Best new artist the year you graduated high school
Of the four biggest awards handed out on “Music’s Biggest Night,” there is only one for which an artist has one chance to win. The Grammy for Best New Artist goes to artists or groups that have achieved a “breakthrough into the public consciousness” and “impacted the musical landscape” during the eligibility period. There are few hard numbers used to determine whether an artist is “new”: Nominees can’t have released over three albums or 30 singles, and they can’t have been considered more than three times before for the award (even if they were previously in other groups).
This definition can confuse, leading to fiery debates over who should or shouldn’t be considered a “new” artist. But the Grammys are no stranger to public outrage. The voting process itself—open only to members of the music industry—often results in surprising winners for Best New Artist, Song, Record, and Album of the Year (and up to 15 other categories of their choice). In the night’s biggest awards, even some voters with no knowledge of the nominees get to decide who should win.
Some might argue it’s better to not win Best New Artist, based on the popular legend that the award is cursed. Early on, many winners became one-hit wonders, unable to recreate the breakout success that launched them to the Grammy stage. Recent winners seem to disprove the theory, but the reputation lingers.
Best New Artist has been given every year since the second Grammys in 1960, except when it was skipped in 1967. From 1960s folk-rock to contemporary rap, Stacker presents every Best New Artist winner (and this year’s eight nominees), in chronological order. Read on to discover which acts fell victim to the curse and which breakthrough artists lasted for decades.
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1960: Bobby Darin
Bobby Darin got his start as a teen pop star. He first hit mainstream recognition after performing his song “Splish Splash” on the TV show “American Bandstand,” before taking the world by storm with his 1959 version of “Mack the Knife.” He launched a film and television career while continuing to perform, and he dabbled in folk, country, and contemporary music. He was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1990.
1961: Bob Newhart
After leaving accounting to go into comedy, Bob Newhart was launched into stardom with his 1960 comedy album "The Button-Down Mind of Bob Newhart,” the first comedy album to hit Billboard charts. His Everyman style of comedy resonated with audiences then and now, both in stand-up routines and on television. Most recently, he won his first Primetime Emmy award for his guest appearances on the #1 rated comedy, “The Big Bang Theory.”
1962: Peter Nero
Jazz virtuoso and pianist Peter Nero made a name for himself at 17 when he performed George Gershwin's “Rhapsody in Blue” on television. Since then, he's been hailed as one of the prime interpreters of Gershwin's compositions. Nero made a lasting contribution to the classical community as longtime conductor and music director of the Philadelphia Pops, an orchestral group that plays a mix of Broadway, jazz, blues, swing, and classical pieces.
1963: Robert Goulet
Robert Goulet began his long career as one of Broadway's leading men by starring as Sir Lancelot in "Camelot," alongside Julie Andrews and Richard Burton. Shortly after his 1960 breakout, he won the Best New Artist Grammy for his first two albums “Always You” and “Two of Us,” alongside hit single “What Kind of Fool Am I.” Until his death in 2007, he continued performing on Broadway, including roles in “Annie Get Your Gun” and “Brigadoon,” as well as in movies and television.
1964: Ward Swingle (The Swingle Singers)
U.S. singer Ward Swingle organized a group of Paris-based singers to perform some of Sebastian Bach's keyboard music. “Jazz Sebastian Bach,” the album that came from these sessions, brought the singers to international fame. Instead of ever disbanding, The Swingles instead have simply replaced members when they retire. The group has put out a collective 50 a capella albums.
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1965: The Beatles
One of the most popular acts in history, The Beatles came to the United States in 1963 when the band appeared on “The Ed Sullivan Show” and their first American hit “I Want to Hold Your Hand” started being regularly played on the radio. Some of their most critically and commercially successful albums, including “Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band” and “Abbey Road,” came later in their career, before the band broke up in 1970.
1966: Tom Jones
Tom Jones is a Welsh rocker whose popularity in the U.S. formed part of the British Invasion of the late 1960s. In 1963, he became the frontman for Tommy Scott and the Senators, and in 1964 he found mainstream success with the single “It's Not Unusual” and his album of the same name. After 1966, Jones' popularity slipped, but a stint on the Las Vegas circuit cemented his popularity in the U.S.
1968: Bobbie Gentry
Bobbie Gentry shocked the music world when her hit song “Ode to BIllie Joe” started climbing the charts, despite her status as a relatively unknown singer. She put out seven albums between her rise in 1967 and 1971, in which she wrote, played, and produced almost all of her own music. She retired from public view in 1981, but her meaningful lyrics and sophisticated sound remain an inspiration for today's stars.
1969: José Feliciano
José Feliciano was already a household name in his native Puerto Rico before he found success on the mainland with his album “Feliciano!” and its famous cover of The Doors' “Light My Fire.” In 1968, his folksy performance of the national anthem at a World Series game proved divisive and led many radio stations to stop playing his music. He still took home the Grammy that year and continued making hits, including the Christmas classic “Feliz Navidad.”
1970: Crosby, Stills & Nash
Crosby, Stills & Nash played their first concert at Woodstock, and the group's political and countercultural lyrics were a perfect fit for the legendary festival. David Crosby, Graham Nash, and Stephen Stills were all members of other bands previously, but their self-titled debut brought them to national fame. The group added Neil Young to their lineup, but he left the group in 1971. After a years-long hiatus, the trio continued making music alongside their solo projects.
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