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    Hill, Going to the Top

    By Richard Harrington
    Washington Post Staff Writer
    Thursday, February 25, 1999; Page C1


    Lauryn Hill, AP
    Lauryn Hill pumps her fist in the air after winning the best new artist award at the 41st Annual Grammy Awards. (Kevork Djansezian — AP)
    Lauryn Hill was named best new artist at last night's 41st Grammy Awards and by night's end, had also won the album of the year honors for "The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill," marking the first time a hip-hop artist has won the most prestigious of Grammy awards.

    Hill sounded stunned as she accepted the last award.

    "Wow! You know what? This is so amazing! Thank you God, thank you Father! This is crazy, 'cause this is hip-hop music, you know what I mean? You just have to stay firm!"

    In winning five awards. Hill also surpassed Carole King for most Grammys ever by a female artist (King won four in 1971 for her album "Tapestry").

    The 23-year-old singer, who previously won two Grammys for her work with the hip-hop/R&B trio The Fugees, was this year's most nominated artist with 10. "The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill," the critically acclaimed solo debut that has sold 6 million copies worldwide, was also named best R&B album, while "Doo Wop (That Thing)" won for best female R&B vocal performance and R&B song.

    Accepting the best new artist award, Hill went one better than the traditional winning artists' thanks to God. In fact, she recited Psalm 40: "I waited patiently for the Lord, He turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire. He set my feet on the rock and gave me a firm place to stand. He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to my God. Many will see and feel and put their trust in the Lord. Amen."

    To great cheers, Hill thanked God "for honoring me with this huge responsibility," thanked her family, particularly her two young children "for inspiring me and not spilling anything on Mommy's outfit. . . . Stay positive, stay strong. God love you all!"

    Hill also closed the Grammy show in fine fashion with a exuberantly graceful performance of "To Zion," written to her first-born son.

    Grammy voters otherwise played it safe when it came to hip-hop, rewarding the Beastie Boys and actor/rapper Will Smith, whose "Gettin' Jiggy Wit It" won for best rap solo performance, over edgier offerings from Jay-Z, Wyclef Jean and Busta Rhymes. Jay-Z's "Vol. 2 . . . Hard Knock Life" did win rap album honors.

    Accepting his award, Smith said he'd just come from his first parent-teacher conference, where the teacher told him his son's "rhyming skills are down. That's just pure parental neglect," Smith joked, adding "there's always law school!"

    Otherwise, it was girls' night out as women dominated the major awards, broadcast on CBS from the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles. For the first time ever, all of the nominees for album of the year were women, as were four of the five for record of the year and three of the five for best new artist.

    Madonna, previously relegated to a video award in 1991, won her first musical Grammys as "Ray of Light" was named best pop album and best dance recording. "This is such a surprise and I'm so honored," said Madonna, who kicked off the Grammy telecast with a Kabuki production of "Nothing Really Matters" that couldn't mask her wobbly pitch, though, luckily, her flaming red dress was louder than her vocals. "Ray of Light," Madonna's venture into electronica-influenced dance pop, also won Grammys for best recording package and short form music video.

    Suggesting "Titanic" fatigue has not yet abated almost a year after it won an Oscar for best theme song, "My Heart Will Go On" won record of the year for Celine Dion and song of the year for songwriter Will Jennings and classical composer James Horner (it also won for best song written for motion picture or television). It also won best female pop vocal for Dion, who also turned in a luminous performanced of "The Prayer" with tenor Andrea Bocelli.

    Sheryl Crow, a five-time Grammy winner, won a Grammy for best rock album for "The Globe Sessions." "I want Lauryn Hill to produce my next record," Crow said, while graciously taking time to thank the employees of A&M Records, her longtime label, recently shuttered after being taken over by Universal.

