Jan 122012

Ray and I are always looking for guest writers here at The Gigging Musician, and we recently received a great article from Jamie Briggs about Joe Bonamassa’s reaction to the latest Grammy Nominations. Like Toby Keith and the CMA’s, and many other deserving folks before, Bonamassa is just the latest in a long line of snubbed artists. Thanks for the article Jamie!

Joe Bonamassa isn’t happy with the Grammy Nominations, but do awards matter much?

Bonamassa in Portland, OR - 12/14/11

The Joe Bonamassa musical juggernaut has showed no signs of slowing since he was awarded the Breakthrough Artist of the Year Award in the UK’s Classic Rock magazine in 2009, a year in which he was also awarded Best Blues Guitarist by Guitar Player’s Reader’s Choice Awards. With a new album released this year to widespread acclaim, along with a sell out world tour that is also receiving rave reviews, 2011 has been a good year. This is ‘business as usual’ however, for a man who has topped the US Blues chart with astonishing regularity and has the Joe Bonamassa range of guitars to his name. As a child prodigy who was playing Hendrix at the age of seven, this has always been his throne to take.

And yet, despite his massive international success, Joe Bonamassa has not been nominated for a Grammy again, making this the twelfth time in a row. Though known as a humble and quiet person, his trademark cool vanished, and he vented his anger via Twitter:

“stats.12 records.. 9 # 1 blues albums… Sold out shows around the globe.. 0 Grammy nominations.. Honestly.. I used to care.. not anymore (sic)”

“Im honestly so done with this bullshit… I will never submit another record again for the Grammys.. Its a waist of my time and postage. (sic)”

These were among the tweets posted following the nominations, and, well, who could blame him. It does raise questions once more, however, as to whether industry led musical awards have any validity. The more interesting question however, is why artists with such adoration and commercial success, and who manage the near impossible task of matching this with the respect of their musical piers seem to need an industry award for validation? Perhaps this is the last achievement left to add to his musical CV, the name ‘Grammy’ still holding as it does, a huge amount of historical kudos.

Bonamassa’s indignant stance goes against the grain of many musicians’ attitudes towards the Grammys, however. Famously, in 1996, when Pearl Jam won the award for ‘Best Hard Rock Performance’ for ‘Spin the Black Circle’, Eddie Vedder stated in his acceptance speech, “I don’t know what this means. I don’t think it means anything.” The award itself was dragged out of a dusty basement on film, during the Pearl Jam documentary Twenty. This is an attitude shared by Justin Vernon, front-man for 2011 nominee Bon Ivor, who has branded the award ceremony as ‘ridiculous’, and even gone so far as stating (in reference to artists who have ambitions of receiving a Grammy) “98 percent of the people in that room, their art is compromised by the fact that they’re thinking that.”

Whilst it’s easy to criticise Bonamassa, if viewed from the perspective of a man ‘doing a job’, it is hard not to sympathise. How many readers would not feel a little disgruntled if, after performing your job at the highest level for twelve years, had received none of the commensurate recognition? However, the most important aspect of any music, or any creative art for that matter, is the relationship between the performer and the audience. If the audience is held by the performance, and emotionally or intellectually stimulated, and leaves satisfied, their life enriched as a result, then that, surely, is the performer’s role fulfilled. And who would want more than that?

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