M.C. Hammer Rolls Over Beethoven
If politics makes strange bedfellows, then award ceremonies make weird competitors. At the Academy Awards, we frequently wait to see if the joker who made us laugh will triumph over the villain who made us scream.
No competition in history matches the triumph of M.C. Hammer over Ludwig van Beethoven in the recent Grammy Awards. Hammer’s “Please Hammer Don’t Hurt ‘Em” beat Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony for the best music video, long form.
Anyone who’s ever seen Beethoven dance knows he was no match for the limber-legged Hammer. The German genius just can’t bust a move like the Oakland ace.
On the surface, the two musicians seem to have much in common. They both wear funny pants--Hammer his famous baggies, Beethoven his lace-trimmed breeches. But Hammer has been at the top of the music profession all year, while Beethoven hasn’t hit the charts in 164 years.
At an industry party afterward, many of us were worried about Ludwig. We feared that this defeat in his comeback attempt would push him over the edge. But it was Hammer who eased his pain. Hammer, known nationwide for his generosity and work with inner-city youth, proved himself a master of rapport as well as a rap master.
Hammer approached Beethoven, who was sitting morosely, nursing an Absolut rocks, in a corner of Billy Joel and Christie Brinkley’s Manhattan penthouse.
“I love your work, man,” M.C. told L.V.
Beethoven, who could read his lips, merely nodded.
“Yeah, sure,” Beethoven mumbled. “You’re at the top of the music world, and I’m a has-been.”
“Don’t let it bring you down, man,” said Hammer. “It’s a fickle business. I mean, look, where is Cyndi Lauper now? Or Michael Jackson? He can’t sell shoes except in Japan.”
“But even Ray Charles has a Pepsi ad deal. And Beethoven--nobody knows my name anymore. I read an article in People that began: ‘Beethoven is dead.’ ”
“You’re not dead, homeboy. It ain’t over till it’s over. Look at Elvis. He’s hotter than ever.”
“You’re a very kind man, Hammer, but let’s face it: It’s all over for the Vienna Sound.”
“Wiggie, you gotta tell yourself that careers blow hot and cold. That times change and people change. Look at Memphis, look at Chicago blues, look at the Mersey beat. Vienna had its day. Now it’s Oakland’s turn. But it’s nothing personal and in no way reflects on your worth as an artist.”
“I know, I know. But I thought if I could pick up a Grammy I could get back in the game. If they went for the Ninth, I could reissue the Fifth on CD. We could remix it. The Fifth was really big in its day. Bigger than ‘Hound Dog.’ Way bigger than ‘Light My Fire.’ ”
“You got to understand, symphonic music is out. Sad but true, it’s a cold, cold Vanilla Ice kinda world, baby.”
“The thing is, Hammer, I had my speech all ready. I was going to thank God and my manager and all the people who’ve supported me--the people who were there at the beginning--Max Friedrich and Max Franz. My grandfather, Ludwig, and my dad, Johann, who inspired me. And, of course, Haydn. I also wanted to thank my posse--Prince Kinsky, Prince Lobkowitz and the Archduke Rudolph.”
“Look, Ludwig, I gotta go party with my people, but remember we’re both tough. We were both out there working young. Neither of us had it handed to us. You know what I’m talking about. Being a role model is never easy, but you owe it to all those kids in Vienna looking for that break to hang in there. You’re beautiful, man.”
“Hammer, if you ever get to Europe, let’s chill.”
And with that, Hammer took off in his new Lamborghini with the black leather seats. Beethoven left in his coach and four. But he was seen departing with former teen pop queen Debbie Gibson, 20.