I had planned to write about the Grammy awards this week — and a brief review appears below. But before going any further, let us pause and remember a former member of our music department who passed away suddenly Sunday afternoon.
Don Evans was one of those guys who was extremely talented, but didn’t use his skills to boast or brag; he used them to put smiles on faces and bring joy to all through heart and humor. He was a Tallassee native, and for the most part, his career kept him nearby. He was a song leader at East Tallassee Church of Christ and band director at Reeltown High School and Trinity Presbyterian School during the 1980s and 1990s. Mr. Evans was a recording artist, performing various styles of music through the years. How many of you have the Talisi Boys record album? He also operated Pudgy’s (or was it Pudgie’s?) Pizza in Tallassee and was my predecessor at Southside Middle School.
Mr. Evans left central Alabama and restarted his career in the metro Atlanta area, where he taught elementary music and, by all accounts, was having the time of his life there.
His sense of humor is what many people have been remembering. Dr. Craig Aarhus, who was band director at Tallassee High School in the late 1990s but is now one of the band directors at Mississippi State University, said that Mr. Evans “was a big part of our band’s success. Don was a talented musician, excellent colleague and teacher, and a very funny guy. He told me that when he went to college, he heard other kids in the band at Troy talking about All-State, and he thought they were talking about insurance. And every year at the Auburn/Mississippi State football game, he would write and wish me luck in the ‘Mixed Loyalty Bowl.’
Dr. Kerry Palmer, who served as band director at Tallassee and was headmaster at Trinity, is currently the Assistant Dean of the College of Education at Troy Universi sic “It’s So Hard to Say Goodbye to Yesterday,” and it was beautifully done. Another was the K-Pop stars BTS joining Lil Nas X and Billy Ray Cyrus for “Old Town Road,” the biggest hit of 2019. It was already wild to have a country rap, but now Korean pop is added? Again, the Grammys are about the only place it could happen.
Aerosmith and Run-DMC recreated their iconic rap/rock hybrid “Walk This Way” to great effect, and industry darling Billie Eilish did what she does best: sing and play. Camila Cabello paid a soulful tribute to her father, and guitarist Gary Clark Jr. proved why he is the 21st century’s heir to the legacies of Jimi Hendrix and Eric Clapton. Usher channeled Prince and even brought Sheila E. out of retirement.
Lizzo is really something special; her powerhouse vocals and mastery of the flute work when she’s backed with an orchestra and wearing a ball gown, but she is just as entertaining when she strips down to basically nothing and raps in a rapid-fire style that is as humorous as it is profane. There’s literally nothing else out there like Lizzo.
I don’t know what Tyler, the Creator was screaming about, but he performed “Earfquake” and the cameras shook along with the stage as he fell into a blazing pit of fire. Whatever. Tanya Tucker and Brandi Carlile were way better, and definitely easier to understand. Bonnie Raitt performed “Angel From Montgomery” and was as awesome as usual, but the unnecessary and over-sexualized performance of Ariana Grande just left me wondering why someone with so much talent would waste it on breathy vocals and writhing around on a bed with men and women in thongs.
Demi Lovato may have had the performance of the evening. After a well-publicized bout with depression and a rumored suicide attempt, she’s mostly stayed out of the spotlight for a couple of years. Her gut-wrenching ballad “Anyone” was performed with only grand piano as accompaniment; no bumping and grinding with scantily clad dancers. It was welcome in a time when that seems to be all that these pop-tarts can ever conjure for staging.
Michael Bird is a music teacher for Tallassee City Schools and a weekly columnist for The Tribune.