GRAMMY AWARDS PERFORMERS? No Thanks! I’ll Take Hard-Working Frank or Shirley or Elvis

Written by William Pauwels on February 10, 2015

Apparently a lot of people like the awful music featured during the Grammy Awards Sunday night.  Frankly, after 45 minutes of viewing, I couldn’t take it anymore and declined to another room. 

I have always been a music lover.  In fact, folks at work used to tease me by calling me the “singing president.”  I reportedly would unconsciously walk around singing a happy tune to myself.  I still do that today – who needs a radio?

Having grown up in the ’50s and ’60s, when there was a great blend of ballads, rhythm-and-blues, country, and rock-‘n-roll – my tastes became quite diversified.  I was also exposed to polkas and waltzes via my father’s every-Sunday-morning “record player.”  I enjoy them. 
However, I must admit, I cannot endure the rap music and hip-hop – if that’s what you call it — that was featured at the Grammys.  I find myself wondering: Is this is what our culture has succumbed to!  Apparently it has.  How sad!

Lots of contemporary music lovers don’t seem to realize it’s not all about one’s voice or one’s stage presence.  It’s often the combination of the two that determines greatness.  And then there is a question of timing. 

Frank Sinatra, for example, broke away from the era of big band singers – to be an individual performer.  He sang great songs and developed a stage presence that was attractive.  He almost always credited the songwriters and orchestras that backed him up.  He was a good musical politician

Another factor was his willingness to work hard.  Sinatra worked his butt off as a singer, recording star, movie actor, etc.  They say he practiced singing every day.  He built up a following of industry professionals that was second to none.

I always mentally contrast Sinatra with Dean Martin – a guy who simply couldn’t get serious when singing.  He had a great voice but apparently wanted to be a comedian.  He latched on to his reputation as a drunk and could never let it go.  My wife and I watched a tape from the library of his old television shows.  Frankly, he was pathetic, and had great difficulty singing a song seriously. 

Sinatra on the other hand took his singing seriously.  He would clown around prior to singing – but when he engaged the vocals, he performed.

Shirley Bassey comes to mind: a foreigner, came out of the Frank Sinatra era in the UK.  She was a performer who could sing.  Not the greatest voice, but combined with her stage presence and a willingness to work hard internationally, give concerts, perform on television -– she was a true superstar, particularly in England and Europe. 

Barbra Streisand had a better voice but not the stage presence or energy or willingness to work hard.  Maybe that’s a little unfair.

Elvis was, of course, a special case.  He latched on to the “black-man” rhythm-and-blues and rock-‘n-roll revolution.  With spectacular good looks, a great voice, a willingness to work hard, he became perhaps the greatest.  Unfortunately, he ultimately lacked the discipline of the Sinatra or Sammy Davis, Jr. or Shirley Bassey.

If you’re talking exclusively about whose music you would like to listen to, Elvis, Nat King Cole, Andy Williams, Barbra Streisand, Celine Dion, Patsy Cline, Glen Campbell, Anne Murray, the original Platters, the Mills Brothers, and many others are the best. 

Stage presence is another aspect, which may or may not qualify these individuals as ”the greatest.”  In any case, I like them all and enjoy the best of whatever they give with great thankfulness.  Compared to the garbage that comes out of the pop culture today, there is simply no comparison. 

My generation was very fortunate to have enjoyed them all – even Elton John!  



William Pauwels
William A. Pauwels, Sr. was born in Jackson Michigan to a Belgian, immigrant, entrepreneurial family. Bill is a graduate of the University of Notre Dame and served in executive and/or leadership positions at Thomson Industries, Inc., Dow Corning, Loctite and Sherwin-Williams. He is currently CIO of Pauwels Private Investment Practice. He's been commenting on matters political/economic/philosophical since 1980.