Soy Bomb, ODB, Aretha, & The Craziest Grammys Ever: An Oral History Of The 1998 Grammys

The 1998 Grammys had been probably the most action-packed ceremony within the present’s soon-to-be-60-year historical past. Aretha Franklin pinch-hit for Luciano Pavarotti on the final minute on a efficiency of aria “Nessun Dorma,” typically ranked among the many biggest in award-show historical past. Shawn Colvin noticed her track of the yr win interrupted by a just-snubbed Ol’ Dirty Bastard, memorably declaring in protest of his group’s hip-hop loss: “Wu-Tang is for the children!” And two variations of the identical nation track, launched concurrently as singles by LeAnn Rimes and Trisha Yearwood, had been nominated in the identical Grammy class — and the model carried out on the present wasn’t the one which ended up successful.

All of that, plus, nicely, SOY BOMB. That was the message inscribed in large black letters on the chest of experimental artist and comic Michael Portnoy, as he interrupted Bob Dylan’s “Love Sick” efficiency to gyrate sans shirt alongside the rock legend for a full half-minute. While the occasion was confounding to these in attendance, and stays largely unexplained 20 years later, it stands as a pre-Nipplegate, pre-Kanye second of amusingly innocent award-show anarchy, one which could by no means be doable in the identical manner once more.

The seemingly continuous chaos of the ‘98 Grammys stands alone 20 years later as the gold standard for unforgettable unpredictability on music’s greatest evening. “We’ve had equally interesting things happening during a show [since],” recollects longtime producer Ken Ehrlich. “But probably not so many.”

Here are the occasions of the 40th Annual Grammy Awards — which befell at Radio City Music Hall in New York City on Feb. 25, 1998 — as recalled by those that lived by means of its madness.

Isaac Hanson (Hanson guitarist, performer): The Grammys, particularly within the late ‘90s — they were much snobbier. It felt more like the Oscars. It was not done in a giant room, it wasn’t executed in an enviornment, it was executed at Radio City Music Hall … it wasn’t a flashy factor fairly in the way in which it has develop into since then. I imply, Kelsey Grammer was internet hosting the Grammys.

DJ Jazzy Jeff (Will Smith producer, winner): I feel the Grammys had come a good distance from the primary time that [Will Smith and I] had been there … simply by means of the entire stuff that we had sort of gone by means of, with the Grammys not acknowledging the hip-hop class [when DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince’s 1989 win went untelevised], and simply watching the state of hip-hop develop to the purpose that now it’s in all probability one of many greatest classes within the Grammys. That was undoubtedly an enormous leap ahead.

RZA (Wu-Tang Clan rapper/producer, nominee): The cool factor, for me and my expertise, was seeing hip-hop be on the pre-ceremony or a separate ceremony, after which seeing it make it to the primary stage … to see it develop into part of the [proper] ceremony was nice, particularly having Wu-Tang nominated within the 1998 Grammys.

Shawn Colvin (performer/winner): I used to be on the little ceremony they should announce the nominees, and I helped to announce them. They will need to have identified I used to be getting some fairly large nominations, which is why they requested me to be there. I used to be shocked, frankly. I imply, I didn’t contemplate myself a success artist, despite the fact that “Sunny Came Home” was a success. What did I feel my probabilities of successful had been? I didn’t actually care … I used to be with some fairly heavy firm, and never essentially the most important identify.

Paula Cole (performer/winner): There was lots of strain in seven nominations, and I used to be a darkish horse in each manner, I feel. I received greatest new artist, however I had all the large nominations, which was superb. But it was sort of surreal, and I didn’t place an excessive amount of significance on it — and having not been, like, a media junkie, I wasn’t actually ready for the pink carpet, I wasn’t ready for the fallout. I used to be a feminist, I had armpit hair, and everybody in America anyway made such an enormous deal about it — it wasn’t any large deal wherever else however America, with our leftover puritanical values.

