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Raitt wins four Grammys

For two decades, Bonnie Raitt has stayed true to the spirit of blues and R&B, never reaping much commercial reward, nearly being written off altogether in the mid-80s. The red-haired singer/guitarist got a career's worth of recognition at Wednesday night's 32nd annual Grammy Awards, where she took trophies for album of the year, best rock vocal performance by a female for her Nick of Time album, best pop vocal performance by a female for the title track, as well as best traditional blues recording for her duet with John Lee Hooker, I'm in the Mood.

Accepting the album of the year award, which was predicted to go to Don Henley, Raitt stood at the lectern genuinely stunned, speechless. Later, accepting for best pop vocal, Raitt praised the other nominees. "I accept the award on their behalf," she said. "I can only take so much of this."

Raitt was the evening's biggest and most heartwarming story, even though she was nominated in only one of the three top categories. But she wasn't the only surprise. The academy showed it still has a soft spot for schmaltz by giving record of the year to Bette Midler for Wind Beneath My Wings.

Song of the year, a songwriting award, followed suit: it also went to the Wind Beneath My Wings, the theme from the film Beaches penned by Larry Henley and Jeff Silbar.

Commercial success reigned in the best new artist category, where the red-hot European duo Milli Vanilli took the honors.

Host Gary Shandling set the scene for the 3{-hour show with an opening monologue that drew little more than polite laughs from the audience. The show never seemed to loosen up and flow.

There were highlights, of course _ one of which was found in an unlikely spot, the presenting of the lifetime achievement award. These tributes can drag along interminably, but Wednesday night's honoring of Paul McCartney did anything but. A radiant-looking Meryl Streep, emcee for the lengthy segment, told personal anecdotes about being a young Beatles fan and eloquently narrated the tribute. McCartney appeared nervous in accepting _ his speech was flip, his demeanor overly lighthearted.

Joining the McCartney homage, Ray Charles did a jazzy version of McCartney's Eleanor Rigby, followed by Stevie Wonder's freewheeling turn at We Can Work it Out.

Few of the program's many musical performances packed much exuberance.

The show opened with Billy Joel's We Didn't Start the Fire. Instead of zeroing in on Joel, the camera was more intent on capturing the large video screens flanking the stage that flashed historical images mentioned in the song. The result was a cold, detached performance, and it set the tone for others.

Milli Vanilli's dancing was awkward. Fine Young Cannibals lead singer Roland Gift was off-key and squeaky. Even Raitt was a little stiff, although she did loosen up after a sizzling slide guitar solo on Thing Called Love.

Among the high points were an effervescent performance by k.d. lang, who won the Grammy for best country vocal performance by a female, and a lively rendition of I Can Beat Mike Tyson by rappers D.

J. Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince. Linda Ronstadt and Aaron Neville performed a touching duet of their hit Don't Know Much, bringing a tear to Streep's eye as she sat in the aisle. Don't Know Much won for best pop vocal by a duo or group.

Seventy-seven Grammys were handed out by the National Association of Recording Arts and Sciences (NARAS). The organization was formed in 1958 with the expressed purpose of creating a forum for the music industry to award its own (the name Grammy is taken from gramophone). The Grammy has evolved into the music world's most coveted trophy.

In recent years, NARAS has increased efforts to add new categories that reflect breaking trends. Rap and hard rock/metal were added last year, drawing a fair amount of controversy. The first ever rap award was not presented during the '89 Grammy telecast, which angered many in the rap community. And Grammy's most widely criticized winner of last year was the dinosaur band Jethro Tull for best hard rock/metal performance.

The latter gaffe was circumvented this year by splitting the hard rock/metal Grammy in two. Living Colour took the best hard rock performance for its crunching single Cult of Personality. Metallica bagged the best metal performance for One.

The rap Grammy _ presented live on the telecast _ went to Young MC for his witty single Bust a Move.

In one of the evening's rare spontaneous moments, fellow rap nominee Flavor Flav from Public Enemy jumped on stage, roughly embraced Young MC and offered boisterous congratulations to the winner. Without missing a beat, Young MC replied dryly, "I'd like to thank Flavor Flav for breakin' up the monotony of my acceptance speech."

Grammy winners

LOS ANGELES _ Here is a partial list of Grammy winners:

Record of the year: "Wind Beneath My Wings," Bette Midler.

Album of the year: "Nick of Time," Bonnie Raitt.

Song of the year: "Wind Beneath My Wings," Larry Henley and Jeff Silbar, songwriters.

New artist: Milli Vanilli.

Pop vocal, female: "Nick of Time," Bonnie Raitt.

Pop vocal, male: "How Am I Supposed to Live Without You," Michael Bolton.

Pop vocal, duo or group: "Don't Know Much," Linda Rondstadt and Aaron Neville.

Pop instrumental: "Healing Chant," Neville Brothers.

Rock vocal, female: "Nick of Time," Bonnie Raitt.

Rock vocal, male: "The End of the Innocence," Don Henley.

Rock vocal, duo or group: "Traveling Wilburys Volume One," Traveling Wilburys.

Rock instrumental: "Jeff Beck's Guitar Shop With Terry Bozzio and Tony Hymas."

Hard rock vocal or instrumental: "Cult of Personality," Living Colour.

Metal vocal or instrumental: "One," Metallica.

Rhythm & blues vocal, female: "Giving You the Best That I Got," Anita Baker.

Rhythm & blues vocal, male: "Every Little Step," Bobby Brown.

Rhythm & blues, duo or group: Soul II Soul.

Rhythm & blues instrumental: "African Dance, (Track for Keep on Movin')," Soul II Soul.

Rhythm & blues song: "If You Don't Know Me by Now," Simply Red.

Rap: "Bust a Move," Young MC.

New age: "Passion _ Music for the Last Temptation of Christ," Peter Gabriel.

Jazz fusion: "Letter From Home," Pat Matheny Group.

Jazz vocal, female: "Blues on Broadway," Ruth Brown.

Jazz vocal, male: "When Harry Met Sally," Harry Connick Jr.

Jazz vocal performance, duo or group: "Makin' Whoopee," Dr. John and Rickie Lee Jones.

Jazz instrumental, soloist: "Aura," Miles Davis.

Jazz instrumental, group: "Chick Corea, Akoustic Band," Chick Corea, Akoustic Band.

Jazz instrumental, big band: "Aura," Miles Davis.

Country vocal, female: "Absolute Torch and Twang," k.d. lang.

Country vocal, male: "Lyle Lovett and His Large Band," Lyle Lovett.

Country vocal, duo or group: "Will the Circle Be Unbroken Volume 2," The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band.

Country vocal, collaboration: "There's a Tear in My Beer," Hank Williams, Jr. and Hank Williams, Sr.

Country instrumental: "Amazing Grace," Randy Scruggs.

Bluegrass recording: "The Valley Road," Bruce Hornsby and The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band.