Memorable moments from every year in Grammy history
The 2021 Grammy Awards, originally slated for Jan. 31, have been postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic. The ceremony is rescheduled for March 14.
Arguably the most prestigious music awards, the Grammy Awards are relatively new when it comes to awards ceremonies. Whereas the Academy Awards began in 1929 and the Emmys commenced in 1949, the first Grammys weren’t held until 1959. The creation of the Grammy Awards was inspired by the Hollywood Walk of Fame project, which brought about a renewed interest in the music and recording industry. As a result, the Recording Academy created what was then called the Gramophone Awards to honor the best composers, musicians, songwriters, and producers.
That first year, the Grammys only had 28 categories, but by 2019, awards 84 categories were presented. These gold-plated gramophones aren’t just given out for new music in a variety of genres, either, but also for innovations in music, philanthropy, and education. Winners are determined by a panel of music experts and Recording Academy members who vote on entries for each award submitted by recording studios. While the process is a good one, it is, like any other, flawed. Over the years there have been some pretty major upsets and some winners who seem to have come from left field.
Stacker rounded up unforgettable moments from every year of the Grammys, using sources like the official Grammy Awards website, news sources, and pop culture sites. Memorable occurrences include jaw-dropping fashion, incredible performances, heartbreaking tributes, crazy interruptions, and truly remarkable records. Keep reading on to find out when the first live telecast took place and which songstress wore a dress that literally broke the internet.
You may also like: 30 stars who hit their stride late in life
1959: The inaugural Grammy Awards
On May 4, 1959, the first Grammy Awards were held in hotel ballrooms in Los Angeles and New York City. Running simultaneously, the black-tie events honored stars like Ella Fitzgerald, David Seville and the Chipmunks, and Domenico Modugno. Frank Sinatra was the most nominated artist of the night with six nominations in total, but he ended up going home with only one award for Best Album Cover on “Only the Lonely.”
[Pictured: Ella Fitzgerald, First Annual Grammy Awards winner of the Best Vocal Performance, Female and Best Jazz Performance, Individual awards.]
1959: The first Grammys television special
1959 saw not one but two Grammy Awards (the only time in history this has ever happened). The second awards ceremony, which took place in November of that year, was shown on television as a pre-recorded “NBC Sunday Showcase” hosted by Meredith Wilson, writer of the smash Broadway hit “The Music Man.” Frank Sinatra fared better this go-round, winning Album of the Year for “Come Dance with Me” and Best Male Vocal Performance for the album’s title track.
[Pictured: Second Annual Grammy Awards winner Duke Ellington for Best Performance By a Dance Band, Best Musical Composition First Recorded and Released in 1959, and Best Soundtrack Album.]
1961: A genius recognized
Ray Charles all but swept the 1961 Grammy Awards, taking home four awards in total. All four of the awards, including Best Male Vocal Performance Album, were for his now-iconic “The Genius of Ray Charles,” which was produced by none other than Quincy Jones, who now holds the record for having the second-most Grammys awarded of all time.
[Pictured: Ray Charles in one of his classic poses at the piano.]
1962: Judy at Carnegie Hall
Judy Garland took the stage in a 1961 performance at Carnegie Hall that has been called “perfection” and “the greatest night in show business history.” The performance marked a triumphant return for the star, whose personal life had been plagued with scandals and drama for years. A recording of the concert (“Judy at Carnegie Hall”) won four Grammys at the 1962 awards, including Album of the Year, which made Garland the first woman to ever win the prestigious award.
[Pictured: Judy Garland leans over the footlights to greet some of her enthusiastic fans during her concert at Carnegie Hall.]
1963: The first Lifetime Achievement Award
Grammy Awards host Frank Sinatra in 1963 honored Bing Crosby with the Recording Academy’s first-ever Lifetime Achievement Award. Giving voice to what everyone in the audience that night had to be thinking, Sinatra confessed “we all stole from him” before revealing that the vote to recognize the famous crooner had been unanimous. In turn, Crosby thanked the Academy, Thomas Edison, and “most of all...you who listen to records.”
[Pictured: Bing Crosby in September 1951.]
You may also like: 100 best movies of all time
1964: Barbra, Barbra, Barbra!
Now a fixture at the Grammy Awards, Barbra Streisand made her first appearance at the 1964 ceremony as a young 20-something. She took home two gramophones that evening, for Album of the Year and Best Female Vocal Performance. Today, the talented songstress has nearly a dozen gramophones lining her shelves, but these first two, for “The Barbra Streisand Album” surely hold a special place in her heart.
[Pictured: Promotional photo of Barbra Streisand in 1966.]
Beatlemania took over the Seventh Annual Grammy Awards, with the fab four taking home two trophies for Best New Artist and Best Performance by a Vocal Group. The Beatles performed for the awards as well, singing “I’m Happy Just to Dance with You” for the post-Grammys telecast, “The Best on Record.”
[Pictured: The Beatles wave to fans after arriving at Kennedy Airport in February 1964.]
1966: The Bob Dylan omission
The Grammys had certainly faced controversy before, but never as much as they did in 1966 when Bob Dylan and his album “Like a Rolling Stone” received nary a single nomination. In response to the slight, Variety ran an article titled “Razzberries for GRAMMYS” and Charles Champlin of the Los Angeles Times took the Academy to task for the oversight in his piece on the ceremony, remarking “The electric-haired poet-composer-performer...has to be counted one of the most influential as well as one of the biggest money-spinning talents to emerge big in 1965.”
[Pictured: American folk pop singer-songwriter, Bob Dylan in April 1965.]
1967: Elvis has entered the Grammys
The King of Rock ‘n’ Roll never won a single Grammy award for any of his hip-shaking hits. Instead, all three of his gramophones were awarded for his gospel music. The first of these awards, Best Sacred Performance, came in 1967 for his second gospel album “How Great Thou Art.”
1968: The Grammys’ 10th anniversary
In 1968, the Grammy Awards celebrated a decade of ceremonies. Ten years in, the Recording Academy, the ceremony itself, and the gold-plated gramophones had taken on a new luster, as the entertainment industry realized they were here to stay. Andy Williams, the host of that year’s “The Best on Record” show, summed up this new credibility best saying, “These are the Grammys. Herb Alpert uses them for earrings. Henry Mancini uses them for doorstops. The Beatles paid off their guru with four or five…This is the Oscar, the Emmy, the Tony of the recording industry.”
[Pictured: Drummer Ringo Starr of the Beatles congratulates EMI recording studio audio engineer Geoff Emerick (left) on his Grammy Award in 1968.]
You may also like: 30 celebrities you might not know are Canadian