Grammys features moving tribute to Nova festival victims and Billy Joel’s first new song in decades

Jack Antonoff, Swift’s longstanding songwriting and producing partner, won Producer of the Year for a third year straight


US singer Montana Tucker arrives for the 66th Annual Grammy Awards at the Arena in Los Angeles on February 4, 2024. (Photo by Robyn BECK / AFP) (Photo by ROBYN BECK/AFP via Getty Images)

At last night’s 2024 Grammy Awards, the Recording Academy CEO Harvey Mason Jr acknowledged the hundreds of victims of the Nova music festival who were murdered and taken hostage by Hamas on October 7.

Mason told the audience at the event in Los Angeles: “Tonight, we celebrate the world of music. Every one of us, no matter where we’re from, is united by the shared experience of music. It brings us together like nothing else can and that’s why music must always be our safe space. When that’s violated it strikes at the very core of who we are.”

He recognised previous attacks at Bataclan concert hall in Paris in 2015, the Manchester Arena in 2017 and the Route 91 Harvest Music festival in Las Vegas the same year. “And on October 7, we felt that again when we heard the tragic news from the Supernova music festival for love, that over 360 music fans lost their lives, and another 40 were kidnapped. That day and all the tragic days that have followed have been awful for the world to bear as we mourn the loss of all innocent lives.”

His tribute followed a plea last week from the CEO of the American Jewish Committee to recognise the victims at the Grammys to honour the spirit of “unity and love” that the Nova festival and its attendees stood for. The music executive championed music’s ability to unite, pointing out that the string quartet performing in the background at the 66th Grammys ceremony featured Palestinian, Israeli and Arab musicians.

“We live in a world divided by so much. And maybe music can’t solve everything, but let us all agree, music must remain the common ground upon which we all stand, together in peace and harmony. Because music has always been one of humanity’s greatest connectors.”

He added, “Now is the time for us, for humanity, to play together, to come together with empathy and with love.”

Singer and influencer Montana Tucker wore a dress emblazoned with a striking yellow ribbon bearing the words “Bring them home” to draw attention to the Israeli hostages held by Hamas in Gaza. Tucker, who has nine million followers on TikTok, had travelled to Israel after October 7 to bear witness to the attack.

Annie Lennox also called for a ceasefire and “peace in the world” after performing “Nothing Compares to U” in memory of the late singer Sinéad O’Connor at Sunday’s ceremony.

Billy Joel returned to the Grammys for his first performance at the ceremony in 30 years. A frequent performer at the Grammys in the 1980s and 1990s, the Jewish Long Island singer-songwriter played his first new song in 17 years “Turn the Lights Back on”, and closed the event with a rendition of his “You May Be Right.”

Among the stars of the night was the American pop producer Jack Antonoff. Taylor Swift’s longstanding songwriting and producing partner won Producer of the Year for a third year straight, his fifth consecutive nomination in the category.

The New Jersey singer, songwriter and producer has credits co-writing 11 of the 13 songs on the “traditional version” of Swift’s 2022 record-breaking album Midnights, and he joined the star on stage as she took the coveted Album of the Year prize.

Winning her fourth Album of the Year Grammy, Taylor Swift broke the record she had previously shared with Paul Simon, Frank Sinatra and Stevie Wonder.

Antonoff was also on production duties for two nominated Songs of the Year, Lana Del Rey’s “A&W” and Taylor Swift’s “Anti-Hero”.

None of the other Jewish nominees received a trophy on the night. Paul Simon was nominated for Best Folk Album for Seven Psalms and pop star and actor Troye Sivan was nominated for Best Pop Dance Recording and Best Music Video for “Rush”.

Gracie Abrams, the daughter of Jewish filmmaker JJ Abrams, received a nod for new artist of the year. Her deeply personal debut indie-rock album Good Riddance was released on Interscope Records last year and featured The National’s Aaron Dessner on production.

Another new artist with one Jewish parent, Noah Kahan became the UK’s first number 1 on the year with his single “Stick Season”. He grew up on a farm in Strafford and later moved to New Hampshire, where his Jewish father taught him to play guitar.

Rapper, singer-songwriter and record producer Doja Cat, born Amala Zandile Dlamini, had three nominations, for Best Pop Solo Performance with “Paint the Town Red” and Best Rap Song and Melodic Rap Performance for “Attention”. Canadian rapper Drake also had a nomination for his and 21 Savage’s “Spin Bout U”, while Madison Beer was recognised for her album Silence Between Songs.

Mark Ronson was recognised for his Barbie score soundtrack. The award for Best Audio Book, Narration, and Storytelling Recording was well represented by Jews, with Senator Bernie Sanders nominated for “It’s OK to Be Angry About Capitalism” and producer Rick Rubin, who produced six of the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ albums from 1991 to 2011, up for “The Creative Act: A Way of Being”.

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