Hanson: The factor I keep in mind most in regards to the day of the Grammys is definitely that, right here we had been, considering, “Sweet! We’ve got some more credibility as artists, we’ve been fighting for this, this has been challenging since people have been patting us on the head.”

I keep in mind one of many MTV interviews, which was one of the vital disappointing interviews for me — right here we had been on MTV, nominated for Grammys, and we’re being requested if we’re aggravated with, like, hanging out with adults, as a result of we’re a bunch of youngsters. Don’t we wish to hang around with folks our personal age? And I’m sitting there going … “Ah, crap. We’re nominated for Grammys and we’re still getting asked dumb shit.”

Jeff Scheftel (Recording Academy Media Productions director): This was my very first [Grammys] in my place. And actually my first present in New York, and if I’m not mistaken, my final present in New York till this upcoming yr.

I didn’t know if all Grammy reveals went like this, however there have been so many extraordinary occasions that occurred throughout this one present, I’m considering, “Oh my God, what should Ken Ehrlich should do each single yr? If that is any indication…”


Three of the most important nominees on the evening had been Shawn Colvin, Paula Cole, and Sarah McLachlan, who wound up successful a mixed 5 Grammys between them. All three had been chosen to carry out on the Grammys, however for time causes — and since all three performers had been feminine singer-songwriters who had carried out within the earlier yr’s inaugural Lilith Fair competition — they had been grouped into one three-song, five-minute medley.

Tisha Fein (co-producer): That was sort of a ladies’s empowerment [thing]. Well, they had been all nominated in the identical class [best female pop vocal performance], and we typically kinda attempt to do one thing like that, to have some sort of integrity.

Ken Ehrlich (producer): I appreciated it. I’ve all the time appreciated the concept of placing folks collectively. I believed they did fairly nicely. They appeared to suit collectively.

Cole: Oh, I hated it, I’ll be sincere. Because they squished us in some silly medley, and so they thought that was tv, and it was all in regards to the producers becoming my track [“Where Have All The Cowboys Gone?”] into one minute and 30 seconds. And it was a bit of shit. That’s what I believed. I believed it made the music actually unmusical, and it was all a few tv present, and I didn’t like all the time being lumped into Lilith Fair. I used to be actually totally different from McLachlan’s music.

Colvin: What, did we every have 45 seconds perhaps to do our bit? I don’t know … I believed that was shortchanging what we had been representing at that present. I didn’t see the purpose in lumping the women collectively. I’m grateful to the Association, however I believed it was slightly sexist.

Ehrlich: Thinking again on it at present … I don’t know if I might have executed that phase once more. I imply, 20 years later, the concept of placing folks collectively simply because they’re ladies doesn’t really feel as well timed as it might have 20 years in the past. You know, it’s not about “politically correct,” however there are higher causes to place artists collectively to sing collectively.

Cole: Whatever. I did it. I used to be grateful for the Grammy nomination, I used to be grateful for the nice will. But I’m rebellious, and I didn’t like being squished right into a minute and 30 seconds.

CREDIT: Kevin Mazur/WireImage

Ehrlich: Everybody needs their very own second on the Grammy awards. Sometimes 1 and 1 makes greater than 2, you realize. I feel folks have come to anticipate our present to do this. So I’m happy with the issues we do — and no animus in the direction of Shawn or Paula for feeling that manner … however look, they bought to be on music’s greatest evening, and individually they could or may not have. I’ve private emotions about every one among them, however I really thought that labored out fairly nicely.


Bob Dylan was additionally one of many most-nominated artists on the night, in the end taking residence three Grammys, together with album of the yr for his acclaimed comeback effort Time Out of Mind — the rock legend’s first solo win within the marquee class. But the enduring Dylan-related reminiscence of the evening got here from earlier, when his efficiency of “Love Sick” was interrupted by Michael Portnoy, one of many extras employed to sway within the efficiency’s background. Portnoy determined to insert himself into the foreground, with a wierd message for the world emblazoned on his chest.

