Neil Portnow's 59th GRAMMY Speech: Music Binds Us Together

(Recording Academy President/CEO Neil Portnow's speech on the 59th GRAMMY Awards telecast on Feb. 12, 2017, at Staples Center in Los Angeles.)

Hey James, thanks for warming up the crowd for me. Appreciate it. We are constantly reminded about the things that divide us. Race, region and religion. Gender, sexual orientation, political party. But what we need so desperately are more reminders of all that binds us together — our shared history, our common values and our dedication to build for ourselves a more perfect union. More than a century ago, a poem was combined with a musical composition and became an instantly recognizable song the world over. Let's see if you know it?

[Performance by 18-year-old GRAMMY Camp — Jazz Session trumpeter Miranda Agnew]

Thank you, Miranda. "America The Beautiful" captures the essence of our country and reminds us that we are — and always will be — one people, from sea to shining sea. In times of triumph and tragedy, we turn to song and the abiding power of music to lift our spirits, soothe our souls and remind us that everything will be OK.

President John F. Kennedy once observed, "The life of the arts is very close to the center of a nation's purpose, and is a test of the quality of a nation's civilization." That's so true. And that's why we must be loud and clear in our unwavering support of music and the arts and those who create it.

Behind the extraordinary artists you've seen here on our stage are hundreds and thousands of unsung musicians and songwriters, producers, and engineers — American creators — whose jobs suffer from outdated rules and regulations, some going back 100 years.

So, The Recording Academy, together with America's music makers, call on the president and Congress to help keep the music playing by updating music laws, protecting music education and renewing America's commitment to the arts. It's our collective responsibility to preserve what binds us and to ensure that the whole world continues to benefit from one of our most unique [and] economically and spiritually important assets — and exports. American music.

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“Everyone knows that The Academy bestows the GRAMMY Awards every year for artistic achievement, but more people need to know that this organization works hard on behalf of its members to create a level economic playing field—one that promotes innovation and ensures financial viability for all music creators.” – Zac Brown, GRAMMY winner Zac Brown Band, GRAMMYs on the Hill 2016

“I've been around The Recording Academy for many years. While many know the organization for its annual GRAMMY Awards... it's really inspiring to see firsthand the Academy's efforts here in Washington and the impact and the value it has on our very own music industry.” – Clive Davis, Chief Creative Officer, Sony Music Entertainment, GRAMMYs on The Hill 2012

“I applaud NARAS for their efforts to further the cause of creator rights and hope all of us join in to help them.” -- Irving Azoff, Chairman/CEO, Azoff MSG Entertainment, Salute To Icons 2016

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