If the rapper thing hadn’t worked out, Macklemore could have done very well as minister. We first got a sense of that on “Same Love,” his 2013 hit with Ryan Lewis, in which he addressed the issue of same-sex marriage with the intensity of a preacher. At the 15th annual Concert for Recovery, which was held at The Novo at L.A. Live on Thursday (May 16), he fulfilled that promise.
In a speech in which he accepted an award named in honor of Stevie Ray Vaughan, Macklemore said that he took his first drink at 14 and struggled with alcohol addiction until he was 25.
“The disease doesn’t discriminate,” Macklemore said. “It takes the lives of some of the most beautiful people…I’m tired of watching people die from this disease…This disease wants to kill me. I’m not responsible for my disease but I am responsible for what I do about it. I am as sick as my secrets. It’s imperative that we speak up now. We’re in the midst of an epidemic. Today I am not ashamed of who I am. I don’t have to hide my imperfections.”
Macklemore ended his speech with the Serenity Prayer, written by the American theologian Reinhold Niebuhr—”God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change/Courage to change the things I can/And wisdom to know the difference.”
“We just went to church,” host Joel McHale noted after Macklemore’s fiery speech.
Macklemore also performed at the event, which also featured performances by Kesha (who joined Macklemore to sing their 2017 collabo “Good Old Days”), Mary Lambert (who sang two songs, including “Same Love”), Royce da 5’9″ and Fitz and the Tantrums.
Several of the performers noted their membership in the club of addiction survivors. Fitz and the Tantrums lead singer Michael Fitzpatrick noted that he is 19 years sober. Royce da 5’9″ said, “I’m Ryan Montgomery. I’m an alcoholic. September, I’ll be seven years sober.”
Actor Rob Lowe, who presented the award to Macklemore, proudly announced that has a 29 year chip, referring to the number of years he has been sober. “When I got sober, I remember thinking that my life is over, I’ll never have fun, I’ll never be cool. I got a call from Steven Tyler. We’d never met. I didn’t know him, but because of this journey, we’re part of a brotherhood.”
The event included a tribute to Mac Miller, who died Sept. 7 at age 26 from an accidental drug overdose. This segment gave the evening much of its emotional power. It was a reminder that, for all the speakers who celebrated their sobriety, not all survive their battle with addiction.
Vince Staples spoke about his friend. “I met Mac in 2012. He offered me sanctuary and optimism—things that he was probably missing himself…He passed due to some demons and troubles he was facing that we all face. I guess that’s why we’re here today.”
Tyler, the Creator also spoke about Miller in a moving video tribute which contained images of Miller, including one where he was wearing a baseball cap which read “Don’t Trip.”
Neil Portnow, president/CEO of the Recording Academy and MusiCares, announced the formation of the MusiCares Mac Miller Legacy Fund, which Miller’s family is sponsoring. Miller’s parents were in the audience.
Michael McDonald, board chair of MusiCares, announced that in 2018, the organization dispersed $6.5 million to 8,600 clients.
Amazon Music sponsored the event. The Red Songbird Foundation sponsored the red carpet.
“If it wasn’t in recovery, I wouldn’t be alive,” Macklemore said. “That isn’t to be dramatic or sensational. That’s the truth.” Macklemore ended his remarks—and the evening—by saying, “My name is Ben. I’m an addict. I’m an alcoholic. Thank you for my recovery.”