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And that includes Paul McCartney, who is also kind of grating when he gets behind a podium, but at least you know why you know who he is: He’s a genius songwriter. You could argue that the Beatle who wrote “Obli-Di, Obla-Da” and later “Silly Love Songs” a) wrote “Obli-Di, Obla-Da” and later “Silly Love Songs”, and b) just got the Gershwin Prize for Popular Song and played the White House three months ago, and maybe does not to be brought back to Washington to be given another medal or whatever. But I suspect that another listen to the back half of Abbey Road, or if you’re pressed for time, “Paperback Writer”, will suffice to overrule your objections. Oh: The other nominees are outlaw country singer/songwriter Merle Haggard, dancer and choreographer Bill T. Jones, and Broadway composer/lyricist Jerry Herman. You might not know all of their names, but you can divine their professions easily enough.
Oprah? Yes, I know she was in The Color Purple 25 years ago, thanks. But she is not being honored for her performance in one movie. Jacqueline Trescott’s Washington Post story compares Oprah’s selection to that of Johnny Carson in 1993, which broke with “the long line of honorees who were strictly traditional performing artists.” But Carson was a performer: He made people laugh. Is Oprah here for making people cry? Giving away cars? Shaming people who make shit up to sell more copies of their autobiographies? Making the cover of of every single issue of O, The Oprah Magazine, for more than 10 years running? What?
Of course, it’s futile to resist the Oprah juggernaut. And there really are a frightening number of people in this country who might not read books at all unless she told them which ones. That’s significant. Maybe the best thing to do is to accept Oprah’s inclusion as being in the long tradition of having one notably annoying recipient every year. If you peruse the complete list going back to 1978, you’ll see that in most years there has been one honoree who is clearly more irritating than all the others. (Last year, it was Mel Brooks.)
PLEASE NOTE: The opinions expressed in Knee-Jerk Reaction have not been subjected to nearly enough scrutiny.