John Legend performs at MusiCares: Music On A Mission
Photo: Arturo Holmes/Getty Images The Recording Academy
How MusiCares' Music On A Mission Honored The Resilience Of The Music Community
The MusiCares Person Of The Year ceremony is one of the most anticipated events at GRAMMY Week every year. MusiCares' annual celebration recognizes the artistic achievement and philanthropic work through the Person Of The Year Award. This year, the nonprofit reimagined its marquee event—which would have celebrated its 30th anniversary—to celebrate the music community as a whole. The inaugural Music on a Mission event, hosted by MC Lyte, on March 12 opened its virtual doors to the public and featured special performances by 2021 GRAMMY nominees to raise money for music professionals impacted by COVID-19.
The event also included a mix of special appearances by previous Person Of The Year recipients and words from a cross-section of musicians and music industry workers. Before the show began, DJ D-Nice provided the sounds that fueled excitement for the meaningful night with his well-selected jams, including remixes of Sister Sledge's "Lost in Music" and Stevie Wonder's "Another Star."
The energy ramped up even more as the event segued into a flashback of MusiCares' 2012 Person Of The Year event honoring Sir Paul McCartney. The audience went back to the moment Cirque du Soleil transported their "The Beatles LOVE" Las Vegas experience to Los Angeles with their acrobatics to "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band." Following that introduction, McCartney performed a rousing rendition of "Magical Mystery Tour" from that year's event, pulling David Crosby, Steven Van Zandt, and Don Was out of their seats.
MusiCares executive director Laura Segura and Vice President of Amazon Music and board chair Steve Boom gave a short welcome after the epic throwback performance. "With the simple act of purchasing a ticket and enjoying tonight's performances, you've made a difference in the lives of people in need," Boom said.
The celebration then continued with exclusive performances. Jhené Aiko delivered a live acoustic rendition of "LOVE" from her album, Chilombo. Backed by a guitarist and percussionist, she faded the song out by playing her healing sound bowls. John Legend also performed live. The GRAMMY-winning singer lit up the virtual stage from home with a version of "U Move, I Move," featuring Aiko, from his 2020 album Bigger Love on his grand piano.
Styled and glammed, H.E.R. brought the GRAMMY show vibe with a full band, including strings and brass. She sang "Fight For You," from the Judas and the Black Messiah film. The performance was in sharp contrast to HAIM who were introduced by Recording Academy Chair and Interim President/CEO Harvey Mason jr. The group's raw rendition of "The Steps" felt like an eavesdrop during a rehearsal in their parents' basement.
South Korean global pop superstars BTS provided their own captivating show. The group shared a performance of their smash "Dynamite" from an empty theatre. The band members sang from various spots in the seated venue and came together on stage. Spotlights and camera angles provided a stunning visual of their stripped-back, electrifying performance, with the group sitting in a horseshoe arrangement at the center of the stage with a blue-haired Jungkook on drums.
But the night wasn't all performances. Also interspersed throughout were messages from Ringo Starr, Shakira, Elton John, Mick Fleetwood, Jesse & Joy, Ledisi, Macklemore and Bonnie Raitt, all thanking MusiCares for their work and encouraging viewers to donate to the organization's efforts. As Shakira put it, "Putting on a show takes a village," and the people who actually put on the shows in real life have been "disproportionately affected by the shutdown of shows."
The night also opened the vault to past Person Of The Year tribute performances, a tradition of the celebration previously only seen by those in attendance. Included in the virtual concert were the Jonas Brothers doing their version of Aerosmith's "Crazy" from the 2020 MusiCares Person Of The Year celebration honoring the band. A performance from Bruce Springsteen, the 2015 MusiCares Person Of The Year honoree, of "Born to Run," with his E Street Band, too, had its moment at the event. The program also featured an unforgettable performance from 2017 MusiCares Person Of The Year recipient Tom Petty performing "Stop Dragging My Heart Around" with Stevie Nicks; the performance was one of his last five shows.
Several other magical moments from past Person Of The Year celebrations were made public during Music on a Mission. At one point of the night, Lionel Richie, 2016 MusiCares Person Of The Year honoree, shared that MusiCares helped him realize it was time to give back. He introduced another flashback, this one to Usher's dynamic performance of the Commodores' "Lady (You Bring Me Up)," which had Richie grooving during that year's event. Carole King, 2014 MusiCares Person Of The Year recipient, introduced a luminous Lady Gaga who performed her version of King's "You've Got A Friend."
But Music on a Mission's most moving moments were those where musicians and music workers shared their stories of how MusiCares has helped them. Those included singer/songwriter Brittni Jessie who spoke of the mental and emotional support she received from MusiCares in the last year. "It's an incredible thing to know that we do struggle as artists, and it's good to know we have someone in our corner that understands what being a touring musician is like," she said.
Hubert Payne, the recording and touring drummer for Little Big Town, is the sole provider for his family, which includes five children under 8. During the event, he mentioned that MusiCares has been a bridge for him multiple times, including when he suffered from a knee injury a few years back. The organization was "truly a hand up, for me and a lot of my friends," he said. "Understand you're not the only one. No one's going to judge you and make you feel less than. The support will really help you reach the next step."
VIP event manager Alyssa Garcia is a behind-the-scene music worker whose life was pulled out from under her in the early part of 2020. She emphasized how easy it was to reach out to MusiCares and how the organization eagerly helped. "Reaching out will make you feel better," Garcia said.
MusiCares continues to provide support and assistance to all music workers. The organization's unusually heavy workload persists due to the ongoing pandemic. As the musicians in Music on a Mission stated, all financial support from its efforts goes directly to those in the wider music community who are affected.
Music on a Mission is available on-demand until Friday, March 19. Buy a ticket here. All proceeds from Music on a Mission will be distributed to music people in need.