Taylor Hawkins Grammy Tribute: Disappointing, But Not Surprising
Ideally, the rock world should be spending the day after the 2022 Grammy Awards talking about how great the Foo Fighters’ performance was on “Music’s Biggest Night” and how the band swept the rock Grammy category. But alas, the tragic, sudden passing of drummer Taylor Hawkins has many revisiting the familiar feeling of disappointment that rockers know all too well post-Grammy Awards in recent years.
Hawkins’ passing on March 25 followed by the Foo Fighters officially pulling out of their performance on March 31 didn’t give Grammy Award ceremony producers a lot of time to plan a tribute for the April 3 telecast. However, CBS’ Executive Vice President of Special Jack Sussman gave the impression that something substantial was in the works.
Sussman told Variety, “We will honor his memory in some way. We want to figure out what is the right thing to do that is respectful to everyone involved. We’re patient. We’ll be planning right up until the very end.”
What fans got was a video package that clocked in at about a minute that played before the annual “In Memoriam” segment. While the video was well-produced, it still felt lacking. But, once again, this shouldn’t be all that surprising.
The last time a rock category was presented during the main telecast of the Grammy Awards was in 2017 when the late David Bowie won Best Rock Song for “Blackstar.” During that ceremony, the lone rock act to perform was Metallica, who was joined by Lady Gaga on their song “Moth into Flame.” The performance was infamously introduced by actress Laverne Cox who mentioned Gaga but not Metallica. (She would later issue an apology on Twitter writing, “I am so sorry to #Metallica and all their fans. I am told I didn’t say their names during the intro. Love you Metallica. You Rock. #Grammys.” On top of that, James Hetfield was experiencing issues with his microphone and had to share with Gaga. (Lars Ulrich touched on how “livid” Hetfield was after the performance in an appearance on The Late Late Show with James Corden.)
In the years following this moment, the rock genre has essentially been given a pseudo-token slot during the main telecast of the ceremony from U2’s performance of “Get Out of Your Own Way” in 2018 to Gary Clark Jr’s performance of “This Land” in 2020 with The Roots. The closest thing to a rock performance in 2021 was Haim, and on top of that, the Grammys delivered a widely panned tribute to Eddie Van Halen that was literal seconds.
Perhaps the most disappointing rock moment came in 2019. That year saw Post Malone perform with the Red Hot Chili Peppers, who weren't even nominated that year for anything. The 2019 Grammys were notable as a watershed moment for women artists following the tone-deaf comments of former Recording Academy president Neil Portnow who said, in part, “…women who have the creativity in their hearts and souls, who want to be musicians, who want to be engineers, producers, and want to be part of the industry on the executive level… [They need] to step up because I think they would be welcome.”
The closest thing to a rock performance from a woman came via St. Vincent, who won the Grammy for Best Rock Song, even though she falls under more of the “Alternative” label as evident for her winning Best Alternative Music Album this year. But 2019 could have been an amazing moment for Halestorm, who were nominated for Best Rock Performance for “Uncomfortable” and whose remarkable frontwoman Lzzy Hale presented during the premiere ceremony.
As a rock fan and someone who makes their living writing about rock news, I can honestly say I wouldn’t have even bothered watching this year’s Grammy Awards if I didn’t have to cover it for work. There’s a part of me that should be very angry about the tribute to Taylor Hawkins (or lack thereof), but it’s hard to feel anything but apathy when that’s what the Grammys have showed rock fans like me and many others in recent years.
The Grammys are Lucy, and rock fans are Charlie Brown trying to kick that damn football. Time after time, year after year, we all just end up on our backs, and not even in a fun, dirty way!