Photo: Parlophone/Warner Bros. Records
Lifetime Achievement Award: Kraftwerk
A tribute to Germany's groundbreaking electronic/pop band
(In addition to the GRAMMY Awards, The Recording Academy presents Special Merit Awards recognizing contributions of significance to the recording field, including the Lifetime Achievement Award, Trustees Award and Technical GRAMMY Award. In the days leading up to the 56th GRAMMY Awards, GRAMMY.com will present the tributes to the 2014 Special Merit Awards recipients.)
For those listening to radio in the United States in 1975, it must have come as quite a shock. The country was still emerging from the era of granola and natural fibers, and music was still measured by its soul and authenticity. And along came this music that sounded as mechanized as a Ford assembly plant. It was vaguely rhythmic like a busy signal. It had a melody that never stepped out of order. For mainstream audiences, Teutonic pop was born that year in the form of Kraftwerk's "Autobahn," and music would never be the same.
Kraftwerk began devising their "robot pop" in Düsseldorf, Germany, in 1970. Kraftwerk founders Ralf Hütter and Florian Schneider met as classical music students at the Düsseldorf Conservatory, originally forming the group Organisation and releasing the album Tone Float in the UK in 1969. They disbanded the group and reformed as Kraftwerk (German for "power station"), inspired to craft music more influenced by psychedelic art rock than machinery. By 1973's Ralf And Florian, Kraftwerk were truly staring down the ghost in the machine. With their follow-up, 1974's Autobahn, Kraftwerk hit on a trancelike, pulsing electronic rhythm that would set the stage for the nearly countless acts that followed, from rock (the Cars, Eurythmics) to new wave (Devo, Thomas Dolby, Joy Division), pop (Giorgio Moroder), electronic/dance (Moby), and even industrial (Throbbing Gristle).
Though he was being influenced by a number of outside forces at the time, David Bowie's late '70s period in Berlin found him adopting Kraftwerk's electronic overtones and droning rhythms for his albums Low and Heroes, highly influential works in their own right, and reportedly making a direct nod to Schneider with the song "V-2 Schneider," featured on Heroes.
In a January 2013 article in The Telegraph, music critic Neil McCormick posed the question: "Kraftwerk: the most influential group in pop music history?" McCormick referenced the literally hundreds of Kraftwerk samples used by artists ranging from Afrika Bambaataa to Madonna, Jay Z and Coldplay. But in an interview for the piece, Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark's Andy McCluskey pointed out that Kraftwerk endured the peril of true genius: a lack of appreciation in their own time.
"When [Kraftwerk] started there was a lot of fear of technology," said McCluskey. "People said, 'Look at these robot guys making music on computers; this is wrong.' Well, it turned out that they were absolutely right, not just about music, but in their whole vision of the future man/machine synthesis. And it's not been scary, we have all embraced it and got on with our lives."
Photo Credits: Derek Blanks; Mel Elder, Jr.; Michael Ochs Archives; Stephanie Diani; Kim Virdi; TiVo; photo courtesy of SMPTE; Copyright Brian Leatart; Gittings; Steve McEwan; Henry Diltz; Kobayashi Family; Johnny Nunez/WireImage; Nabil Elderkin
The Recording Academy Announces 2024 Special Merit Award & Lifetime Achievement Award Honorees: N.W.A, Gladys Knight, Donna Summer, DJ Kool Herc & Many More
The 2024 Special Merit Awards honorees include Lifetime Achievement Award recipients Tammy Wynette, the Clark Sisters, and many others. The Special Merit Awards will return to the Wilshire Ebell Theater on Saturday, Feb.3, during GRAMMY Week 2024.
Ahead of the 2024 GRAMMYs, the Recording Academy has announced the 2024 Special Merit Awards honorees.
Laurie Anderson, the Clark Sisters, Gladys Knight, N.W.A, Donna Summer, and Tammy Wynette are the 2024 Recording Academy Lifetime Achievement Award honorees; Peter Asher, DJ Kool Herc and Joel Katz are the Trustees Award recipients; Tom Kobayashi and Tom Scott are the Technical GRAMMY Award honorees; and “Refugee,” written by K’naan, Steve McEwan, and Gerald Eaton (a.k.a. Jarvis Church), is being honored with the Best Song For Social Change Award.
