On Sunday night, the Recording Academy handed out its 65th annual GRAMMY Awards at the Crypto Arena in Los Angeles. And as usual, there were plenty of past Levitt performers among the winners, for a total of eight awards!
Taking home one of the GRAMMYs’ “Big Four” general field awards was Samara Joy, who made her Levitt debut at Levitt AMP Utica in 2021. The 23-year-old jazz singer was named Best New Artist—an honor previously bestowed on the likes of Adele, Sade, and the Beatles—as well as winning Best Jazz Vocal Album for her debut, Linger Awhile. Video of Joy’s Levitt performance is available here. Do yourself a favor and check it out!
Elsewhere, contemporary gospel music legend Kirk Franklin, who performed at Levitt Pavilion Arlington in 2019, claimed three GRAMMYs for his collaboration with Maverick City Music: Best Gospel Album, for Kingdom Book One Deluxe, Best Gospel Song/Performance, for “Kingdom,” and Best Contemporary Christian Music Song/Performance for the song “Fear Is Not My Future.”
Texas instrumental ensemble Snarky Puppy, which headlined at Levitt Pavilion Arlington in 2010 and 2013, won Best Contemporary Instrumental Album for Empire Central. Gullah music act Ranky Tanky, which graced the stages of Levitt Pavilion Westport in 2018 and Levitt Shell Sioux Falls in 2021, picked up a GRAMMY for Live at the 2022 New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, which won Best Regional Roots Music Album. And eight-time Levitt performers Dirty Dozen Brass Band won Best American Roots Performance for “Stompin’ Ground,” a duet with Aaron Neville.
Levitt artists weren’t only found on the winner’s podium. The pre-televised portion of the ceremony (in which most of the night’s awards are handed out) got off to a rousing start with a performance from five-time Levitt performers La Santa Cecilia, who were joined by 2018 Levitt National Tour artists the Blind Boys of Alabama and saxophonist Bob Mintzer (who played Levitt Pavilion Arlington in 2010), among others, for a rendition of Rare Earth’s “I Just Want to Celebrate.” Joy took to the GRAMMY stage later in the ceremony, with her soulful, virtuosic take on jazz standard “Can’t Get Out of This Mood.”
The Levitt Foundation congratulates all of Sunday night’s winners and nominees, with special gratitude for those who have shared their talents on Levitt network stages nationwide.
We were also heartened to see the Recording Academy debut a new award: Best Song for Social Change. A non-competitive GRAMMY created to recognize a song that “addresses a timely social issue and promotes understanding, peacebuilding, and empathy,” the inaugural award was given to Iranian singer-songwriter Shervin Hajipour for his song “Baraye.” Written in response to the death of young Iranian woman Mahsa Amini, “Baraye” became the unofficial anthem of the nation’s subsequent protest movement, inspiring millions in Iran and around the world to stand up for justice, freedom, and peace.
From the racial justice pleas of Pete Seeger and Billie Holiday, through the ‘60s protest anthems of Nina Simone and Bob Dylan, to progressive and provocative messages of modern-day songs by Kendrick Lamar and Lil Baby, history has often been changed for the better thanks to musicians who are brave enough to speak out against oppression. Some, like Chile’s Victor Jara and Nigeria’s Fela Kuti, have even been persecuted politically for their outspokenness. So too has Hajipour, who was arrested in Iran last September just as “Baraye” went viral. (He has since been released on bail.) That has hardly silenced his song, however, which continued to ring out at rallies and marches across the globe, and has now reached even more new listeners thanks to its spotlight at the GRAMMY Awards.
Here at the Levitt Foundation, we are passionate believers in the power of music to inspire social change, one community at a time, and we applaud the Recording Academy’s efforts to highlight the vital importance of music in creating a more just and joyous world.