Relive Producer Ken Ehrlich's 5 Favorite Grammy Performances From CBS 'Grammys' Greatest Stories' Special
The Grammy Awards have long been known for creating “water cooler moments” -- one-of-a-kind performances, often pairing disparate artists -- that have people chatting throughout the next office day. After the Internet boomed, such appearances went viral, helping people relive the biggest moments for weeks.
On Friday night (Nov. 24), CBS will air Grammys’ Greatest Stories: A 60th Anniversary Special. Hosted by John Legend and Carrie Underwood, the two-hour retrospective looks back on some of the award show’s highlights with performances by and interviews with Mary J. Blige, Dave Grohl, Elton John, Alicia Keys, Celine Dion, Justin Timberlake, Bruce Springsteen, U2, Pink, and many more.
To be more specific, the special focuses mainly on producer Ken Ehrlich’s era. He has produced the show since 1980, and will again be at the helm Jan. 28, when the Grammys return to New York for the first time in 15 years. As a hint, Ehrlich told Billboard that the 60th annual Grammy Awards will honor both New York City and celebrate the anniversary -- sometimes in ways that tie the two together.
Ehrlich took a few minutes out of planning the 2018 edition of the Grammys -- the nominees will be announced Nov. 28 -- to pick five of his favorite moments featured in Friday’s special, and tell some behind-the-scenes stories. His faves, which he says change daily, are presented chronologically.
Neil Diamond and Barbra Streisand, “You Don’t Bring Me Flowers” (1980)
This was my first Grammy show in 1980. In terms of the modern era, it was the first "Grammy Moment." We’ve tried to equal it ever since, which was not necessarily easy to do.
There was no introduction. They were two of the biggest artists in the world. We had this extended silence, the music started and they walked on. Barbra asked for my phone number the night before the show. At midnight she called me, she said, ‘I’m going to caress Neil’s cheek.’ She didn’t do it in rehearsal, and she wanted to know which hand to use. She was in the right frame. I’m asleep. I immediately said, ‘You take your left hand and caress his right cheek.’ I was lucky it was the right call.
Whitney Houston, “I Will Always Love You” (1994)
Going back a little, the first Grammy show we had Whitney was when we were much more competitive with the American Music Awards [because they used to air so close to us]. I got a call from Gene Harvey, who was her manager at the time. He said they were doing ‘I Wanna Dance with Somebody’ on the AMAs [in 1986] and hopefully that would be OK. I wanted “Saving All My Love for You” all along for the Grammys performance that year, but I [pretended] to be pissed off and played along. “Saving All Me Love for You” made her career. I knew what we had.
That was the beginning of the history with her, I don’t want to say it culminated in “I Will Always Love You” in 1994, but that was the peak. She began to have problems after that. When we started putting this together, I wanted people to see the great Whitney.
Mary J. Blige, “No More Drama” (2002)
It was just one of those performances. It changed her life, and she was scared shitless. She was really frightened. Right before someone goes on, we’ll just do one last little check. I run the show from underneath the stage. I came up the stairs, gave her a hug and said, "This one counts." She was literally shaking, she just turned into a beast. It was unbelievable.
Paul McCartney, Joe Walsh, Dave Grohl and Bruce Springsteen, “Abbey Road Medley” (2012)
This is the music we all grew up on. It resonates as much as anything else in your life. I also loved the story of how it came together. Paul changed [his performance idea from] "Nineteen Hundred and Eighty Five" to this, and it grew from Dave Grohl to Joe Walsh to Bruce Springsteen. I’ll never forget it.
Bruno Mars, Sting, Rihanna, Ziggy and Damian Marley Tribute To Bob Marley: “Locked Out of Heaven/Walking on the Moon/Could You Be Loved” (2013)
I went over to interview Bruno Mars about the Whitney Houston show that we did that year. He played me a couple of things from the new record, and I heard "Locked Out Of Heaven," which I really liked.
He wasn’t nominated that year. By the time I got back to my office, I’d called [Sting’s then manager] Kathy Schenker, who said he’d love to do 'Walking on the Moon,’ and I talked to Jay Brown about Rihanna and then I grabbed a couple of Marleys. I called Bruno back two days later and said, ‘I know you’re not going to do the Grammys, but if you were, would you like to do it with Police and Rihanna and the Marleys?’ It was a solid medley.