Mariah Carey and Lenny Kravitz took center stage before a packed and cheering ballroom for The Recording Academy Honors presented by The Black Music Collective (BMC) Thursday evening (Feb. 1) in Los Angeles. The two music icons were saluted as this year’s Global Impact Award recipients — a CEO Merit Award “honoring the essence and evolution of Black excellence,” as Recording Academy CEO Harvey Mason Jr. noted in his opening remarks.
And with Mason’s declaration, “Let’s get this party started,” a stellar array of music performances and emotion-packed acceptance speeches rocked the rafters of the Fairmont Century Plaza. Leading the charge was Davido with a spirited performance of “Mona Lisa” that that got the audience on its feet, dancing and waving napkins around the room.
That moment was just the first in a series of standing ovations setting the tone prior to the award presentations. Among the evening’s noteworthy performances, under the direction of the event’s music supervisor Adam Blackstone, was Andra Day’s powerful rendering of the Billie Holiday classic “Strange Fruit,” Gabby Simone’s insightful interpretation of Nina Simone’s “Four Women” and Erica Campbell’s soul-clenching take on the gospel standard “I Love the Lord.”
Just as stirring were the performances and speeches given on behalf of the honorees, beginning with H.E.R. paying tribute to singer-songwriter-multi-instrumentalist Lenny Kravitz. Referencing one of his hits, she said, “’American Woman’ made me say to my dad, ‘I want to play guitar. I want to be a rock star like Lenny Kravitz’ … Thank you for breaking so many barriers and paving the way for artists like me. Thank you, Lenny Kravitz, for teaching us all to let love rule” — (a nod to the title of Kravitz’s 1989 debut studio album).
Kravitz began by sharing early musical memories that helped shape his legendary career, such as being a 5-year-old sitting on the lap of Duke Ellington in the Rainbow Room while the latter played “Take the A Train.” And Kravitz’s dad taking him to see the Jackson 5 at Madison Square Garden and afterwards “wanting to be the sixth brother.” The four-time Grammy winner further invoked a host of additional influences such as Stevie Wonder, Earth, Wind & Fire, James Brown, Nina Simone, Grandmaster Flash, Parliament-Funkadelic and Bob Marley.
“I could go on all night,” he continued. “I love this music because it feeds our hearts and strengthens our resolve to keep conveying hope and healing to a whole new world. To be a part of this lineage is a privilege I cherish. It is with deep gratitude that I thank you, knowing that music in every corner of the planet uplifts and expresses the goodness of God’s everlasting love.” Then fellow musicians Andrew Watt, Chad Smith, Verdine White, George Clinton and Quavo joined forces to perform “Fly Away” to roaring applause — and hearty hugs from Kravitz on stage.
More cheering ensued when Stevie Wonder took the stage to pay tribute to Mariah Carey in word and song. “Every time we meet and talk, it’s like having a brand new day,” he began. “I thank you for your friendship, your heart and the consistent spirit of love that you show … and I’m just going to say this …” That’s when Wonder segued into the choruses of two of his songs: “Knocks Me Off My Feet” (“I don’t want to bore you with it, but I love you, I love you”) and “All I Do” (“all I do is think about you”) and ad libbing at the end, “you are my hero.”
After thanking Wonder (“I will never not get excited to be in the company of your greatness!”), Carey drew plenty of audience laughter as she held the award and remarked that she hadn’t won a Grammy in a long time. She went on to thank Harvey Mason jr. and the Academy, congratulate fellow honoree Kravitz and wish everyone a happy Black History Month, the five-time Grammy winner said in part:
“When I first started in the music business, I was often told to conform to certain expectations. I wasn’t encouraged to focus on my love for Black music. It took countless arguments, endless tantrums and mostly unwavering determination. But eventually, I was able to reveal my authentic self, as they say, and create music that came from my heart … I discovered a newfound sense of freedom and fulfillment. As I accept this award, I do so with gratitude for all of you here and every person who has supported me along this journey; the fans that have stood by me through thick and thin.
“But most importantly,” she continued, “I accept this award on behalf of every person who has ever felt silenced or marginalized, who has ever been told their voice doesn’t matter. Your truth matters. We will continue to pave the way together for a future where authenticity is celebrated, diversity is embraced and music has the power to change the world.”
Additional performers feting Carey in song included Babyface (“Everytime I Close My Eyes”) Busta Rhymes (“I Know What You Want”), Tori Kelly (“Vision of Love”) and Yolanda Adams (“Make It Happen”). And among the Recording Academy executives who shared remarks were BMC chair Rico Love and Ryan Butler, the Academy’s vp of diversity, equity and inclusion.
Prior to the event — produced by MVD Inc. — guests were treated to striking black-and-white portraits of Jay-Z, Nipsey Hussle and other artists in the Icons Gallery curated by music executive and photographer Lenny S.
The post “Mariah Carey & Lenny Kravitz Crowned Global Impact Honorees at Black Music Collective Soiree” by Gail Mitchell was published on 02/02/2024 by www.billboard.com