The Recording Academy’s Special Merit Awards Ceremony celebrating the 2023 Special Merit Award recipients will return to the Wilshire Ebell Theatre in Los Angeles on Saturday, Feb. 3.
“The Academy is honored to pay tribute to this year’s Special Merit Award recipients — a remarkable group of creators and industry professionals whose impact resonates with generations worldwide,” said Harvey Mason jr., CEO of the Recording Academy. “Their contributions to music span genres, backgrounds and crafts, reflecting the rich diversity that fuels our creative community. We look forward to honoring these music industry trailblazers next month as part of our week-long celebration leading up to Music’s Biggest Night.”
Lifetime Achievement Award Honorees
This Special Merit Award is presented by vote of the Recording Academy’s National Trustees to performers who, during their lifetimes, have made creative contributions of outstanding artistic significance to the field of recording (through 1972, recipients included non-performers).
Laurie Anderson is a writer, director, composer, visual artist, musician, and vocalist who has created groundbreaking works that span the worlds of art, theater, experimental music, and technology. As a performer and musician, she has collaborated with many people including Brian Eno, Jean-Michel Jarre, William S. Burroughs, Peter Gabriel, Robert Wilson, Christian McBride, and Philip Glass. In 2002, Anderson was appointed the first artist-in-residence of NASA which culminated in her 2004 touring solo performance, The End of the Moon. She has been nominated for six GRAMMY Awards throughout her recording career and received a GRAMMY for the release Landfall in collaboration with the Kronos Quartet at the 61st GRAMMYs.
The Clark Sisters, an American gospel vocal group initially consisting of five sisters: Jacky, Denise, Elbernita, Dorinda, and Karen – have been taking the world by storm since the early 1980s. Credited for helping to bring gospel music to the mainstream, the Clark Sisters are considered pioneers of contemporary gospel. Their biggest crossover hits include: “Is My Living in Vain?,” “Hallelujah,” “He Gave Me Nothing to Lose,” “Endow Me,” their hit song “Jesus Is A Love Song,” “Pure Gold,” “Miracle,” and their largest, mainstream crossover gold-certified, “You Brought The Sunshine.” The Clark Sisters (Jacky, Elbernita, Dorinda, and Karen) have won three GRAMMYs (two awarded to the group, and one to Karen as a songwriter for “Blessed and Highly Favored”), and with 16 albums to their credit and millions in sales, they are the highest-selling female gospel group in history.
Gladys Knight is a seven-time GRAMMY Award winner who has enjoyed No. 1 hits in pop, gospel, R&B, and adult contemporary, and has triumphed in film, television and live performance. Knight has recorded more than 38 albums over the years including four solo albums. She appeared on ABC’s 14th season of “Dancing With The Stars” in 2012, and in 2019, she competed on the inaugural season of “The Masked Singer.” Knight has sung the National Anthem at several major sporting events, including at Super Bowl LIII in Atlanta in 2019, and at the 2021 NBA All-Star Game. She was a National Endowment for the Arts 2021 National Medal of Arts Recipient and received a Kennedy Center Honor for Lifetime Artistic Achievements in 2022.
N.W.A was a rap group from the Compton district in Los Angeles who are credited by many with inventing gangsta rap. The group, consisting of Eazy-E^, Dr. Dre, Ice Cube, DJ Yella, and MC-Ren, developed a new sound, which brought in many of the loud, extreme sonic innovations of Public Enemy while adopting a self-consciously violent and dangerous lyrical stance. In 1988, N.W.A released their album, Straight Outta Compton, a brutally intense record that became an underground hit without any support from radio or MTV. This negative attention worked in their favor as it brought the album to multiplatinum status. Although the group was short-lived, gangsta rap established itself as the most popular form of hip-hop during the mid-1990s.
