The Grammy Awards considered some 800 people for the “In Memoriam” segment of the 2021 show, first-time executive producer Ben Winston tells Variety.
While it was not unexpected that a large number of musicians and executives would be under consideration amid a global pandemic that has killed more than 2.5 million people worldwide, as Winston says, “That is a brutally sad number of people who would be in contention to be featured in the show.” The ones who are not featured “will be featured in some way within other Grammy outlets, their website and elsewhere,” he added.
The “In Memoriam” segment was first aired in 2004 and has grown to include around 50 names in recent years; former executive producer Ken Ehrlich told NPR in 2017 that the show usually considered between 300 and 400 names at the time.
Winston adds that while the show probably will not have a COVID-specific moment, they do plan to do something special in honor of the many legends who have died since the last Grammys in January of last year.
“We have lost some iconic names this year, and we want to spend some real time celebrating some of those icons,” he says. “I think that will be a very powerful and impactful part of the show, where artists can come together and play some music from people that are no longer with us.
A short list of those names includes rock pioneer Little Richard; country legends Kenny Rogers and Charley Pride; singers Bill Withers, Johnny Nash, Mary Wilson and Bonnie Pointer; Fleetwood Mac founder Peter Green, Kraftwerk co-founder Florian Schneider, Rush drummer Neil Peart, songwriter-musician Adam Schlesinger, rapper Pop Smoke, Cameroonian music Manu Dibango; veteran Motown Records executive Barney Ales and so many others.
“So it will be a very different in memoriam for the show,” Winston concludes, “but still a very powerful one.”
The 2021 Grammy Awards will take place from the Los Angeles Convention Center on Sunday at 8 p.m. ET / 5 p.m. PT and will air live on CBS.