THE 35th annual Grammy Awards are going down as the year of the sweet songs of British rocker Eric Clapton.
Nominated in nine categories after a career spanning three decades and including stints with British groups Cream and Derek and the Dominoes, Clapton walked away with six trophies including Record of the Year ("Tears in Heaven"), Album of the Year ("Unplugged"), and Song of the Year ("Tears in Heaven").
"I just feel so incredibly guilty over taking so many of these [awards]," Clapton said moments after performing the song inspired by the love for his four-year-old son who died in a tragic fall two years ago. "I am very moved, and shaky, and emotional. I want to thank my son for the love he gave me and the song he gave me."
Michael Jackson was the other pillar of the music industry's top award show Wednesday night. Honored as Grammy Legend by the National Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences (NARAS), Jackson was presented the crystal trophy by his sister, Janet.
The younger Jackson introduced a filmed presentation entitled, "How to Become a Grammy Legend," in which the achievements of brother Michael were played out, including this year's Super Bowl performance.
Jackson's response to the award was a sustained monologue that offered an explanation of his "weird" ways and an autobiographical apology that included both comedic and poignant moments.
"I hope this finally puts to rest another rumor that has been in the press for too many years," Jackson said, pulling his sister's face next to his. "Me and Janet really are two different people."
He continued: "It's good to be thought of as a person and not a personality ... I don't read all the things written about me - that the world thought I was so weird and bizarre - but when you grow up before 100 million people from the age of five you are not normal...."
After attributing much of the strife of the world to children that have had their childhood stolen from them, Jackson said that the creativity of children contains the seeds that will heal the world.
Picking up the theme, NARAS President Michael Greene spoke of the universal language of music as a healing force that "can be a pressure release for urban tension." Noting that the evening's festivities occured just blocks from last year's riots here, Mr. Greene went on to lambaste the government for policies that have stripped schools of arts and culture programs, showing "how quickly our schools are becoming a cultural wasteland."
He quoted statistics comparing Japanese arts-related expenditures per child at $5, the Germans at about $2.50, and the US far behind at about 15 cents. "We must let our voices be heard to return arts to our children's lives," Greene said.
Music-industry insiders here called the remainder of this year's Grammy awards "routine" and "weak." Sixty-six of 80 awards were presented in ceremonies before air time and were announced throughout the three-hour telecast with still photos.
In keeping with its tradition of guarding the legacy of American music as well as enshrining its greatest innovators, NARAS also gave out several Lifetime Achievement Awards: Country guitarist Chet Atkins; rock-and-roller Little Richard; jazz pianist Thelonious Monk; folksinger Pete Seeger; and songwriter Thomas "Fats" Waller.
One of the evening's surprises was the Best Country Vocal Performance award to country singer Vince Gill over Garth Brooks's "The Chase," and Billy Ray Cyrus's "Achy Breaky Heart."
"I've lost to those guys a lot, and I know their albums are selling far better than mine," Gill said in a backstage interview. "But I'm not out here to write music to win awards. I just feel lucky enough to be out there making music."
Other awards included: *Best New Artist: Arrested Development. *Best Pop Vocal Performance, Female: k.d. lang, "Constant Craving." *Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group With Vocal: Celine Dion and Peabo Bryson; "Beauty and the Beast." *Best Traditional Pop Vocal Performance: Tony Bennett, "Perfectly Frank." *Best Rock Vocal Performance, Female: Melissa Etheridge, "Ain't it Heavy." *Best Rock Performance by a Duo or Group With Vocal: U2, "Achtung Baby." *Best R&B Performance by a Duo or Group With Vocal: Boyz II Men, "End of the Road." *Best Contemporary Jazz Performance Instrumental: Pat Metheny, "Secret Story." *Best Jazz Vocal Performance: Bobby McFerrin, "'Round Midnight."