Donna Summer^ rocketed to international superstardom with her groundbreaking merger of R&B, soul, pop, funk, rock, disco, and avant-garde electronica, catapulting underground dance music out of the clubs of Europe and bringing it to the world. Summer holds the record with three consecutive double albums to hit No. 1 on the Billboard charts (the only solo artist to ever accomplish this), and first female artist to have four No. 1 singles in a 12-month period on Billboard’s Hot 100 chart. A five-time GRAMMY winner and 18-time GRAMMY nominee, Summer was the first artist to win the GRAMMY for Best Rock Vocal Performance, Female (1979, “Hot Stuff”) as well as the first-ever recipient of the new GRAMMY Category for Best Dance Recording (1997, “Carry On”). Summer was the first female artist to win GRAMMY Awards in four different genres: dance, gospel, rock, and R&B.
Tammy Wynette^ first hit the musical scene in 1966 with “Apartment #9” after moving to Nashville and teaming up with record producer Billy Sherrill. Together, the duo wrote songs that reflected the yearnings and the things Wynette felt were important in her life. In 1968, Wynette released “Stand By Your Man,” which sold more than five million singles and became the largest-selling single ever recorded by a female artist. By 1970, she racked up five No. 1 country hits, was named the Country Music Association’s Female Vocalist of the Year three times, and won two GRAMMYs. Wynette was the first female country music singer to sell over one million albums and has sold more than 30 million records grossing more than $100 million, earning her the title “The First Lady of Country Music.”
Trustees Award Honorees
This Special Merit Award is presented by vote of the Recording Academy’s National Trustees to individuals who, during their careers in music, have made significant contributions, other than performance, to the field of recording (through 1983, recipients included performers).
Peter Asher’s career began in 1964 as one-half of Peter & Gordon, whose “A World Without Love” topped the charts worldwide. Nine more Top 20 hits followed before Asher became head of A&R for the Beatles’ Apple Records in 1968, and discovered, produced and managed James Taylor; later adding Linda Ronstadt, Neil Diamond, 10,000 Maniacs, Cher, Diana Ross, Kenny Loggins, Bonnie Raitt, Robin Williams, Stevie Nicks, Lyle Lovett, Morrissey, Steve Martin & Edie Brickell, Ed Sheeran, and more to his roster. Asher won the GRAMMY for Producer Of The Year in both 1977 and 1989. He hosts a hit radio show “From Me To You” on Sirius XM and is much in demand not only in the studio but as a performer, speaker and author.
The legendary Rock & Roll Hall of Fame inductee DJ Kool Herc is consistently credited as the founder of hip-hop. His mastery at the turntables is known worldwide, as are his positive contributions to the evolution of hip-hop culture. Herc’s popularity rose by playing long sets of assorted rhythm breaks strung together. Unlike any of his DJ counterparts, Herc is not a rapid rapper who keeps your head spinning with a patter, but he is a musical innovator to the turntables. He first introduced using two turntables to make the beats last longer, creating the illusion of one long break for the B-Boys to show off their skills. Herc has received a great deal of recognition during his lifetime, including his induction into the 2023 Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, and recognition from the New York Landmarks Conservancy as a 2023 Living Landmark.
Joel Katz has played a profound role in shaping the entertainment industry through his work in facilitating entertainment-related corporate acquisitions and mergers and consulting multi-national and multi-media entertainment companies. Katz was ranked Billboard magazine’s No. 1 entertainment attorney in its “Power 100” list of most powerful executives in the music business and has been called “the dealmaker who thinks outside the box.” At Kennesaw State University, Katz endowed and began a commercial music program – one of the largest music education programs in America with over 500 students. He has authored and co-authored many articles and commentary on topics concerning entertainment law. In honor of his work, the University of Tennessee College of Law dedicated its library in his name, the Joel A. Katz Law Library.
Read More: GRAMMY Trustees Awards | The Complete List
Technical GRAMMY Award Honorees
This Special Merit Award is presented by vote of the Producers & Engineers Wing Advisory Council and Chapter Committees and ratification by the Recording Academy's National Trustees to individuals and/or companies/organizations/institutions who have made contributions of outstanding technical significance to the recording field.
