Magazine Feature

Neil Portnow & Corinne Bailey Rae on How The Recording Academy's MusiCares Gives Back

John Branca, Neil Portnow & Corinne Bailey Rae
Rainer Hosch

John Branca, Neil Portnow and Corinne Bailey Rae photographed on Oct. 11 at The Bungalow in Santa Monica.

Billboard’s Philanthropy Issue: Inside How the Music Industry Gives Back

As 20 Feet From Stardom star Merry Clayton sang “Way Over Yonder” at the 2014 MusiCares Person of the Year tribute honoring Carole King, little did the famed soul singer know that four months later she would need MusiCares’ help. That July, Clayton was in a near-fatal car accident that left her wheelchair-bound. “My wonderful manager gave them a call, and it was a done deal,” says Clayton of The Recording Academy’s organization that helped her rehabilitation and sent a repairman to her house to fix her stair lift.

“I hear these stories regularly and am moved beyond words,” says Neil Portnow, president/CEO of MusiCares and The Recording Academy. “It’s unbelievably gratifying.” Indeed, in 2015 MusiCares dispersed a record-setting $4.7 million to nearly 7,000 members of the music industry, ranging from former label executives to roadies in need of everything from rent and addiction recovery to dental care and funeral expenses.

MusiCares’ honorary chairman (and Billboard’s 2016 lawyer of the year) John Branca cites the organization’s largest undertaking as the most inspiring: “During Hurricane Katrina, musicians in New Orleans lost their instruments and the ability to make a living.” MusiCares immediately pledged $1 million in aid for Katrina and, as Portnow proudly notes, “We were there before FEMA.”

“It’s easy for me to relate,” says Grammy-winning singer Corinne Bailey Rae, who performed at MusiCares ceremonies in 2008 and 2016. “I’ve been in that situation, thinking, ‘Can I afford to pay my rent or take a taxi to a gig?’ It’s really close to my heart.” 

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This article originally appeared in the Nov. 5 issue of Billboard. 

2017 Grammys