The 65th annual Grammy Awards take place this Sunday, Feb. 5th. Since its inception, only 11 Black performers have won album of the year, and many have accused the ceremony of racism for its lack of recognition towards Black artists.
Despite the controversy surrounding the awards, there are several Black artists that broke barriers at the Grammys and continue to inspire others to do the same.
During the first ever Grammy awards in 1959, Ella Fitzgerald became the first Black woman to win a Grammy, and one of the first women to ever win the award. Fitzgerald earned two awards that evening, Best Female Vocal Performance and Best Individual Jazz Performance. She shared the evening with Count Basie, who also won two awards that night.
It is no surprise that Michael Jackson has broken many records at the awards ceremony. In 1984, Jackson became the first artist to win eight awards in one night for his album “Thiller,” including Album of the Year. He is one of the eleven black artists who have ever won the award. Jackson was also the most nominated that year, amassing 12 nominations.
In 1974, Stevie Wonder became the first black artist to win Album of the Year for his 16th studio album, “Innervisions.” He later won the award again in both 1975 and 1977, a feat only shared with Taylor Swift, Frank Sinatra and Paul Simon. He remains the only artist to ever win with three consecutive albums and remains one of the highest awarded artists in history, with a total of 25 wins.
The first black woman to ever win Album of the Year was Natalie Cole in 1992 for her 12th studio album “Unforgettable…With Love”.
Quincy Jones is not only the most nominated musician ever with 80 nominations, but he has the most grammy wins of any black artist, and the second most grammy wins in history with 28. In 1991, he became one of the few black musicians to win Album of the Year for his album “Back on the Block.” also earning five other wins that evening alone.
Beyonce has a long history with the Grammys, being the most nominated woman ever with 88 nominations, tying with her husband Jay-Z. She has amassed 28 wins, her first three of which came from Destiny’s Child. During her first solo Grammy awards in 2004, she won five awards, including best contemporary R&B Album for “Dangerously in Love.” Beyonce also won six awards in one night during the 2010 awards, making her the first woman to cross that milestone.
In 1999, Lauryn Hill won Album of the Year for her debut studio album “The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill” and achieved many milestones as well. Hill became the first-ever hip-hop artist to win the award. She was also one of the first artists to win the award and Best New Artist on the same night. She was the first woman to win five awards in one evening, and the only female artist in Grammys history to win album of the year for an album on which she was the sole producer.
In 1990, Mariah Carey became the youngest artist to a nomination in each of the four General Field categories, Record, Album and Song of the Year and Best New Artist. She won for Best New Artist.
This year, several Black artists are nominated for awards, including Beyonce, Kendrick Lamar, Mary J. Blige, Lizzo, and Doja Cat. Beyonce leads the field with nine nominations, including Album of the Year and Record of the Year nods.
This piece was written by Makayla Maxwell for Nineteen Fifty-Six Magazine.