“Elton’s songs are such classics,” AEG Ehrlich Ventures executive producer Ken Ehrlich tells Billboard. “They’re beautifully written lyrically and melodically.”
"Sir Elton John is an international music legend who has captivated audiences across generations for more than five decades," said Neil Portnow, President/CEO of the Recording Academy, in a statement. "His creativity, dynamic presence, and melodic virtuosity have positioned him as a cultural icon, and the Recording Academy is pleased to honor his immeasurable contributions to the music community."
In November, John released a greatest hits collection, Diamonds, which coincided with the 50th anniversary of John’s songwriting partnership with Bernie Taupin. That enduring relationship will be highlighted during the evening, Ehrlich says. “I’m planning to try to sit down with them and pick up some interviews on the process --Bernie writing lyrics and sending them to Elton -- on how unusual and wonderful it is.”
Since his first tour in 1970, John, born Reginald Dwight in England in 1947, has gone on to be one of pop music’s most legendary and charismatic performers, with 35 gold and 25 platinum albums. In addition to his five Grammys, he is also an Oscar and Tony recipient.
While Ehrlich may suggest songs from John’s vast catalog to the evening’s performers, many acts come in with a particular tune in mind. “In most cases, the songs being done have been chosen by the artist,” Ehrlich says. “We try to balance [the show] out and make sure it’s representative of eras and tempo, but I’ve always believed that artists know themselves best and we should respect that.”
John’s longtime band will serve as the backing musicians for the evening, with his guitarist, Davey Johnstone, serving as musical director.
In addition to often winning their time slots, the past specials have been critically acclaimed: The Beatles: The Night That Changed America—A Grammy Salute, Stevie Wonder: Songs In The Key Of Life—An All-Star Grammy Salute and Sinatra 100—An All-Star Grammy Concert all won Emmy Awards.
They have also proven to drive sales, especially last year’s entry, Stayin’ Alive: A Grammy Salute to the Music of the Bee Gees, resulted in the Bee Gees’ catalog increasing 669 percent in sales over the previous week. The trio’s on-demand streams rose 71 percent and four Bee Gees compilations debuted or re-entered the Billboard charts.
While John will perform at his tribute, Ehrlich would not say whether John will play at the Grammys two nights earlier, other than to add, “We definitely are discussing it."