Ehrlich: It occurred principally as a result of Bob’s crew needed to do that efficiency the place followers had been on stage with them. In the start we had been reluctant to do it, however it was one thing they needed to do. We stated, “Hey, as long we properly screen the people, we’d be fine with it.”

Larry Campbell (guitar, Bob Dylan): There was a rehearsal run-through the afternoon of the Grammys at Radio City. Bob’s imaginative and prescient was to have these extras are available and simply stand across the band. It made me consider watching an outdated Shindig present, or Hullaballoo or one thing, the place the youngsters are dancing and grooving behind you. And I believed it was an excellent concept — it simply felt prefer it took the razzle-dazzle out of it, and introduced it down to only performing a track for this group of individuals.

Michael Portnoy (artist, “SOY BOMB”): The casting director put us by means of a rigorous sequence of auditions the place we had been examined on our skill to sway arrhythmically to the beat. We had been instructed, and this can be a direct quote, “to give Bob a good vibe.” If you watch us within the background, you’ll be able to see how liberally this was interpreted.

Campbell: All these extras had been there for the rehearsal for the afternoon, and there was actually no incident. Everything went easy. And Bob appeared fairly happy with every thing. The sound onstage was good, and all of us felt assured in regards to the tune. It appeared prefer it was going to be an excellent expertise.

Fein: “SOY BOMB,” from what I gathered, behaved superb at rehearsal, after which determined to go loopy on the present. Nobody had any concept.

Campbell: As I recall, it was fairly shortly after the start of the track. I used to be to Bob’s proper, and I’m taking part in the track, watching it, and right here comes this man — he pulls his shirt off, and begins gyrating in a manner that’s utterly unrelated to the music.

Fein: Everybody was going “Holy shit!” They couldn’t consider it.

Trisha Yearwood (winner): I simply keep in mind seeing it and considering, “What is happening? I’ve met Bob Dylan, but I don’t think this is a part of his thing — I don’t think this is his guy…”

Campbell: My preliminary thought was, “Was this something that Bob had planned and I just missed it?” Bob’s singing, and attempting to disregard the man, after which he rotated to me and stated, “Who the fuck is this guy?” And that’s once I realized “No, Bob didn’t plan this…”

Hanson: And then everybody’s simply kinda smirking, and actually uncomfortable, and going, “What’s he gonna do next … ?” And he simply principally stood round, and flailed, and had “SOY BOMB” written on his chest.

Campbell: What the hell does “SOY BOMB” imply? I used to be utterly clueless. Some form of … no, it simply doesn’t make any sort of sense in any respect. Unless it was attempting to rid the world of meat, or one thing? I don’t know.

Colvin: Nobody knew what “SOY BOMB” meant. “I am the bomb?” Is that what it means?

Cole: I sort of appreciated the “SOY BOMB.” I believed it was rebellious, and enjoyable, and no one understood what the hell it meant. That was in all probability extra genuine than all these fashionable kids dancing.

Hanson: “SOY BOMB” was extra shocking than ODB’s stage-crashing. Because it was manner longer, for one. Significantly longer. [The producers] didn’t know what to do.

Colvin: It took them a very long time to determine what was happening. Dylan didn’t flinch.

Campbell: We all come from the bars, y’know — when a battle breaks out, you simply hold taking part in. You simply sorta ignore every thing that goes on round you and hold taking part in. Like the band on the Titanic.

Portnoy: I used to be very shocked I bought to bounce for therefore lengthy! But nobody filming the occasion had any clue that it wasn’t a part of the act.

Campbell: I keep in mind Dylan attempting to disregard the man as greatest as he may, and simply do the track. But then there was like, an instrumental turnaround or one thing, and he began searching for someone, and two guys got here out and grabbed this man and picked him up on their shoulders and hauled him off, like a sack of potatoes.

