Just a little over a week after the sudden death of drummer Taylor Hawkins, Foo Fighters won all three of the Grammy Awards the band was nominated for on Sunday.
The Seattle-born rock giants, who were not on hand to accept the awards, beat out fellow hometown hero Chris Cornell for best rock performance with their joyous “Making a Fire.” Dave Grohl and the band also picked up the best rock song prize with “Waiting on a War” — one of the Foos’ classic shout-along anthems — off last year’s “Medicine at Midnight,” which won best rock album. Cornell was also up for best rock album with “No One Sings Like You Anymore, Vol. 1,” a collection of eclectic cover songs.
Like the vast majority of the awards, the rock categories were announced well before the televised fete during a less glitzy daytime ceremony, this year taking place in a Las Vegas ballroom near the MGM Grand Garden Arena, the site of the main event. Typically held in Los Angeles, the Grammys postponed its customary January date for the second straight year amid rising coronavirus cases, ultimately moving to Vegas.
Foo Fighters canceled a planned performance as part of the main telecast (as well as a summer Seattle concert), but Grohl’s wife and daughters reportedly attended a pre-Grammys event on Friday honoring Joni Mitchell. During the MusiCares tribute event, which Brandi Carlile helped organize, Grohl’s daughter, Violet, performed the folk singer’s 1974 song “Help Me.”
Hawkins died suddenly on March 25 while the band was in Colombia to perform at a Bogotá festival, and throughout the ceremony, there were multiple salutes to Hawkins, one of modern rock’s premier drummers.
Host Trevor Noah introduced the show’s in memoriam portion with a moving highlight reel of Hawkins performing and palling around with Grohl as audio of fans singing Foos classic “My Hero” played. (Seattle alt-rock great Mark Lanegan was also acknowledged in the segment.) Earlier in the night, Billie Eilish wore a T-shirt with Hawkins’ image on the front while rocking out atop the roof (er, floor?) of an upside down house while performing her smash “Happier Than Ever,” which was up for three awards. The song’s crushing crescendo was just as potent as it was during her first of two Climate Pledge Arena shows, the same night Hawkins died. (Hitting the stage less than an hour after the news broke, Eilish led the Seattle crowd in a moment of silence in Hawkins’ honor.)
When the Grammy nominations were revealed last fall, it was another strong showing from Washington artists, with some of the usual Seattle rock heroes leading the charge. Carlile, Foo Fighters and the late great Cornell earned 10 nominations between them, with Carlile accounting for half. Several behind-the-scenes producers, including Seattle hip-hop luminary Jake One, contributed to nominated albums from J. Cole, H.E.R. and more.
However, beyond the Foo Fighters’ three wins, it wasn’t a particularly lucky night for artists with local ties.
Leading the Washington field with five nominations, Brandi Carlile will be flying back to Sea-Tac empty-handed, unable to add to her six career wins Sunday night. But there was a feeling of déjà vu as the Maple Valley folk rocker took the stage to perform “Right on Time,” after being introduced by two of her musical heroes, Joni Mitchell and Bonnie Raitt, who received a lifetime achievement award.
Coming out of the song’s bridge, which dropped in heavier than a pickup full of King County dirt, Carlile saved her biggest power note for the final chorus, flanked by Phil and Tim Hanseroth in front of a bank of rainbow-colored lights. It was reminiscent of the note heard ‘round the country when she made her Grammys debut in 2019 — a performance Raitt called “one of the most impactful performances ever.”
“Right on Time” was up for song and record of the year, honors that went to Silk Sonic, the throwback soul duo of Bruno Mars and Anderson .Paak, who were among the night’s biggest winners. Carlile’s “A Beautiful Noise” duet with Alicia Keys was also up for song of the year. It was one of her two joint nominations with Morton, Lewis County-raised country artist Brandy Clark. The other, Clark’s “Same Devil” — a dusty road number featuring Carlile’s backing vocals — lost best American roots performance to late night’s most lovable jazzman Jon Batiste, this year’s most nominated artist who took home album of the year. Should R&B star H.E.R. have walked with the top album award, Lynnwood producer Mario Luciano and ace Seattle guitarist Jimmy James (of Delvon Lamarr Organ Trio and the True Loves) would have shared in the win. Along with local gospel singer Nichol Eskridge, the two contributed to “Slide,” the biggest track off H.E.R.’s “Back of My Mind” LP.
In an interview last month, James said win or lose, it was an honor to have his family name included among the list of album of the year nominees. (After the song went platinum, James’ mother sagely predicted the Grammys would be calling next.) James’ only regret was that his late sisters, who helped shaped his musical development, weren’t here to see it.
“It’s not just for me, it’s for them as well,” James said. “They’re an important factor in who I am today.”
Carlile also lost the best pop solo performance Grammy to another one of this year’s favorites, teen-pop meteor Olivia Rodrigo, whose smash hit “drivers license” became the biggest song of 2021. (Perhaps Rodrigo, best new artist winner, will still have that Grammy-win glow when she plays a sold-out WAMU Theater on Wednesday.) Carlile’s whopper of a ballad “Right on Time” was the oddball nominee in the pop category after the Recording Academy slid it out of the American roots genre — a decision Carlile wasn’t too happy about.
Hometown indie rock favorites Fleet Foxes were passed over for best alternative music album and J. Cole hit “m y . l i f e” — produced by local hip-hop great Jake One — struck out in the best rap song and performance categories.
Fresh off an Oscar win last week, Questlove’s acclaimed “Summer of Soul” documentary predictably won best music film, besting “Music, Money, Madness … Jimi Hendrix Live in Maui,” which chronicled one of the Seattle guitar god’s most infamous gigs.
After bagging two trophies in 2019, the Seattle Symphony avoided sharing a best orchestral performance award with its former conductor Thomas Dausgaard following a bitter falling out.
On the plus side, University of Washington artist in residence Steve Rodby produced the best Latin jazz album winner — Eliane Elias’ “Mirror Mirror” with jazz greats Chick Correa and Chucho Valdés. Rodby also co-produced pianist Lyle Mays’ single-track “Eberhard” EP, which won best instrumental composition. Mays, who died in 2020, and the bassist/producer played together for years in the Pat Matheny Group.
Elsewhere, Seattle-reared Christian singer Natalie Grant (best contemporary Christian music album), longtime Sub Pop band Low (best engineered album, nonclassical) and Origin Records artist Nnenna Freelon had projects fall short in their respective categories.