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Joni Mitchell, Billie Eilish, ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ honored at 2020 NAMM TEC awards Print-ready version

The Ventures' guitarist Don Wilson was also celebrated at the event at the Anaheim Hilton.

by Kelli Skye Fadroski
Orange County Register
January 19, 2020

Herbie Hancock introduces Joni Mitchell as she given The Les Paul Innovation Award during the 35th Annual NAMM TEC Awards at the Hilton Anaheim on Saturday, January 18, 2020. (Photo by Drew A. Kelley, Contributing Photographer)

The NAMM Technical Excellence & Creativity Awards, or simply TEC Awards, is a mixed bag, as it recognizes the top companies and individuals in several categories for their latest innovations or other creative works.

On Saturday night, during the 35th ceremony at the Hilton Anaheim, The Ventures guitarist Don Wilson and legendary folk singer-songwriter Joni Mitchell were given prestigious honors while music newcomer Billie Eilish, Marvel's Spider-Man and "Game of Thrones" also all walked away with awards.

Hosted for the first time by musician and "Portlandia" star Fred Armisen, the show kicked off with former Steely Dan and Doobie Brothers guitarist Jeff "Skunk" Baxter and The Cars' vocalist-guitarist Elliot Easton launching into The Ventures' "Hawaii Five-O" before awarding the 86-year-old guitar icon who was seated in the audience.

Armisen kept the momentum going as he admitted to how much he'd geek out about the NAMM Show each year. He poked fun at all the amateur drummers going full-throttle on the showroom floor and had a bag of props that included inventions that didn't quite make the cut such as curved drumsticks, Freddy Krueger-glove drumsticks and $200 digital maracas.

Another top honor of the night went to recording engineer Dave Pensado and recording industry veteran Herb Trawick, the duo responsible for "Pensado's Place." The pair were inducted into the 2020 TEC Hall of Fame. Pensado tearfully thanked Trawick for working alongside him all of these years and Trawick reciprocated the sentiment in his speech, while also thanking his friend, the late Maurice White of Earth, Wind & Fire, who helped put Trawick on the map.

Mitchell became the first woman to receive the Les Paul Innovation Award, which was given to her by her longtime friend and jazz musician Herbie Hancock. After recapping Mitchell's illustrious career and noting that he couldn't imagine a world "without this courageous woman's brave songs and records," Hancock stood for a minute and summed it all up with: "My dear friend Joni Mitchell is a badass."

The 76-year-old folk icon was in the audience and smiled several times as Hancock delivered his speech. As he presented her the award, she sweetly thanked the audience, which gave her a lengthy standing ovation.

Several artists performed Mitchell's music on stage including vocalist-guitarist Suzanne Santo doing "River," Kevin Ross' delivering a beautiful rendition of "A Case of You" and Weyes Blood giving everyone goosebumps with "Woodstock." Rock band Venice closed the ceremony with a cover of Mitchell's "Free Man in Paris."

As companies like Shure, Townsend Labs, KORG, Moog Music, JBL, Avid and more took home trophies that honored their work in the industry last year, there were plenty of creative awards given out as well.

"Bohemian Rhapsody" scored the award for film sound production; The "Star is Born" soundtrack won for record production/album; Billie Eilish's "Bad Guy" won record production/single or track; the 61st Annual Grammy Awards won remote production/recording or broadcast; "Game of Thrones" scored television sound production; Marvel's Spider-Man won in the gaming category for interactive entertainment sound production; and Sir Paul McCartney's Freshen Up Tour took home tour event sound production.

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