Ehrlich: We had an excellent stage supervisor named Gary Natoli. Gary ran on stage and sort of bum-rushed the man off. His second was executed.

Fein: I don’t assume he was really charged. I feel he was simply thought-about a nuisance. They bought him out of there and informed him to not come again.

Ehrlich: Ultimately he went outta city. I feel we took all of the details about him. I nonetheless don’t keep in mind his identify apart from “SOY BOMB.”

Campbell: I feel Bob was extra bemused by all of it than upset about it, after the very fact. But on stage, he was clearly aggravated.

Portnoy: I did run into one among Dylan’s band members at a celebration just a few years after and we had a superb snort about it.

Ehrlich: I all the time believed that each one it takes is one factor like that, and that turns into the story of the present. As against 10, 12, or 14 actually good performances that happen on the stage. So … it’s not the kinda factor you stay up for. Although because it turns it out, it’s actually one thing that has stayed in folks’s recollections for a very long time and develop into — in its personal manner — one among our nice moments.

Yearwood: In this point in time, we’re so frightened about every thing that occurs that’s not deliberate, as a result of we don’t know what meaning … I feel if that occurred at present, throughout a Grammy present, that child can be taken down by a S.W.A.T. crew and also you’d by no means hear from him once more! I sort of assume it was a kinder, gentler time [back then] the place you could possibly simply snort it off.

Campbell: The additional we get away from it, the extra surreal it appears. ‘Coz there was never any resolution to it. It was this odd event, that never resolved itself, that never made sense. I haven’t seen video of it since. I perceive it’s on YouTube, although. I ought to pull that up.


One of the strangest subplots main into the evening was centered round one of the best feminine nation vocal efficiency class, the place each 15-year-old breakout star LeAnn Rimes and 33-year-old vet Trisha Yearwood had been nominated for 2 variations of the identical track: “How Do I Live,” love theme from the 1997 motion blockbuster Con Air. While Rimes — whose model was the larger pop hit — was chosen to carry out the track on the ceremony, it was Yearwood — whose model was a #1 nation radio hit — who was introduced because the class’s winner, instantly following Rimes’ efficiency, making a media drama that adopted each artists for years.

Yearwood: So LeAnn had recorded this track first, and my understanding was that she was not prepared to vary her rendition in any manner, in one thing that Jerry [Bruckheimer, Con Air producer] needed her to vary. She simply stated “no thanks,” which I utterly respect. And so I bought the sort of 11th hour name, asking if I might do two variations — one for the start of the film, which is extra of a rustic model, and one for the top, which is extra of a pop model. And I stated sure.

I had no concept that LeAnn may or would launch it as a single on the similar time. She was promoting about 1,000,000 information a second, so I might by no means go up in opposition to her. So it was an actual anxious time anyway.

LeAnn Rimes (performer/nominee): I used to be sort of in the midst of this loopy business state of affairs with Trisha recording “How Do I Live,” and myself recording “How Do I Live,” after which us each being nominated, after which I used to be performing it … it was quite a bit for a 14, 15-year-old on the time. It was only a lot to hold into that efficiency.

Yearwood: You get to the Grammys, and also you’re sitting there, and LeAnn comes out and performs [“How Do I Live”] … you assume, “Well, they must have asked her to perform it because they wanna make sure she’s here, because they know she’s gonna win.” So you’re actually sitting there considering, “This is gonna suck on a couple of levels. Someone else is performing the song you had a #1 record with, you’re nominated for the Grammy, and then you’re not gonna win.”

Rimes: At 15, I feel I had, like, balls of metal — ‘coz I was able to tune all that out and just focus on what I had to do. I think that was the one really positive thing about being a kid. You kind of don’t take all of it in, and there’s nonetheless lots of belongings you don’t know, and there’s all the time a constructive to that.

And then they gave the award away proper after I sang. And in fact, I didn’t win the award.

