One of the more emotional moments at the Recording Academy's Special Merit Awards ceremony last night (Feb. 7) occurred during the presentation of a Lifetime Achievement Award to venerable soul/pop group the Four Tops.
Joined at the Wilshire Ebell Theatre by relatives of deceased members Renaldo "Obie" Benson, Lawrence Payton and Levi Stubbs, remaining original member Abdul "Duke" Fakir prefaced his remarks by saying, "There are going to be tears."
Then in a cracking voice, he thanked the Academy for this "exquisite award and all those who came to a concert and bought a record. When Levi passed [last year], I felt him, Obie and Lawrence saying to me, 'Before you go, Duke, tell everybody thank you.'"
Fakir, joined by Ne-Yo and Jamie Foxx, will team for a Four Tops tribute tonight during the 51st annual Grammy Awards.
Rounding out the list of lifetime achievement honorees were performers Gene Autry, the Blind Boys of Alabama, Hank Jones, Brenda Lee, Dean Martin and Tom Paxton. Trustee awards were given to label executive and jazz proponent George Avakian, composer Elliott Carter and New Orleans songwriter/producer Allen Toussaint.
Technical Grammy Awards were bestowed upon amplifier and guitar wizard Clarence "Leo" Fender and Universal Audio.
Among the recordings inducted this year into the Grammy Hall of Fame were Stevie Wonder's "For Once in My Life," Jimi Hendrix's "The Star-Spangled Banner," Queen's "We Are the Champions/We Will Rock You," Dave Brubeck Quartet's "Time Out" and Lynyrd Skynyrd's "Sweet Home Alabama."