LOS ANGELES (AP) — A veteran Grammys executive producer says his awards show does not have a diversity issue like the Oscars and that it is not fair to compare the two programs.
Ahead of Monday’s show, news outlets reported that the Grammys could be under fire since it planned to pay tribute to white performers such as David Bowie and The Eagles’ Glenn Frey with live performances, though the legacy of black acts such as Natalie Cole and Maurice White of Earth, Wind & Fire recently passed and were not receiving the same treatment.
Ken Ehrlich said he first thought of booking a performer to honor Cole, but then he watched her 1992 Grammys performance of her singing in sync with her father, Nat King Cole, who appeared in video. It was the same year she won album of the year for “Unforgettable… with Love,” which paid tribute to her father with reworked versions of some of his best-known songs.
Ehrlich called the video of the performance “unbelievably touching” and said it will be played at the end of the “In Memorium” section of the awards show. Natalie Cole died Dec. 31.
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Earth, Wind & Fire — who were set to receive a lifetime achievement award before White passed — will accept the honor on live TV, speak about White’s legacy and present one of the top awards, record of the year, Ehrlich said. White died Feb. 4 and Ehrlich added that there will also be a surprise with Earth, Wind & Fire.
B.B. King, who died last year, will also be honored with a performance tribute by Bonnie Raitt, Gary Clark Jr. and Chris Stapleton, Ehrlich said.
The producer said though the Oscars have received a backlash for a second straight year of all-white acting nominees, the Grammys are not even comparable.
“The fact of the matter is popular music is, it came from New Orleans, it came from Memphis, it came from Kansas City, it came from the Islands, it came from Africa, and the music we listen to today, not just hip-hop, not just R&B, but all music has been influenced and been shaped by African-American culture, so I don’t think the same rules apply,” he said. “There wouldn’t be a Grammys show today if it weren’t for the great African-American artists who built the culture and wrote the music and we try to reflect that every year. I don’t think it’s fair to level criticism, the same kind of criticism against us that the Oscars are experiencing.”
Ehrlich added that the music and movie industries are like apples and oranges: “They might be the same shape, they might get to you in the same form, but they’re entirely different art forms and they come from entirely different places.”
Other performers at the Grammys, airing from Staples Center in Los Angeles, will include Adele, Rihanna, Taylor Swift, the Weeknd, Carrie Underwood and Kendrick Lamar, who is the top nominee with 11.
Members of the Eagles and Jackson Browne will perform to honor Frey, who died on Jan. 18. And Lady Gaga, who Ehrlich booked to perform on the show before Bowie died, said the pop star asked to sing in tribute to the icon who died on Jan. 10.
“She (said) to me, ‘I would really love to do a David Bowie segment and (I said) to her, ‘Of course. It couldn’t be more appropriate,'” he recalled.
The Grammys will air live on CBS at 8 p.m. Eastern.