How to Lose A Grammy, by Peter Cooper (originally appeared in The Tennessean)

My favorite Grammy moment of 2012?
That’d be when presenter Dan Konopka of rock band OK Go said, “And the Grammy goes to.....”
That was a moment of significant hope, right before Konopka announced the winner, mumbling something that sounded to me like, “Definitely not Peter Cooper.”
That’s right, you are reading the word stylings of the Grammy-losingest columnist in Nashville history.
I was nominated with my pal and singing partner Eric Brace, for co-producing I Love: Tom T. Hall’s Songs of Fox Hollow. We recorded new versions of Tom T.’s circa-1970s children’s songs, like “I Love,” “I Care” and “Sneaky Snake,” songs that were a big part of my childhood. Tom T. and his wife, songwriter Dixie Hall, invited us to record at their home studio, and we gathered a bunch of our favorite musicians for a big and joyful time.
The impetus for the project was the birth of my son, Baker, who attended the recording sessions at the ripe old age of 10 weeks. I wanted him to grow up hearing these great songs, sung by his dad and by people he would grow to know and care about.
I dedicate my Grammy loss to him.
How come losers don’t get to send out press releases? Here’s one:
“Peter Cooper and Eric Brace are disgusted and perturbed after I Love: Tom T. Hall’s Songs of Fox Hollow was not named best children’s album of 2011 at the 54th Grammy Awards in Los Angeles.
‘It’s bad enough to lose, but to lose in a contest voted upon by industry peers is especially troubling,’ Cooper slurred at a whiskey-drenched, post-ceremony reception.”
Kidding, folks. Just a little Grammy loser humor. I’ve Googled “Things deserving of sympathy” and “Spending four days in California after being nominated for a major award” is pretty far down the list of results. It actually is an honor to be nominated. Elmo wasn’t this year, and neither was Toby Keith.
Plus, the nomination drummed up some extra publicity for the album, which is a wonderful collection of songs that makes a great gift, though I would certainly never use this space for gratuitous self-promotion because I’m not that kind of guy.
Most of all, I was glad to be able to shine a light on Tom T. Hall, a brilliant man whose songs transformed the language of country music.
Maybe we should have covered Bobby Bare’s children’s songs instead.
Wait, did I type that out loud?
I’ve covered the previous 11 Grammy Awards for The Tennessean, but this is the first time I was able to experience Grammy week as a participant rather than a chronicler. It’s more fun when you aren’t taking notes. It’s also more impressive to watch the shows (there’s an afternoon, pre-telecast show where most awards, including the one I didn’t win, are handed out) from the audience instead of from a cramped backstage press room. Watching hundreds of workers constructing, moving and removing the dozens of intricate stage sets is a mind-boggle, as is the decision of whether to watch Paul McCartney or Bruce Springsteen when they’re standing on the same stage.
Boss? Beatle? Beatle? Boss?
I left for California last Thursday, so Eric and I could play a couple of shows in Los Angeles, in hopes of paying for our Grammy clothes. (Alas, no one asked who we wore, and we knew the answers: Katy K, Manuel and J.C. Penney.) My flight out to LA was filled with nominees and bigwigs, including Alison Krauss, the winningest female in Grammy history. Before the flight, I told Alison she’d better watch her back. “If I win this Grammy, I’m only 62 behind you,” I said.
“Very nice,” she said, smiling and maneuvering towards the front of the boarding line.
Whatever, Krauss. I don’t even want to be the winningest female in Grammy history.
Alison and her Union Station band won for best bluegrass album, by the way.
I lost.
But that’s alright. A lot of my friends lost, too, and that always makes me feel better. 
And a bunch of worthy people weren’t even nominated. Paul Simon released one of the best albums of his career, So Beautiful or So What, last year, and it didn’t get nominated. And he’s Paul Simon, and Paul Simon’s great.
If the good stuff doesn’t always win, does that mean the Grammys aren’t relevant? Nope. They’re the Grammys. They have those gleaming gold gramophone trophies that you can place in a prominent living room spot, where invited guests can walk in the door and exclaim, "Hey, did you win a Grammy Award?" Thanks to my loss, I'll now have to say, "No, I stole that from Alison Krauss." 
What do I have from my Grammy experience? Really nice memories of warm weather and smiles, of rubbing shoulders (only shoulders) with adult movie dude Ron Jeremy, Weird Al Yankovic and other randoms, of celebrating music and of seeing the impact that music and musicians have on others: I didn’t know Whitney Houston, but the looks on the faces of those who did told me what I needed to know.
When the awards were over, we dropped by a party and then took a cab back to the hotel and had a room service dinner. I worked on a lesson plan for the class I teach at Vanderbilt (the lesson was about Country Music Hall of Famer Tom T. Hall), and then I went to sleep. The next morning, I drove to the L.A. airport, listening to one of my favorite albums, Paul Simon’s gorgeous Still Crazy After All These Years. I drove and thought, “Hey, this one didn’t win a Grammy, just like albums I hold dear by Townes Van Zandt, Eric Taylor and even Tom T. Hall.” The award doesn’t make the work. The award is an add-on, a bonus, sometimes even an afterthought. If Still Crazy After All These Years didn’t win a Grammy, I can just accept my experience for the fun time that it was. I can have a shiny memory without having a shiny trophy.
(ed. note: Paul Simon’s Still Crazy After All These Years won a Grammy album of the year award in 1976, but we don’t have the heart to tell Peter.)

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