Steven Tyler is a rock star, James Taylor is a national treasure and Lady Gaga knows that fun is the one thing that money can't buy.
Yes, last night at the L.A. Convention Center baby boomers celebrated the life and work of Carole King while across town at the Beats party Gen X honored hip-hop of the nineties and youngsters were home taking selfies while tumbling, tweeting and instagramming, knowing that today you're the star.
But once upon a time we lay in darkened rooms with our transistors under our pillows believing we were best friends with the deejay and if we could only meet the makers of the mellifluous sound emanating from the tiny speaker, or single earbud, our lives would be complete.
And now, nearly sixty years on, our hair has fallen out, our bodies are lumpy, we settled for lives we could not foresee, but one thing is still constant, the tunes.
There's not a baby boomer alive who can't remember the earth moving in the spring of '71. Word of mouth was slower back then, all we had was the telephone and paper post, but Carole King went from unknown to everywhere, from the dorm room eventually to the radio, "Tapestry" was the soundtrack of our lives.
Credit the vision of Lou Adler, rising from the ashes of surf music and the harmonies of the Mamas & the Papas to deliver this music to the masses.
And stunningly, Lou and Carole are still here.
"I think I'm goin' back
To the things I learned so well in my youth"
My second rock single was "Loco-Motion." After "Monster Mash." I had no idea it was written by Carole King and her then husband Gerry Goffin, I thought Little Eva was the star.
The same way I thought Herman and his band of Hermits wrote "I'm Into Something Good."
And then, after exhausting Al Kooper's material, the biggest band in the land came back with "Hi-De-Ho." Yes, Blood, Sweat & Tears was embraced by both the hipsters and the cognoscenti, before they ran out of gas.
And this was the number Tyler sang with LeAnn Rimes. And the latter has the pipes, but Tyler's got the charisma. Sans Aerosmith Tyler was still a big star last night, because he realizes rock and roll is about grabbing the audience by the crotch and squeezing. To see him in action is to remind one that the lord of the thighs got our rocks off then, and still can. I've met plenty of rock stars, but the only one who lives up to the rep is Tyler. Who not only looks and acts the part, but radiates intelligence all the while. Whew!
And then came Lady Gaga. Who seems to realize her career is in limbo. That following up a mediocre album with a stiff was a mistake that could shorten her time in the spotlight. So rather than utilize this evening to enhance her career, she decided to use it as her own personal victory lap. So Gaga smiled as she pounded out "You've Got A Friend." Would she have gotten a standing ovation without her hits? Probably not. Because it's easier to sing than write. Still…Gaga delivered.
But not like James Taylor.
He hasn't had a hit in eons. But rather than stay home and lick his wounds and count his money, JT keeps working. Like his audience he's aged, and there wasn't a person in attendance who didn't testify as to his excellence.
He took us up on the roof. And reminded us of when soft, sensitive music ruled not only the bedroom, but the radio.
And then Carole took the stage. And the pipes are rusty, but the fingers still work. When she tickled the ivories on "Home Again" one was brought right back to the Kirshner cubicles, back before those writing songs believed their talent entitled them to fame, never mind riches, when they did it because they needed to, because they loved to play, when they were privileged just to stay away from mundane day jobs.
Everybody's an individual. The key is to find what you do best, to not follow the road plowed by others, but to go off on your own. I could have been blindfolded in the boonies and I'd still have been able to pick out Carole's playing within notes. The attack, the pull back.
And the show was closed with a rousing rendition of "Jazzman," with Tom Scott blowing so hard and so right that he lifted the roof right off the joint.
Yes, when the jazzman testifies, a faithless man believes.
Not everybody was great last night. The country singing segment was such a train-wreck you could only grin and bear it.
And other stars took the night to make it about themselves.
And others punched the clock.
But the true stars rose above.
Tyler blew us away and Taylor pulled at our heartstrings.
And there were execs in attendance who were aching to leave early and did.
And nobodies dressed in finery in the back enjoying their brush with fame, taking notes to dine out on for the following year, but knowing deep in their hearts that they'll be forever outsiders.
But at the heart of it all was music.
I'm stunned by this Grammy week. Because despite all the focus on the awards, music is living in L.A. in a way that demonstrates that the true American art form is what comes out of the speakers, not what you see on the screen.
Music makes you feel, it touches your heart.
It's there when you're happy, it's there when you're sad.
It never abandons you, it's only a click away.
And without it life would be so much less rich.
Jazzman, take my blues away…