Memories, laughter and deep emotions - The Special Awards live up to their name
In his opening remarks at the Special Awards ceremony at the Four Seasons Ballroom in Las Vegas Wednesday Gabriel Abaroa, President and CEO of the Latin Recording Academy, set the tone: “This is the event with the greatest depth, heart and love we produce as an organization.” The message, he said, was “simple and can be summed up in one word, ‘Thanks.’”
What sets apart the Latin GRAMMY is that it represents the recognition by one´s peers. What makes the Special Awards perhaps the most poignant, most affecting event in a week filled with many emotional moments is that it symbolizes the recognition by The Latin Recording Academy and its members to those who have made a lifetime of contributions to Latin music.
It is worth noting that many younger Latin artists, including nominees such as Los Mesoneros, were in attendance as if to pay their respects. Such is the power of this event.
Hosted by Dominican singer Johnny Ventura, the ceremony featured Luz Casal, Leo Dan, Rita Moreno, Milton Nascimento, Daniela Romo, Poncho Sánchez and Toquinho, who were honored with The Lifetime Achievement Award, while Juan Carmona “Habichuela” and the late Yomo Toro were recognized with the Latin Academy’s Trustees Award.
The Lifetime Achievement Award is presented by vote of The Latin Recording Academy’s Board of Trustees to performers who have made creative contributions of outstanding artistic significance to the field of recording during their careers. The Trustees Award is presented to individuals who have made significant contributions in a nonperforming capacity to the field of recording during their careers.
Wednesday’s event was a touching ceremony filled with memories, laughter and deep emotion. “I used to watch the Latin GRAMMY Awards and think, ‘Why don’t they give it to me?’,” deadpanned Luz Casal to much laughter. “And now I get it for my career. I am very thankful.”
The incomparable Rita Moreno, a Latin culture treasure who’s one of only eight artists to have received an Oscar, an Emmy, a Tony and a GRAMMY Award, spoke in English first, visibly moved - "You are going to make me cry," but then switched to Spanish “because this comes from my people.” Moreno, 80, not only wowed the audience but also some of her fellow honorees. Brazilian singer Milton Nascimento took time in his acceptance speech to note that “I am passionate about Rita Moreno. When we met she called me ‘Milton! Milton!’ and I thought ‘She knows me!”
Singer and songwriter Leo Dan, clearly touched by the presence of John Lear, the man who, as director of PolyGram Latin America, signed him when he was an unknown, recalled arriving at Lear’s office “without a guitar and without money. I sang ‘Celia’ and he said ‘Es un golazo’ [It’s a hit’] and I thought ‘This guy gets it,’” cracking the audience up.
But the most poignant moment of the event came when it was time to honor Puerto Rican cuatro master Yomo Toro, who died just months after being notified of the award. Accompanied by their daughter Denise, his wife Minnie, moved to tears said simply, “Thank you for giving him this award while he was alive and could enjoy it.” By then, there were few dry eyes in the house. “We say that if people don’t cry we have not succeeded,” quipped Neil Portnow, President and CEO of The National Recording Academy and Director of the Board of Trustees of the Latin Recording Academy, earlier in his unscripted remarks.
The Special Awards ceremony lived up its name and yes, it succeeded in spades.