Why the Grammys Don't Matter

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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 supercomputer Clear Channel uses to program its stations decided it was time for "Heart of Gold." "That was Neil Young," the DJ bantered afterward. "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.

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.

Continue to page two for more.


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37 comments
Leonida Bold
Leonida Bold

That's reason why I don't watch Grammy !! It's all about favorite not talent ?????

Kelly O'Connor
Kelly O'Connor

Hard to believe. THOSE are some FANTASTIC groups! Wow.

Mark Carondelet Garlic Brown
Mark Carondelet Garlic Brown

Lack of coverage about the Monsanto shareholders protest I noticed ? Is this more important than a dozen arrests and the towing of more than a half of dozen vehicles ? And there are a lot more in that list of no wins but Curtis mayfield ? If it's pointless then why focus on it ? You could focus on something that has a point ... Like truth in labels for food perhaps ?

David J. McCutcheon
David J. McCutcheon

I thought RFT hated 99% of those artists and made linkbait articles about their hatred of them?

Mike Perry
Mike Perry

Led Zeppelin "proper"... Never won. Lighten up folks.

De Lusion Al
De Lusion Al

mistakes from r.f.t? noo!.. look how they butchered camp Zoe stories...smh

Kenneth Lee M
Kenneth Lee M

but Led Zeppelin did just win a grammy this year for Kashmir

Jason Mills
Jason Mills

Ummm "In their first official Grammy win, Led Zeppelin took the prize for Best Rock Album for Celebration Day, a live album full of 40-year-old songs recorded in 2007."

Byron Nichols
Byron Nichols

Because they are completely rigged to focus on agenda's rather than the making of legitimately good music.

De Lusion Al
De Lusion Al

a Grammy isnt the goal of a true musician..it's only the recognition of the mass hordes of sheep who are tricked into being told what good music is...deadhead over here. {~};}

Wil Grundon
Wil Grundon

Cuz they all sux lol! BIEBER 4-EVER!!

Jeff Rauscher
Jeff Rauscher

I was at first elated then disappointed. When Chicago was scheduled to play at the Grammys, I thought it would be something to listen for. I guess at some point, one must do what is required to ensure a decent payday. They did not sound that good to me, and Robin Thicke did not help IMHO. A band that never got it just rewards, and had to play second to Robin. I will never be sucked into that show again...

Bill Roth
Bill Roth

They don't care about us anymore ..... They care about money

Paul Stover
Paul Stover

I thought the satanic ritual was a bit much. I thought Katy Perry started out as a Christian music artist? She definitely switched sides, I guess that's what you call selling your soul.

Ellen Quertermous
Ellen Quertermous

That was pretty obvious from the first 10 minutes of the program.

Courtney Ringle
Courtney Ringle

while its fun to watch sometimes. and i enjoyed the Wedding.. I really never watch awards shows. Only the Golden Globes cause seriously, that shit's kinda funny.

Daniel Michel
Daniel Michel

It takes time to see what survives the test of time...

Tammy Pendino
Tammy Pendino

This was food for thought....I was just happy they recognized CHICAGO.

Eric Hall
Eric Hall

This can't be a New Times music post. It's not written by the royal "we."

Steve Mincer
Steve Mincer

the moment milli vanilli won a grammy ( even before the lip-sync revelation ) the award became a joke.

Eddie Gregs
Eddie Gregs

You probably don't want to know what's in your food, and the Grammys are a total joke

Steve Van Booven
Steve Van Booven

Didn't watch or read this but I will say that giving awards for art is pretty pointless and stupid. How can you judge or rate art? It's all just opinion

Terra Williams
Terra Williams

Are you covering the Monsanto Stockholder meeting today? We want to know what is in our food. Thanks!

Jeff Powell
Jeff Powell

An article I can support whole-heartedly.

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