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"It’s strange to be at an event like this and still be alive."
—-James Taylor


Celebrity-Studded Tribute at Convention Center Kicks off Grammy Week in Grand Style
An overflow crowd of 2,200 was treated to a James Taylor tribute, as was the guest of honor himself, at the MusiCares Person of the Year bash at the L.A. Convention Center, kicking off a week-long Grammy celebration by the Recording Academy.

The gracious, low-key singer-songwriter frequently rose to his feet as Paul Simon led a parade of stars to the stage with a stirring acoustic version of “Sweet Baby James.”

The tributes came fast and furious, with the Dixie Chicks (“Shower the People”), India.Arie (“Secret O’ Life”), Taj Mahal and Dr. John ("Everybody Has Got the Blues") and Alison Kraus and Jerry Douglas (“Carolina in My Mind”) leading the charge.

Sheryl Crow seemed unfazed by a week in which her split with fiancée Lance Armstrong was announced, appearing on-stage with David Crosby and Jackson Browne to sing “Mexico” after noting she saw Taylor at her very first concert as a 12-year-old. “It was also the first time I ever smelled pot,” she laughed. “And I knew I wanted to be a musician.” Turning to Taylor, she said, “You changed my life.”

Bonnie Raitt (“Rainy Day Man”) and Sting, playing what looked like an oud (“You Can Close Your Eyes”) led into the first rock moment of the night, as country singer Keith Urban roared through “Country Road” with JT’s own band as the camera kept cutting to fellow Aussie (and current squeeze) Nicole Kidman looking on admiringly.

Clad in black, Bruce Springsteen emerged, joking, “I wasn’t announced because I was supposed to be a surprise… I thought this was supposed to be an intimate gathering. I’m kinda reclusive, you know.” He then praised Taylor for being in one of his favorite movies, Monte Hellman's Two Lane Blacktop (as James shook his head in mock embarrassment), and launched into a powerful version of Taylor’s rather obscure “Millworker” with just a guitar and harmonica, making it sound like it could have come off his own acoustic albums, such as Nebraska or the currently Grammy-nominated Devils & Dust.

Carole King then sat down at the piano to perform “You’ve Got a Friend,” before Taylor himself joined her for the chorus, evoking the duet they once played. James took over at that point for a four-song medley that included “Copperline,” “Shed a Little Light” (which he said he wrote for Martin Luther King), “How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved by You)” and, naturally, a moving “Fire and Rain.”

“It’s strange to be at an event like this and still be alive,” he said with appreciation.

Other celebrities in the crowd: Recording Academy chief Neil Portnow, natch; L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa; Dinner chairs Don Ienner, Jann Wenner and Gary Borman; MusiCares Chairman Les Bider; Brian Wilson and wife Melinda; Neil Young, wife Pegi and longtime manager Elliot Roberts; Kevin Nealon; Cheech Marin; brother Livingston Taylor; Sony BMG's Andrew Lack; EMI’s Phil Quartararo and Jeanne Meyer; Virgin's Jason Flom and Lee Trink; Columbia RecordsAngelica Cob-Baehler; Time-Warner’s Dawn Bridges; former WB Records Chairman and Recording Academy Icon honoree Mo Ostin and son Michael, EMI Publishing head Martin Bandier and Bob Flax; Sting manager Kathy Schenker, Shore Fire indie PR queen Marilyn Laverty; veteran WB Records publicity diva Liz Rosenberg; Vector’s Jack Rovner; ex-Columbia Records President Will Botwin; "Soul Man" Sam Moore; Crow manager Scooter Weintraub; industry gadfly Bob Lefsetz; entertainment lawyers John Branca, Eric Greenspan, Don Passman, Fred Davis, Jay Cooper, Allen Grubman, CAA’s Rob Light; BMG PR vet Paula Batson and Dylan cohort Bob Neuwirth; History of Violence star Maria Bello; Fox News columnist Roger Friedman; ASCAP’s Tom DeSavia; Sanctuary Management’s Peter Asher (the man who discovered Taylor and brought him to the Beatles' Apple label); Billboard’s Tamara Conniff and her posse, who threatened to beat us down; Grammy-winning producer Phil Ramone, who executive produced the event...

And those were just the people we saw. Anthony Pellicano was nowhere in sight... If we left you out and you care, let us know. We'll add you to the list. A fine time was had by all.