Back in 1975, when the Grammys still meant something, Gladys Knight and the Pips presented the nominees for "Song of the Year" as only they could.
And what songs they were! Like them or not, Feel Like Makin' Love, The Way We Were, You and Me Against the World and Midnight at the Oasis are songs that people still remember, that still play on the radio and that have been covered or sampled by artists from D'Angelo to the Brand New Heavies or the Wu-Tang Clan.
Now name 5 songs that have been nominated for best song over the past 5 years.
That's ok, I'll wait.
Not that those are bad songs (well, some are. James Blunt, anyone?). But I don't even remember the songs by U2 and John Mayer who won in 2005 and 2004. And I like both those acts quite a bit.
Maybe it did make a difference when not everybody considered him or herself a singer/songwriter, when the Brill Building and Motorcity, USA where packed with song writers who did nothing but write songs all day.
One thing's for sure: Today's artists are getting a lot of mileage out of the songs of yesteryear. Michael McDonald recorded two CDs with material pulled from the Motown catalog, Rod Stewart turned crooner for a mind boggling four albums full of compositions that are over half a century old and the above mentioned Gladys Knight released her first Jazz album of standards after about as many years in the business, covering the songs of Ella, Billie and Dinah.
And now the young generation of singers seems to jump on the big bandwagon: The criminally underrated Amel Larrieux (formerly of Groove Theory) released Lovely Standards which does indeed live up to its title, thankfully choosing somewhat more obscure songs from the great jazz era like Wild Is the Wind and If I Were a Bell. And now Canadian R&B and Club diva Deborah Cox delivers a tribute to the incomparable Dinah Washington with Destination Moon, a truly luscious set that the gifted singer recorded live in the studio with a 40 piece orchestra - the way this kind of music is supposed to be made, dag nabbit!
Let's hope that exposure to those great songs will inspire a new generation of song writers to dig a little deeper, try a little harder and find that spark that made those old songs shine so bright. I know there are some talented kids out there (I'm looking at you, Ne-Yo!), but we need a real competition going again so that maybe in a couple of years, Deborah, or Amel or maybe even Gladys will sing, not read, the nominees for Song of the Year and the crowd will go crazy again.
Hey, I can dream, can't I?