LOS ANGELES — The annual MusiCares benefit dinner and concert honors a particular artist who has made charitable contributions as well as musical ones – so Lionel Richie was an apt choice for the 2016 Person of the Year.
The event, which took place Saturday night in the Los Angeles Convention Center adjoining the Staples Center in downtown L.A., is also a gathering where everyone from Demi Lovato to Paul Anka to Suzanne Somers zip by on the red carpet, some pausing to chat for a moment and others, like The Band Perry and The Roots blowing off any reporter without a gonzo-sized video camera.
Artists including Rihanna and Usher (neither appeared on the carpet), Luke Bryan, Stevie Wonder and Lenny Kravitz paid homage to Richie at the gala later in the evening and the MusiCares mission – to offer programs and services to members of the music community including medical and financial assistance – was echoed frequently.
Here are some tidbits from the musicians who spared a few minutes to talk.
David Crosby, the first-ever MusiCares honoree in 1991, said he comes every year and is proud of the way the event has grown. “Musicians should help each other,” he said.
Crosby broke into a grin when asked what his favorite has been among the two decades of shows.
“Dylan last year. He was funny as hell. Old, weird Bob was being old, weird Bob.”
While Crosby attends the gala regardless of who is being honored, he noted that Richie is a “nice guy” and that he would like to collaborate with him. “He’s a good writer and he knows how to write hits, because I don’t.”
The ever-prolific singer-songwriter is readying two solo albums concurrently – when asked why two he smiled, shrugged and said, “Because I have that many songs!” Crosby will return to the road in March for a series of solo, acoustic shows and said there are no CSN plans in the immediate future.
Leon Bridges, the 26-year-old soul singer from Texas, will perform in Atlanta March 1 at The Tabernacle.
As for what fans can expect, “You’re going to see a lot of the hokey pokey,” he said with a smile before actually answering the question. “We’re trying to grow as far as performance, so (the live show) will have a little more to it. We’re going to add some more songs and think about transitions.
Bridges has recently been visible as part of the Macklemore and Ryan Lewis song and video for “Kevin.”
“It definitely put me on some people’s radars,” he said. “It shows people that I love classic R&B but can also be on a hip-hop song and stay true to what I am.”
The dashing Luke Bryan, who was set to perform Richie’s “Penny Lover” during the MusiCares gala said that all is well with his family in Leesburg.
On May 20-21, Bryan will play at Lakewood Amphitheatre with Little Big Town and Dustin Lynch, returning to the outdoors after a stint last year at Philips Arena.
“That was the first year we did an arena in Atlanta and had a blast, but we love the summertime amphitheaters. It’s just a party,” he said. “It’s good to be back at Lakewood, we’ve got a lot of history there. I leave the Grammys and literally fly straight to Nashville to begin tour rehearsal, so by Atlanta we’ll have everything down.”
Jimmy Jam, whose favorite Richie song is “Hello,” visited reporters with his wife and kids hanging in the background. He said he hasn’t yet read LA Reid’s new book, “Sing to Me” but wanted to know, “Am I in it? What did I do, good or bad? I just want to know if I should beat him up or hug him when I see him.”
After being assured that Reid has only praise for his producer friend, Jam said what he remembers most about the early LaFace days is introducing Reid to producer/music executive Clarence Avant, regarded as the godfather of the black music community.
“Clarence once told me and Terry (Lewis) that if we ever found someone who needed help, if they were talented and maybe made a bad business decision, to introduce us. I remember LA asked me to introduce him to Clarence and it was a life-changing experience for both of us, just watching Clarence put into truth what he said, that I will help you out if you introduce me to somebody and a lot of LaFace happening was because of Clarence Avant. I just like that there are people like that in the industry who do that and then go on to do great things like LA has done and Babyface has done,” Jam said. “Back in the day, everybody thought (LA and I) were competitors or enemies and then we’d be out at dinner together and people would come up to us and go, ‘You all are all having dinner together?’ And yeah, we’re cool, we actually have a lot in common.”