take place at 8 p.m. Sunday, March 14, on CBS (WWJ, Channel 62 in Detroit). The pre-show Premiere Ceremony will stream at 3 p.m. via grammy.com.
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