After 40 years, Grammy show producer bows out his way

This combination of photos shows, top row from left, Jack Antonoff, Joshua Bell, Camila Cabello, Gary Clark Jr., bottom row from left, Common, ballerina Misty Copeland, Lang Land and Cyndi Lauper who will perform "I Sing The Body Electric" along with John Legend and War and Treaty at the Grammy Awards on Sunday. (AP Photo)

LOS ANGELES — With this Sunday’s Grammy ceremony to be his last after 40 years of producing it, Ken Ehrlich could be excused for creating a few moments in the show to look back on his own legacy, which includes creating indelible moments that will live in pop consciousness forever: Aretha Franklin singing “Nessun dorma,” Beyoncé shaking and shimmying alongside Prince, and Eminem and Elton John performing together.

But that’s not how Ehrlich wanted to bow out, with the focus on himself. So, once again, he’s creating what he hopes will be a magical moment with an amalgam of performers: John Legend, Cyndi Lauper, Camila Cabello, Joshua Bell, Gary Clark Jr., Lang Lang, Common, Jack Antonoff and the New Orleans band War and Treaty, singing the classic song from the 1980 movie “Fame”: “I Sing The Body Electric.”

“It’s the standard of maybe one of the best pieces of film music that I’ve ever seen,” says Ehrlich of the song, which was originally sung by the film’s stars, including Grammy winner Irene Cara.

The performance, which will also include a dance by Misty Copeland, will be among the last of the evening as Ehrlich says his goodbye.

“It’s kind of been around in my head over the years, but it really didn’t come into play until I started thinking about what I did want to do this year,” he told The Associated Press in an interview last week. “It was pretty plain to me that, you know, rather than to put together a montage of great Grammy moments, which everybody has seen now a lot of times … that this was a fresh way of doing something that really represented what I’ve tried to do with the Grammys. And it’s consistent with what the mission of the academy is with regard to music education and music of the schools.”

The performance will also feature local student musicians, singers and dancers, including those from Debbie Allen’s Dance Academy. Ehrlich and Allen both worked on the TV show version of “Fame.” Allen is also choreographing the number.

“This song is consistent with everything I’ve tried to do on a show for 40 years, blending genres, blending generations, showing that, you know, the cliche is music is the universal language, but the execution is you know, we all live together in this world where music makes us laugh, it makes us cry and all the rest of it,” he said.

Ehrlich says the performers he picked represent a cross section of genres, but also generations, and reflects the kind of diversity he has strived for over the years.

“I think she (Camila) represents the newest generation. Cyndi Lauper, we go back to the ’80s. … She’s a brilliant artist,” he said. “John Legend. I don’t mean to demean him by saying this, but man, is he Mr. Dependable … I love what he could do. I love that voice.”

Ehrlich is known for mixing disparate artists together to make Grammy moments: The John-Eminem moment in 2001 came as the rapper was under fierce criticism for homophobic statements in his music.


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