Dixie Chicks lead a veteran charge at the Grammys

Sunday, February 11th 2007, 4:24 pm
By: News On 6

LOS ANGELES (AP) _ The Dixie Chicks completed a defiant comeback on Sunday night, winning five Grammy awards after being shunned by the country music establishment over their anti-Bush comments leading up to the Iraq war.

The Texas trio won record and song of the year for the no-regrets anthem ``Not Ready to Make Nice.'' They also won best country album _ especially ironic, considering that the group has said they don't consider themselves country artists anymore.

Two other comebacks were also richly rewarded. Mary J. Blige received three trophies for her double-platinum ``The Breakthrough,'' and the Red Hot Chili Peppers also won three for their double disc, ``Stadium Arcadium.''

Blige, the overall nominations leader with eight, won best R&B album for ``The Breakthrough,'' her double-platinum triumph, plus best female R&B performance and R&B song for ``Be Without You.''

A tearful Blige said her album ``has not only shown that I am a musician and an artist and a writer, it also shows I am growing into a better human being.''

``Tonight we celebrate the better human being because for so many years, I've been talked about negatively,'' said Blige, who during her 15-year career has often discussed her past substance and self-esteem problems. ``But this time I've been talked about positively by so many people.''

The Chili Peppers' double album, ``Stadium Arcadium,'' was a triple winner, including best rock song and rock performance by a duo or group for ``Dani California.''

The show kicked off with a retro feel as the Police, who are reuniting for a tour, gave a much-anticipated performance. Soon afterward, Tony Bennett and Stevie Wonder, who dueted on a remake of Wonder's ``For Once In My Life,'' beat out two of the year's biggest songs, Nelly Furtado and Timbaland's ``Promiscuous'' and Gnarls Barkley's ``Crazy,'' for best pop vocal collaboration.

Among the double winners were John Mayer, T.I. and Carrie Underwood who won best new artist and female country vocal performance for ``Jesus Take the Wheel.''

``This is my first Grammy! Hopefully the first of a few more,'' said Underwood, the 2005 ``American Idol'' champ, who also singled out ``Idol'' creator Simon Fuller in her acceptance speech. (Last year, another ``Idol'' champ, Kelly Clarkson, was scolded for not paying tribute to her ``Idol'' roots.)

Joan Baez, Ornette Coleman, the Doors and the Grateful Dead were recognized with lifetime achievement awards.

``I could possibly, at the end of my life, (have) been recognized more for social and political activities than for my vocal career,'' Baez, 66, said before the show.

Coleman said he was touched by the honor.

``It's good to know that human beings know of you and have some faith in what you're trying to do,'' said the 76-year-old jazz man.

Grateful Dead bassist Phil Lesh said he was ``very excited'' to get his first recognition from the recording academy.

``It's kind of a wonderful thing, after however many years of neglect, to be recognized,'' said Lesh, 66.

Other lifetime achievement honorees were Maria Callas, Bob Wills and Booker T. & the MG's. Herb Alpert and Jerry Moss, founders of A&M Records, were also honored with the President's Merit Award for contributions to popular music.

James Brown, given scant attention from the Grammys when alive, was paid slight tribute.

While the Eagles were honored with a three-song medley, the late Godfather of Soul was remembered with a performance by Christina Aguilera that managed to hit all the wrong notes, even while staying pitch-perfect.

Dressed in a totally white suit and meticulously made-up, Aguilera sang ``It's a Man's Man's Man's World.'' She has an undeniably good set of pipes, but it seemed somewhat sacrilegious to honor the Soul great with a singer bereft of the stuff.

That was followed by a tap-dancing routine while black-and-white footage of Brown dancing played on a giant video screen above. Brown's glittering red robe was then brought out and poetically hung on the microphone stand. It had been customary for the legendary singer to be taken off stage shielded and cloaked in such a robe once he had sweated everything out.

And so the man who meant so much to soul, funk and pop music for half a century was honored by the Grammys without a word, without any notable attempt _ verbally or musically _ to express what Brown meant to music. Instead, we were given an octave-hitting pop princess and some tap.

For the Recording Academy, this was nothing new. Before Brown passed away on Christmas day, he was given three Grammy awards and only one in his heyday (in 1965 for ``Papa's Brand New Bag'' as best R&B recording).

In 1991, his album was honored for best album notes.

In over four decades, Brown put out 48 singles that were either top ten hits on the Billboard Hot 100 or the R&B chart _ songs like ``Cold Sweat,'' ``There Was a Time,'' ``Super Bad,'' ``Soul Power,'' ``Make it Funky'' and ``I Got the Feelin'.''

Unfortunately, the Grammys' tribute to Brown had no feelin'.