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Icons of music at the Grammy Museum

Gail Choice | 3/2/2011, 5 p.m.

The Grammy Museum, located downtown at 800 W. Olympic Blvd., in the L.A. Live complex, is a treasure trove for music lovers around the world. The museum features unique, formative and entertaining public and educational programs and exhibits. And it's right in our own backyard!
If you love music, any kind of music, then the Grammy Museum should be at the top of your must-do list.

Recently, I visited the museum on two occasions--a tribute to Teena Marie, Nee Marie Christine Brockert, called "Wild and Peaceful," and an evening with Russell Simmons as part of their Icons of the Music Industry series. Both events were amazing, well-attended, and as different as night and day. The age span ranged from children to seniors.

The "Wild and Peaceful" tribute was a soulful celebration of Marie's life and career. This talented singer once said about herself, "I'm too White to be Black and too Black to be White." She left a musical legacy that few of us have truly grasped.

Now, we all knew Marie could sing her heart out, so in no way at her tribute could a sista who needed a lot of studio help get up and sing unplugged. But we were treated to the luscious and soul-stirring voices of Shanice Wilson, Lalah Hathaway and Faith Evans, each singing a Marie favorite. The Teena Marie Band, with musical director Doug Grigsby, also performed. To say the least, it was amazing. Folk didn't want to leave.

The panelists included Alia Rose, Marie's daughter in her first public appearance since her mother's death; the mighty man of music, George Duke; KJLH Program Director Aundrae Russell, and Scott Galloway, writer. Kevin Fleming, editor of Urban Buzz was the moderator.

Do yourself a favor and check out Marie's life and accomplishments. I was pleasantly surprised at her simple greatness.

Later in the week the museum's executive director, Robert Santelli, sat down with Russell Simmons, the man USA Today named one of the "Top 25 Most Influential People of the Past 25 Years," to discuss his life and career. Because of the intimate setting in the museum's 200-seat Clive Davis Theater, Simmons was front and center. No way he could hide who he was and how he turned his life's journey into a message for the world, whether we buy it or not.

Santelli asked questions with enthusiasm and respect, which made Simmons open up even more. It was amazing to see this man, whom Forbes magazine recently named one of "Hollywood's Most Influential Celebrities," discuss how he turned his life from selling drugs to selling music, fashion, finance, jewelry, television and film. He spoke of his spiritual journey and living his life in "order" after being off-track in his younger years. He spoke of dating women too young for him and the hope that some day he would remarry. Turning to health, he spoke about the food we eat and how yoga had impacted his life. Simmons expressed how giving back, his brand of philanthropy, is of primary importance to him in all aspects of life. What a man!

The museum gave the audience an opportunity to ask Simmons questions, adding to the richness of the evening.

Now, don't that think only the privileged or the media can attend these events. No, they're open to the public as well. There is a fee, but not only is your spirit lifted when you leave the museum, but you also get a special gift. For the Marie tribute, audience members received two CDs--Marie's "Congo Square," the last one she recorded, and a Black History Month 2011 sampler of the Concord Music Group. For the Russell Simmons event, we received his latest book, "Super Rich: A Guide to Having it All."

Visit the Grammy Museum website at grammymuseum.org for all the information on the special events, outstanding exhibits and displays.

Heads up! Outstanding recording artist Raphael Saadiq, formally of Tony! Toni! Tone!, will be at the museum on Wednesday, March 23, to discuss his career. There will be a Q&A session, and a stripped-down performance will follow the discussion. Saadiq is one of music's highly regarded recording artists and producers.

All proceeds benefit the museum. For more information, please call (213.765.6800) or visit http://www.grammymuseum.org.

Gail can be reached at hollywoodbychoice_gail@yahoo.com.