Among the Intellectualoids

Al Gore’s Grammy

Why liberals rule the spoken word category.

By 2.10.09

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Liberals are better than conservatives at the spoken word. Don't believe it? Just ask the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (NARAS), who are experts in these matters. On Sunday night, the audio rendition of Al Gore's book, An Inconvenient Truth: The Planetary Emergency of Global Warming and What We Can Do About It, won a Grammy in the "spoken word" category.  An Inconvenient Truth edged spoken-word albums by gay humorist David Sedaris, comedian Steve Martin, actor-activist Sidney Poitier, and faux-news anchorman Stephen Colbert.

Were An Inconvenient Truth's victory an aberration, then conservatives might have reason to hope for redemption at next year's award show. But as far as rivalries go, this one is Globetrotters vs. Generals, dogs vs. cats, Germany vs. France.  Prior to An Inconvenient Truth's triumph, Barack Obama's Audacity of Hope, Jimmy Carter's Our Endangered Values, Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee's With Ossie and Ruby, Barack Obama's Dreams from My Father, Bill Clinton's My Life, Al Franken's Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them, and Maya Angelou's A Song Flung Up to Heaven all garnered Grammy Gold.

As if losing last year's election weren't bad enough, An Inconvenient Truth's Sunday-night victory reminds conservatives that the Grammy for spoken word has been lost to them since the Nixon presidency. Once the domain of aging actors, quirky storytellers, and hot comics, the spoken word Grammy has become the property of liberal politicians and activists reading from their autobiographies and manifestoes. Now that the Grammys prefer politics to poetry, comedy, and all other spoken word categories combined, conservatives seem clueless as to what it takes to read a book at a Grammy-winning level.  

What can conservatives do to end decades of humiliation and defeat at the Grammys?

The period of 1968-1970 was the Golden Age of Conservative Spoken Word. Since the NARAS issued the first spoken-word Grammy at the 1959 awards show, the spoken word Grammy has been awarded to just two right-leaning  recipients -- in 1968 and 1970. During the height of the Vietnam War in 1968, the Grammy went to Senate Minority Leader Everett Dirksen, whose Gallant Men album (one of four he would release) celebrating America's fighting men actually peaked at #29 on Billboard's charts. The 1970 winner We Love You, Call Collect, the father-daughter pairing of Art and Diane Linkletter released a few weeks after drug-troubled Diane ended her own life, featured a father's plea to his countercultural daughter to come home on the A-side and the ill-fated daughter's haunting response on the flipside.  Since then, conservatives have been shut out by the likes of Christopher Reeve, Hillary Clinton, and Jesse Jackson.

What do liberal authors do so well when reading from their books that merits Grammy after Grammy?

"God chose me to write this book," Al Franken informs in the opening lines of his Grammy-winning Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them -- before a booming God-voice interrupts the author. That dry humor might be what's missing from conservative offerings. Perhaps it is Bill Clinton's on-again-off-again drawl in My Life or Barack Obama's affected ebonics when quoting ghetto activists in Dreams from My Father. Maybe it's just those darn intangibles.

Their winning formula is downright confusing to many Hollywood conservatives. "This has nothing to do with the so-called liberal bias," suspects conservative Hollywood organizer Andrew Breitbart. "If George W. Bush were to release a spoken-word album detailing all of his administration's accomplishments in the fight against AIDS in Africa, with Ladysmith Black Mambazo humming in the background, I am sure he would win the spoken-word Grammy next year. Right?"

Whatever qualities make for a great spoken word album, conservatives clearly lack them. What else could possibly explain their four-decade long drought at the Grammys?

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About the Author
Daniel J. Flynn, the author of The War on Football: Saving America’s Game, edits Breitbart Sports.