Ehrlich: That may not have been one of the best transfer we made. But I don’t know. We couldn’t have each of them, and I consider — once more, it will get fuzzy, it was 20 years in the past — I made the aware determination to guide LeAnn … I feel we kinda thought [that LeAnn would win].

Yearwood: I’m sitting there, and after they announce my identify, it’s sort of once you go into gradual movement. And it was simply so surreal, and I used to be on cloud 9 from then on. It was simply a kind of issues that I couldn’t consider it occurred. I normally don’t keep in mind who to thank, however I keep in mind vividly thanking nation radio, as a result of it was so vital that they embraced that model for it to go to #1.

Trisha Yearwood


Rimes: Being 15, you get dragged into the drama of it — I imply, everyone was, clearly — and simply not understanding learn how to deal with it. But it was odd. Sometimes as an artist, you’re feeling like, “Oh, was I just used for this?” Like, “Was I used to up the drama of the whole thing?”

Yearwood: I by no means talked in regards to the Grammys with [LeAnn]. She and I’ve no difficulty. She lives in Nashville, I see her sometimes and every thing’s nice. I feel it was a state of affairs that, if I had been in her sneakers that evening, I might have been pleased to carry out and upset to haven’t received that Grammy — so I’m certain the roles would’ve been reversed, if she had received, for me.

Rimes: I feel that [feeling betrayed] was undoubtedly simply the emotion of the second. I imply, that was, God is aware of, so so way back — I hope I’ve let go of it by now.

But actually, between [Trisha and I], there’s by no means been any main difficulty. And I feel lots of people needed it to be — in order that they made it, in fact, a lot larger than it was. I’m an enormous fan of hers. I feel she’s completely implausible. I grew up listening to her, she’s one among my influences. So I’ve nothing in opposition to her in any respect.

Ehrlich: In retrospect, if it proved nothing else, it proved that we don’t know the winners prematurely, like another reveals do.

Rimes: My favourite half was strolling again after the award was given out — I walked again into the dressing room, and naturally lots of us had been sharing it collectively. And Fiona Apple checked out me and she or he goes, “You got fucked.” [Laughs.] And that’s one among my favourite Grammy moments ever. Like, I simply died laughing.


Michael Portnoy wasn’t the one surprising visitor to siege the stage on the ‘98 Grammys. After Wylcef Jean and Erykah Badu announced Shawn Colvin and co-writer Jeff Leventhal as winners of song of the year for Colvin’s “Sunny Came Home,” Ol’ Dirty Bastard, wild-card star of hip-hop collective the Wu-Tang Clan, stormed the stage and grabbed the mic. It wasn’t Colvin’s win he was offended about, nevertheless — it was Wu-Tang’s personal loss a pair classes earlier, when Puff Daddy’s No Way Out triumphed over their Wu-Tang Forever for greatest rap album. Quoth ODB: “Wu-Tang is for the children … Puffy is good, but Wu-Tang is the best!”

Colvin: First of all, I prefer to say I used to be pre-Kanye/Taylor. I began all of it.

Ehrlich: That, we had no clue [what to do about]. You know … the Grammys are simply not the sort of present the place these issues occur.

Scheftel: That to me was extra shocking, really [than SOY BOMB] … This was earlier than Kanye West. And once more, I believed “Oh, someone should pull this guy off stage.” And then, you realize, him saying afterward, “Oh, I bought this very expensive outfit because I thought we were going to win the award…”

RZA: Let me simply offer you slightly backstory that led to the ODB factor. So we was additionally nominated for an American Music Award. And we went to the ceremony, the entire Clan, together with ODB and myself. And we was certain to win. I do know Bone Thugs was in competitors with us, and we had been feeling Wu-Tangish, and feeling like we had been one of the best on the earth, we went there, and all of us wore Wu Wear, proper?