    The Dixie Chicks' "Wide Open Spaces" was an upset winner for best country album over the better-known Garth Brooks and Shania Twain. The trio also won country vocal performance by duo or group for "There's Your Trouble." Winning the album award clearly surprised the giggly Chicks. "We're freaking out," they admitted in a discombobulated acceptance speech. "We thought Shania won. She just performed and we thought that was the way you win!"

    It certainly seemed that way much of the night, as performances were frequently followed by wins. Though some of those performances were tight – Crow's sassy "There Goes the Neighborhood," Twain's exuberant "Man, I Feel Like a Woman!" – the main trend this year seemed to be overkill. Examples included Aerosmith's "I Don't Want to Miss a Thing" and Alanis Morissette's "Uninvited," both with band and symphony orchestra, and Kirk Franklin's "Lean on Me" featuring Bono, Crystal Lewis, Mary J. Blige and a gospel choir. Morissette won Grammys for female rock vocal performance and rock song, while Franklin won for contemporary soul album and Aerosmith won for best rock performance by a duo or group with vocals.

    Luciano Pavarotti performed "Nesum Dorma," which he had been scheduled to perform during last year's ceremony. A last-minute cancellation led to a performance of that song by Aretha Franklin, one of the most memorable Grammy moments in many years. Sadly, nothing this year matched it, though Latin heartthrob Ricky Martin's rendition of "La Copa de la Vida (The Cup of Life)," his ode to the World Soccer Cup, was engagingly lively.

    The late conductor Robert Shaw won three Grammys for the album "Barber: Prayers of Kierkegaard/Vaughan Williams: Dona Nobis Pacem/Bartok: Cantata Profana." It won for best classical album, choral performance and best engineered classical album.

    Stevie Wonder and conductor Pierre Boulez each won their 20th and 21st Grammys, placing them third on the all-time winners list. Other multiple winners included the Brian Setzer Orchestra for pop performance by a duo or group with vocals for "Jump Jive an' Wail" and pop instrumental for "Sleepwalk"; Herbie Hancock, jazz instrumental performance for "Gershwin's World" and instrumental arrangement accompanying vocal for "St. Louis Blues"; the Pat Metheny Group for contemporary jazz performance for "Imaginary Day" and rock instrumental performance for "The Roots of Coincidence."

    "The Complete Hank Williams" won for best historical album and boxed-recording package. Krzysztof Penderecki's "Violin Concerto No. 2: Metamorphosen" won for best classical contemporary composition and received an additional Grammy for instrumental soloist performance with orchestra for violinist Anne-Sophie Mutter, with Penderecki conducting.

    As always, some veterans were first-time winners: Jimmy Page and Robert Plant, who were never honored for their work in Led Zeppelin, won for hard-rock performance; Patti Page, who earned her first nomination in her 51-year career, won for best traditional pop performance; bluesman Otis Rush won for best traditional blues album. Elvis Costello shared his first-ever Grammy with veteran songwriter Burt Bacharach for pop collaboration with vocals on "I Still Have That Other Girl." It was Bacharach's first win since 1986, giving him Grammys in three different decades.

    Other first-time winners included the Beastie Boys, winners for alternative-music performance and rap performance by a duo or group. Lucinda Williams, the roots-rocker whose "Car Wheels on a Gravel Road" just topped the Village Voice critics poll, won for best contemporary folk album.

    The only local winner was Shirley Horn, whose moving tribute to early mentor Miles Davis, "I Remember Miles," won for jazz vocal performance.

    Johnny Cash, Mel Torme, Smokey Robinson and the late Sam Cooke and Otis Redding each received lifetime achievement awards. The songwriting teams of Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe, Kenneth Gamble and Leon Huff, and Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller were honored with trustees' awards for outstanding contributions by nonperformers.

    Rosie O'Donnell, hosting the second-most-watched awards show after the Oscars, did a fine job, particularly with her impersonations of Aerosmith, the Beastie Boys, Elvis Presley and Morissette.


    © Copyright 1999 The Washington Post Company

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