Backbeat: Ed Sheeran,  Emmylou Harris, Lupe Fiasco Rock the Grammy’s Music Preservation Project
Photo by Michael Kovac/WireImage

Above, L-R: Rodney Crowell, President/CEO of The Recording Academy Neil Portnow, and musician Emmylou Harris arrive at the Music Preservation Project 'Play It Forward' on February 7, 2013 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Michael Kovac/WireImage)

 

Who says Grammys are only for big stars and music biz types? Neil Portnow revealed that the Recording Academy will soon be honoring music teachers. The Recording Academy President/CEO made the announcement at the group's annual Music Preservation Project event, dubbed "Play it Forward," at the Saban Theater in Beverly Hills on Thursday.

Nominee suggestions can be made online starting Sunday. The awards will be given out the night before the Grammys starting in 2014. The "Play it Forward" event was all about influence, with a diverse array of performers taking the stage between video clips of artists talking about the performers who inspired them most growing up.


Singers/Songwriters Lupe Fiasco and Guy Sebastian perform at theMusic Preservation Project's 'Play It Forward' event at the Saban Theater in L.A. (Photo by Rick Diamond/WireImage)

Organizers said the audience is a "pretty regular group of people," fans more than industry, who keep coming back.

Five time Grammy winner Dionne Warwick kicked off the evening with "I Say a Little Prayer," "Walk on By" and "What the World Needs Now," which included a gospel choir who stayed onstage to back Yolanda Adams, whose powerful worship music had the audience on their feet when she finished.

"We have to figure out whose idea it was that I had to follow that. I think we can say that was Saturday night and Sunday morning rolled into one," Portnow joked to the crowd, before beginning prepared remarks about the 15th annual event. "Music has morphed and evolved, shaped by every changing times and tastes and technology and just the basic human need to speak uniquely from our souls, to create something new. That's how we move ahead as a people, as a nation and as a part of the musical movement."

"Tonight we celebrate those musicians from those household names that still move and shake us today, decades after they've made their mark," he added, "to the anonymous foot soldiers who by sheer force of will moved the music ahead. The unknown gospel singers, country fiddlers, jazz drummers, blues guitarists. The men and women who, 'though they never became famous or wealthy, are the heroes without whom we would not be here tonight." 


Musician Ed Sheeran (L) and GRAMMY Foundation Board Chair Rusty Rueff  (Photo by Michael Kovac/WireImage)

In video remarks, Incubus guitarist Mike Einziger talked about being influenced by everyone from Johnny Cash and Jerry Lee Lewis to Ozzy Osbourne and Pantera before he took the stage with violinist Ann Marie Simpson for an understated, low-key bluegrass and country filled set.

The diverse-influences theme continued with Emmylou Harris and Rodney Crowell, who joked that their forthcoming duets album has been "38 years in the making." Kenny Wayne Shepherd had a few technical difficulties before joining Leann Rimes onstage, but the pair of former child prodigies more than delivered the goods. Shepherd came back onstage to join George Thorogood, who had stolen the show with his Destroyers and the enduring "Bad to the Bone."

Best Rap album nominee Lupe Fiasco closed the show, which had included taped interviews with Ike Turner (talking about Pine Top Perkins), Quincy Adams (shouting out Billy Carter) and Isaac Hayes, talking about "hillbilly" music of old. B.B. King, Don Everly, Kitty Wells, Waylon Jennings, Bootsy Collins and more also spoke about their influences.

"I thought it was a blast," Grammy Foundation Chair Rusty Rueff told Billboard.biz after the show. "Anytime you can get artists from the past who've influenced artists of the future and get 'em all on the same stage together, in one night, it becomes magic. George Thorogood gave us permission to kind of be 'bad,' so to see him now, still doing that, and still passing it along, it was awesome. And the new artists, having [Grammy nominee] Ed Sheeran come up and say, 'I want to play Bob Dylan, that's what influenced me,' that's pretty cool. Yolanda? Talk about off the hook."

Rueff said planning for next year's event will begin already next week. "We have a person who works almost all year long on this. She'll take Monday off and then she'll start thinking about the theme for next year. We've celebrated hip-hop, music and television -- trying to look at preservation of music as in not just physical preservation but also context and such. You'll never get a collection of artists like this in one place other than Grammy week. And even then, they are all busy. So they've got to open up big hearts to give us their time. That's what ends up happeni