As we had been sitting there, I informed ODB one thing that, on the time, as a pessimist, that is how I felt — I stated, “They ain’t gonna give it to us, man. We like the real niggas from the streets. Look how we dress. Everybody here got a tuxedo on, look at us. We’re not gonna win, man, it’s not made for us, we’re hip-hop, we’re pure hip-hop.” And he was like “Nah, nah, we the best, we the best.” [Imitates announcer] “AND THE WINNER IS: BONE THUGS!” And he bought up and fucking left! And he was heated, he was very offended.

So when it got here to the Grammys, he determined to get one of the best swimsuit he may discover. He really had a psychological concept in his head that if he dressed proper, if he can be built-in into it, if he would cater to what it was, that he can be acknowledged, and he would win, it might be the large win. And I keep in mind him preparing for it and every thing — and me, myself, I stayed exterior the world, I didn’t go in. I used to be very pessimistic about it. Raekwon went in with him, just a few guys went in. And Wu-Tang misplaced, and ODB goes on stage and provides his iconic speech.

Colvin: We didn’t see him till we got here as much as get the award from Erykah Badu — she was holding the Grammy. I didn’t know what was happening, so I used to be really on the stage anticipating to go to the rostrum and … we couldn’t go to the rostrum. Ol’ Dirty Bastard was there. And poor Erykah Badu, she didn’t know what to do.

We weren’t on the podium, so the sound was behind us and I couldn’t inform what he was saying. So, the disparate reactions between John Leventhal and I are actually humorous to notice, as a result of my feeling was — since I couldn’t perceive what he was saying — that he was mad at me for successful. And John felt like, “Oh this guy must really like our record.”

Scheftel: “Wu-Tang is for the children!” Yeah, that to me was additionally extraordinary.

Ol' Dirty Bastard

CREDIT: Timothy A. Clary/AFP/Getty Images

RZA: He was very motivated by, in fact, the music of Wu-Tang. Like he stated, no disrespect to Diddy, he’s a peer of ours, lots of respect of him. But like he stated, “Wu-Tang is the best, Wu-Tang is for the children.” And he felt that what we was doing was extra a mirrored image of what the world wanted. Sometimes once you was younger, and also you was making music, and also you got here from the expertise we got here from, which was untrained, untamed — in addition to being a dropout, simply people who had been down and out. Records that the place so many thousands and thousands of youngsters in our nation [are going through] the identical state of affairs. He felt like we must always’ve received, as a result of we had been the folks’s champ. We had been for the youngsters.

Hanson: I believed he was an ass. I keep in mind considering to myself, “What an ass.”

DJ Jazzy Jeff: That’s ODB! [Laughs.] That’s typical ODB. I keep in mind being at reveals the place he was a particular visitor, or simply within the crowd, and bought on the mic and wouldn’t give the mic again … It can be constructive to start with, after which it might be awkward. Because it was sort of like, whoever it was — you don’t essentially wanna take the mic again from ODB. So it was kinda like, “OK, so what do we do? And how long do we not do it?”

RZA: Look, I’ve been with him. He’s executed it to the Roots, he’s executed it to Doug E. Fresh, Akinyele, Onyx — you’ll be able to hold happening the checklist. That was what he do. I imply, he did it to Method Man! But there’s part of me that’s proud. I imply, that’s ODB. He’s a singular man on this world … We all had been passionate, however he was competitively passionate.

Colvin: It threw me off so far as having to provide a speech accepting the award … I did say “I’m confused,” I do not forget that. And I used to be, I used to be utterly thrown, and I don’t keep in mind what I stated after that. I’d’ve had one thing deliberate however it went out of my head. So hopefully I lined some bases.

Hanson: You have that second at first the place you’re like, “What’s going on? Is this a part of the script?” You know? But, virtually instantly, you understand that that man is simply being an ass. So, yeah, his mama wanted to take him again and provides him a swat on his rear finish. He clearly didn’t … no one taught him manners.

