TV producer Ken Ehrlich on his most memorable Grammy moments

Lyndsey Parker
Yahoo Music
Neil Diamond & Barbra Streisand at the 22nd Annual Grammy Awards in 1980. (Photo: Getty Images)
Neil Diamond & Barbra Streisand at the 22nd Annual Grammy Awards in 1980. (Photo: Getty Images)

When Yahoo Entertainment asked Ken Ehrlich, who has produced the Grammys ceremony for the past 38 years, for his favorite Grammy moments, he quickly replied, “I don’t have one!” It turned out, there were eight performances that came to mind when we put him on the spot. Here they are, in chronological order and in Ehrlich’s own words.

Neil Diamond & Barbra Streisand, “You Don’t Bring Me Flowers” (1980)

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“This was my first year producing the show. They had never sung together before — [the original single] was recorded from two different versions of the song. That was pretty exciting, to be the first one of out of the box.”

 Patti LuPone, “Don’t Cry for Me, Argentina” (1981)

“One of the things we’re doing at this year’s Grammys is a Broadway tribute, and Patti is going to do ‘Don’t Cry for Me, Argentina,’ which obviously she originated on Broadway. Every once in a while, I do flash on memories of things that went before. In 1981, which was my second Grammy show [that I produced] and the first one that I did in New York, at Radio City — she did this. When you ask me about moments I remember from the Grammys, well, 37 years ago, what I remember is her singing this song. I remember — and this rarely does this happen — that the audience was so dumbstruck by how awesome that performance was, they forgot to applaud for a moment. They just didn’t know what to do! Then, the place erupted. Again, this was my second show. I’d had a pretty good first show, but with this one it was, ‘God, if this is what this is like, I want to do this for the rest of my life.’ It’s been fun talking to Patti [this year]. …She talked about that being one of the moments that she’ll always remember. I basically echoed that.”

Whitney Houston, “I Will Always Love You” (1994) 

“Of course this is on the list…  You know, pretty much every time since [Houston died during the Grammy weekend 2012], there’s one place I will stand [at the Staples Center in Los Angeles], right by this little staircase that takes us down to this little bunker underneath the stage. That was where someone came up to me and said, ‘Whitney’s dead.’ I thought, ‘Come on. You’re joking.’ To this day, when the stage is built and I walk right by that space, my brain goes right to that moment.”

Prince & Beyoncé, Purple Rain medley (2004)

“I was fortunate enough to have worked with Prince eight or nine times over my career… I wouldn’t call him a friend, but he was kind of like a confidant. Every once in a while, out of the blue, I’d get a call from him, or I’d call him and ask if he wanted to do something at the Grammys… This was really pretty amazing. I loved this.”

Melissa Etheridge & Joss Stone, “Cry Baby”/“Piece of My Heart” (2005)

“This was Melissa Etheridge performing right after her cancer, bald — and getting maybe the longest standing ovation in my history with the show.”

Elton John & Eminem, “Stan” (2006)

“I loved this. I thought that was an incredible moment.”

Paul McCartney & All-Stars, “Golden Slumbers”/“Carry That Weight” (2012)

“I loved how a couple years ago with McCartney, we did the finale from Abbey Road with Joe Walsh and Dave Grohl and Bruce Springsteen — and Paul. It was close to checking off three or four boxes on my bucket list.”

Adele, “Fast Love” (2017)

“The George Michael [tribute] was powerful, even though she started it over again. …It was a little surprising, especially when she said, ‘I’m sorry, Ken!’ I don’t think that’s the way I want to be remembered! But she was right to do it. I’m not even sure what happened, to be honest with you. Well, what happened was she started the song off, and I think there was an a cappella beginning to the song, and she got a bell note in her ear. She unfortunately missed it, so she was singing in the wrong key. It was nobody’s fault, but it was a risky thing to do on a show like this. I didn’t know what she was going to do, but I certainly knew from the first couple of notes that she had to do something. So, she did the right thing. She said, ‘I’m sorry. I need to start this again. I care too much about this man.’ And everybody cried, and everybody said, ‘Good for you.’”

This year’s Grammy performers include Kesha, P!nk, Bruno Mars with Cardi B, Kendrick Lamar, SZA, Rihanna with DJ Khaled and Bryson Tiller, Childish Gambino, Elton John with Miley Cyrus, Alessia Cara with Khalid and Logic, Sam Smith, Luis Fonsi & Daddy Yankee, U2, and Patti LuPone. The 60th Annual Grammy Awards will air this Sunday, Jan. 28, on CBS.

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