Why the Grammys Don't Matter

Categories: Grammys

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About this time five years ago, I was driving around with the radio tuned to a classic rock station when whatever super-computer Clear Channel uses to program its stations decided it was time for "Heart of Gold." "That was Neil Young," the DJ bantered afterwards. "Congrats to him for winning his first ever Grammy last night."

"Seriously?," I thought. "It's 2009 and Neil Young just got his first Grammy? He didn't get anything for 'Harvest Moon' or 'Rockin' in the Free World' or 'Ohio?' Nothing for Harvest, one of the biggest albums of the '70s?" Clearly, AllMusic.com had to be consulted.

Conveniently, each artist in AllMusic's massive database has all their Billboard chart peaks and Grammy wins listed under a tab on their profile marked "awards." The DJ was correct; until Young's win that winter in a very minor category (Best Boxed or Special Limited Edition Package), the Grammys had never given anything--not even an award in some genre category for rock or folk--to one of the most prolific and interesting singer/songwriters ever, and someone who didn't exactly fly under the radar. I started typing in other names compulsively.

See also: The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Is Worthless

Young is not the only insanely important and commercially visible artist who went ignored for decades. The Rolling Stones didn't win a Grammy until 1995. Elvis Costello, Van Morrison, the Allman Brothers Band and Pink Floyd all also waited until the '90s. (Floyd and the Allmans both won in the same since-deleted category: Best Rock Instrumental Performance, nothing for either's seminal '70s work.)

David Bowie didn't win until 1985 (and his only Grammy to date is for a music video), Smokey Robinson not until 1988 and John Coltrane not until 1981. Documentaries about The Clash and Lou Reed, respectively, have won Grammys, but neither ever won for their music. Marvin Gaye and Kurt Cobain were both dead before they got a Grammy and John Lennon was deceased before getting one for his solo career. If you were to judge from his wins, Bob Dylan's first noteworthy song wasn't "Blowin' in the Wind" or "Like a Rolling Stone," but "Gotta Serve Somebody," for which he got his first Grammy, in 1980.

Then there is the staggering list of incredible artists who've never won: The Band, the Beach Boys, Bjork, the Byrds, Sam Cooke, Cream, Credence Clearwater Revival, the Doors, the Grateful Dead, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Led Zeppelin, Bob Marley, Curtis Mayfield, Notorious B.I.G., Queen, the Ramones, Diana Ross, Run DMC, Sly and the Family Stone, Patti Smith, Talking Heads, 2pac and The Who.

A caveat to these lists: Some of these artists did eventually get a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award, despite never getting an award for any of the work that stacked up to make them worthy of a Lifetime Achievement Award--which just proves the point; the Grammys rarely notice monumental music until years after it's obvious. This isn't just failing to catch the Stooges or Hüsker Dü when they were together or not getting Sigur Ros. This is a track record that misses three quarters of the people who matter when they matter.

See also: 20 Questions Brought Up By The Grammy Nominations


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11 comments
shermstephens
shermstephens

Great article. The Grammy's are full of bullshit by self-righteous folks who fight the good fight until they win. You know if your album was as good as the folks you beat out or not. Don't win (Macklemore) and say that Kendrick Lamar should have won. You had the perfect platform to say that but you chose not to. Everybody hates Kanye, but no one will say that Macklemore's performance last night straight copied Kanye's style and flow. Last but not least, Marvin Gaye was very much alive when he won the Grammy for Sexual Healing. You can youtube his winning speech.


http://smokingsection.uproxx.com/TSS/2012/02/video-marvin-gaye-rick-james-and-more-at-1983-grammys

Jane Kelly
Jane Kelly

"Only white people & Kanye West care about the Grammys" - Chozen

Mooderator
Mooderator

I don't recall anyone ever committing this to print but I thought the lameness of the Grammy's was as obvious as oxygen.  In fact I remember trying to find a particularly awful song in a record store that I knew nothing about and thinking, "hmmm, I bet it's one of these CDs with the Grammy stickers on it"  and sure enough the album was nominated for a Grammy (Keyshia Cole, Just Like You.  I Remember was the song-- a song so awful that I pity the air forced to render its frequencies).  Notice that there's a relative small number of film and television awards, but a bunch of different ones for music.  Why?  The Grammy's suck.

shadylady10311
shadylady10311

Nick: Finally someone with credibility writes about these award shows and tells the truth. The Grammy's have lost credibility when Chris Brown bought his two years ago for 50K. The guy he paid was fired but Chris was allowed to keep his trophy. This is an outrage. It makes me wonder whom else has bought there's. I do know for a fact that the whole concept is about labels patting each other on the back and behind the scenes deal making. One label tells another if you get your ppl to vote for my guy I'll vote for yours." Plus the criteria for getting a nomination has changed it's not supposed to be about sales only but it really is. If a label doesn't send a list with a certain artist's name on it = no possible nomination. This is how these bubblegum pop singers keep getting nominations every year. It's so predictable. Plus how is LL Cool J inducted in the Rock & Roll Hall of fame? Duh? Rap? I have a strong feeling that these labels buy inductions now. Thanks again Nick I guess the public doesn't care anymore. Keep writing these revealing and "gutsy" articles. RESPECT.

Joedee
Joedee

Great article. Love the inclusion of what was nominated in 75 too compared to what songs came out that year. There's a total disconnect between the academy and reality. You could say the same for Oscars too when you look at the people who never won best director like Kubrick, Hitchcock, Cronenberg, Lynch, etc. 

Jay Goldsworthy
Jay Goldsworthy

All artists claim they don't care about a Grammy until they get nominated for one.

Joseph Caligula Guzzi
Joseph Caligula Guzzi

Have fallout boy won or been nom, then def it's a FUKN scam sham, worst music in history of mankind

Timothy Nolan
Timothy Nolan

Homer: Oh, man, I never won anything. Lisa: That's not true, Dad, you won a Grammy. Homer: Yeah, but not anything important.

Bob Maguire
Bob Maguire

I've thought the Grammys have been irrelevant ever since Jethro Tull won one for best hard rock/metal group.

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