Colvin: But I wanna point out that I bought flowers and a fax from ODB. I can’t keep in mind what flowers they had been. But the cardboard within the flowers stated … I feel it stated, “I’m sorry I took away from your moment.”

I imply, that win is synonymous with what occurred. It appears nice on the resume, you realize. The incident. And I’m not diminishing it in any respect. It’s like I stated — on reflection, it’s a shaggy dog story. And it lives on, which I suppose I can be glad about.

Ol' Dirty Bastard

CREDIT: Courtesy of Shawn Colvin

RZA: Oh, see? That’s ODB… I by no means seen him present regret in the direction of me or across the crew, however that’s ODB. He sends her flowers, a bouquet — that simply reveals the kinda high quality [of his character]. He’s passionate, he’s truthful, but when he felt he disrespected her — as a result of she had nothing to do with it — he nonetheless reveals her love.

Scheftel: You know, there’s been lots of response subsequent to that about how Ol’ Dirty Bastard livened the present up. Often when spontaneous issues occur, it does add an amazing worth to a reside present, and that’s why reside is thrilling, since you by no means know what’s going to occur.

Cole: You simply gotta roll with this stuff. “SOY BOMB” and Ol’ Dirty Bastard. You simply gotta roll with it. That’s rock ‘n’ roll, that’s the fantastic thing about it, that’s music — it’s chaotic and unpredictable. At least that’s what it must be. They begin planning it, and so they arrange us as to age or gender, and so they program our listening and compartmentalize us and monopolize radio, all of that. It must be chaotic, and combined collectively, and complicated and fantastic and numerous. Those had been nice occasions in music.

RZA: It was, to me, one of the vital memorable moments of ODB’s skilled profession, and a real instance of his bravery. And to me, Kanye’s his personal man in fact, however I’m certain a few of that inspiration bought to him that day he walked on there.

Colvin: I cringed [whereas watching Kanye and Taylor the ‘09 VMAs]. It’s a horrible feeling, and that was even worse, as a result of Kanye was actually upset as a result of Beyoncé didn’t win. He was protesting her particular win, which was simply past impolite. Please.

RZA: That’s what makes our business thrilling to me. Of course there’s the clean-cut, formulated artists that we really respect — it’s like a guitarist who performs music completely, classically skilled or professionally skilled — [but] there’s all the time some artists that we want in our business that simply are distinctive, radical. And they proceed to push the needle ahead.


Of all of the unpredictable moments that ended up defining the ‘98 Grammys, just one had a decision that everybody may agree was a triumph. When Grammy Living Legend honoree Luciano Pavarotti knowledgeable the present producers that he was too unwell to sing his “Nessun Dorma” aria as scheduled, they reached out to soul legend Aretha Franklin — who had carried out the track at a MusiCares dinner nights earlier than in Pavarotti’s honor — to step in for her pal on the final second. Franklin agreed, and the vocal powerhouse’s jaw-dropping understudy second continues to be thought-about one of many biggest performances in award-show historical past.

Fein: Aretha was not booked to carry out on her personal that yr. She was booked to work with Danny Aykroyd, John Goodman, and Jim Belushi. And we had been reviving the Blues Brothers — she was a really well-known a part of the primary film. So that was the inventive on why Aretha was there.

Scheftel: I had been one of many producers of the MusiCares occasion two nights in the past honoring Luciano Pavarotti, and on the rehearsal he carried out. And no one thought something of it, and I didn’t both. And later we heard, “Mr. Pavarotti has a severe sore throat, and will not be able to perform his most famous aria.”

Fein: We had been in trailers exterior of Radio City on the time, earlier than cell telephones, at the beginning. And I had an assistant named Gary Simmons who simply stated, “You know, I’ll sit here for a while in case anybody calls.” And I’d say about half-hour into the present — that efficiency was presupposed to be proper crossing into the third hour — Gary picked up the cellphone. It was Pavarotti himself, saying “I don’t feel well, I can’t come, I sing for you next year.”

