Pharrell Williams is a 13-time Grammy winner who’s created some of the catchiest tunes of the past 30 years.
On Wednesday night, he’ll be honored at the Grammys on the Hill event at The Hamilton in Downtown D.C.
“He’s just been a real champion for the music community,” Recording Academy C.E.O. Harvey Mason Jr. told WTOP. “He’s done so much philanthropic work in addition to being an incredible, prolific producer, artist, writer. He’s had a passion for advocacy, for social justice … he’s just generally been somebody who has cared about people and has used his platform and position to make a difference — and those are the people we like to honor.”
Pharrell’s journey is a local success story, having grown up in Virginia Beach where he continues to host the annual Something in the Water music festival, which was founded in 2019 and even visited the National Mall last year.
“He came up as a young producer in Virginia Beach and worked with Teddy Riley for a bit, then started making a name for himself, along with his partner Chad (Hugo), under the name The Neptunes,” Mason Jr said. “They produced pretty much everyone from all of the biggest hip-hop artists across the board to the biggest pop superstars … they started a group N.E.R.D. and began signing artists to Star Trak Records: Clipse and others.”
Indeed, Pharrell has collaborated with everyone that you can imagine: Nelly (“Nellyville”), Justin Timberlake (“Justified”), Gwen Stefani (“Holla Back Girl”), Snoop Dogg (“Drop it Like it’s Hot”), Daft Punk (“Get Lucky”), Robin Thicke (“Blurred Lines”), Beyonce (“Beyonce”) and Kendrick Lamar (“To Pimp a Butterfly”). He’s also delivered “Happy” movie soundtracks with a pair of Oscar nominations for “Despicable Me 2″ and “Hidden Figures.”
“Anything you heard that was hot probably had something to do with Pharrell,” Mason Jr. said. “He’s a multi-hyphenate. He’s also producing film and TV and is now the creative director for Louis Vuitton … Pharrell has been an innovator who’s changed the game, forward-thinking in everything he’s done: music, design, architecture, furniture, fashion. He is a leader and someone who really pushes the envelope in all that he touches.”
The Grammys on the Hill ceremony will also honor Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (Democrat) and Senator Bill Cassidy (Republican) for their bipartisan work protecting the rights of musicians and music fans.
“Music is bipartisan,” Mason Jr. said. “Music is for everyone and music serves to get people together and I think right now, maybe more than ever, music can play a role in uniting people and bringing them from one side of the aisle to the center. For this event, we do choose specifically to honor Democrats and Republicans because they are all equally important, they are all usually fans of music and they all know the power of music.”
After recovering from a night of singing and dancing on Wednesday night at The Hamilton, the artists will hit Capitol Hill on Thursday for their annual advocacy day. This year’s legislative priorities include the HITS Act, the Restoring Artistic Protection Act, the American Music Fairness Act and reforming live event ticketing.
“The Restoring Artistic Protection Act has to do with First Amendment rights protecting artists by limiting the use of artists’ lyrics as evidence in trials,” Mason Jr said. “The HITS Act makes sure there’s tax credits … the others are live ticketing event reform, you’ve heard in the news about predatory practices around selling and reselling tickets … finally, the American Music Fairness Act, which has to do with AM/FM radio broadcasting royalties.”