So Gary runs in and finds me, I attempt to discover Ken Ehrlich, we’re now caught with all this additional time on a reside present, what are we gonna do? And we considered Aretha.

Ehrlich: I remembered she had sung “Nessun Dorma” two nights earlier than for MusiCares and Pavarotti. And I simply ran as much as her dressing room, and requested her if she would do it. And she stated she needed to listen to the costume rehearsal. In these days we had a boombox with a cassette. And I introduced it to her and performed it for her. When she heard it, she stated, “Yeah, I can do this.”

Fein: We needed to discover the conductor from someplace in the home. We pulled it collectively. He had by no means rehearsed it, he was a complete trooper. And she nailed it. Standing ovation, and principally saved our ass.

Scheftel: It was superb, superb what she did. Personally, I believed, “Y’know, there’s still time — if you’re gonna ask Aretha Franklin, let her do ‘Natural Woman.’ Everybody would love that, she can do it in her sleep!” But [her “Nessun Dorma”] was superb, and she or he’s a rare performer, and she or he rose to the event on sport day like nobody else.

Colvin: That was beautiful, proper? I imply, who knew that Aretha may come out and on the fly, sing opera? Crazy, simply beautiful.

Hanson: Epic. Amazing. Phenomenal. Ridiculous.

Yearwood: Just, oh my gosh, proper? We already knew she was the Queen Of Soul, and she or he simply proved that she may do something.

DJ Jazzy Jeff: That was superb. That was superb. The Grammys are one of many occasions the place you get to see a few of the legendary artists from totally different genres carry out that you just not essentially would [otherwise].

Hanson: To watch a legend of R&B, who has one of many biggest voices in pop music historical past, stand there and go … “Oh yeah, I’ve also been classically trained over the years. I’ve also studied opera and classical music. And I can sing arias!” [Laughs.] You’re similar to … “Are you kidding?” And that’s the second the place you’re similar to, “Life goals.”

Scheftel: I did discuss to Aretha Franklin [after the performance]. She stated, “Jeff … Jeff … how did it go? How was it?” Aretha Franklin is asking me how her efficiency was! And to me, I used to be shocked. I’m not an operatic genius in any respect, however to me — “It was extraordinary what you did. And you saw the response!” And she stated, “No, I was so tuned in to what I was doing, that’s all I could think about!”

Fein: Aretha was completely a professional. It was sheer serendipity that she had executed this two nights earlier than, however she got here out with no rehearsal, an orchestra — I assume they modified it to her key — with every thing else. And some folks didn’t know that wasn’t what we’d all the time deliberate! It was only a miracle, an absolute miracle.

Aretha Franklin

CREDIT: AP Photo/Mark Lennihan

Ehrlich: It’s within the high ten [all-time Grammy performances], simply … It was a tremendous evening. And Aretha, I did an interview together with her on this present, and she or he says it was one of many nice nights of her life.

Scheftel: I’ve executed Greatest Moments reveals, spotlight reveals for the Grammys, for MTV, VH1, CBS, quite a few them. And that’s all the time in there, let me let you know. In phrases of standing out, and having to give you a efficiency of that magnitude in entrance of that many individuals globally — it’s simply extraordinary to me, and it’s the mark of the perfect. And she is.

Ehrlich: In all honesty, not that I’ll ever overlook “SOY BOMB,” however that’s what I keep in mind about that present.

Scheftel: For a primary Grammys, that was undoubtedly a baptism by hearth … two folks I had idolized are each Bob Dylan and Aretha Franklin — I’m from Minnesota — and to have these two issues occur … once you look again, it’s one of the vital magical occasions I’ve ever been to. Despite the issues, I feel that anybody who was concerned has to say it ranks up there with the reveals that they may always remember.

This article initially appeared on Billboard.