Tom Kobayashi^ and Tom Scott met at Lucasfilm’s Skywalker Sound in 1985, when the duo joined the company and completed the building of the Skywalker post-production facilities in both Northern and Southern California. Together, Kobayashi and Scott launched the Entertainment Digital Network, also known as “EDnet,” which employed fiber-optic networks to send high-quality video and audio great distances. Its then-revolutionary technology enabled the industry to link together talent, executives and production facilities at great cost savings. For 25 years, that company connected hundreds of recording studios worldwide in the days before the Internet could handle high-quality audio. EDnet became a part of Onstream Media, and over the decades, tens of thousands of long-distance collaboration sessions were facilitated for the music, advertising, TV, and cinema businesses.
Best Song For Social Change Award Honorees
This Special Merit Award honors songwriter(s) of message-driven music that speaks to the social issues of our time and has demonstrated and inspired positive global impact. The finalists and recipient(s) are selected annually by a Blue-Ribbon Committee composed of a community of peers dedicated to artistic expression, the craft of songwriting and the power of songs to effect social change. See past recipients here.
In June 2023, singer-songwriter K’naan released the inspiring single and accompanying video “Refugee,” co-written by GRAMMY Award-winning songwriter Steve McEwan and GRAMMY-nominated producer Gerald Eaton (also known by his stage name, Jarvis Church). “Refugee” stands out as a distinctive musical endeavor, skillfully interweaving personal and political narratives, and serving as a tribute to refugees around the world. With the single, K’naan drew inspiration from his personal experiences, aiming to redefine the traditional perception of the term “refugee” into a symbol of resilience and strength. The song was written with the hopes of encouraging individuals to embrace the word “refugee” proudly and to give those made homeless by conflict a song that felt like home.
Read More: GRAMMY Technical Awards | The Complete List
^Denotes posthumous honoree.
Photo: Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic
GRAMMY Rewind: Kendrick Lamar Honors Hip-Hop's Greats While Accepting Best Rap Album GRAMMY For 'To Pimp a Butterfly' In 2016
Upon winning the GRAMMY for Best Rap Album for 'To Pimp a Butterfly,' Kendrick Lamar thanked those that helped him get to the stage, and the artists that blazed the trail for him.
Updated Friday Oct. 13, 2023 to include info about Kendrick Lamar's most recent GRAMMY wins, as of the 2023 GRAMMYs.
A GRAMMY veteran these days, Kendrick Lamar has won 17 GRAMMYs and has received 47 GRAMMY nominations overall. A sizable chunk of his trophies came from the 58th annual GRAMMY Awards in 2016, when he walked away with five — including his first-ever win in the Best Rap Album category.
This installment of GRAMMY Rewind turns back the clock to 2016, revisiting Lamar's acceptance speech upon winning Best Rap Album for To Pimp A Butterfly. Though Lamar was alone on stage, he made it clear that he wouldn't be at the top of his game without the help of a broad support system.
"First off, all glory to God, that's for sure," he said, kicking off a speech that went on to thank his parents, who he described as his "those who gave me the responsibility of knowing, of accepting the good with the bad."
He also extended his love and gratitude to his fiancée, Whitney Alford, and shouted out his Top Dawg Entertainment labelmates. Lamar specifically praised Top Dawg's CEO, Anthony Tiffith, for finding and developing raw talent that might not otherwise get the chance to pursue their musical dreams.
"We'd never forget that: Taking these kids out of the projects, out of Compton, and putting them right here on this stage, to be the best that they can be," Lamar — a Compton native himself — continued, leading into an impassioned conclusion spotlighting some of the cornerstone rap albums that came before To Pimp a Butterfly.
To Pimp a Butterfly singles "Alright" and "These Walls" earned Lamar three more GRAMMYs that night, the former winning Best Rap Performance and Best Rap Song and the latter taking Best Rap/Sung Collaboration (the song features Bilal, Anna Wise and Thundercat). He also won Best Music Video for the remix of Taylor Swift's "Bad Blood."
Watch Lamar's full acceptance speech above, and check back at GRAMMY.com every Friday for more GRAMMY Rewind episodes.
Photo: Chris Cain; Jeremy Danger
Ann Wilson & Nancy Wilson Of Heart Receive The Recording Academy Lifetime Achievement Award | 2023 GRAMMYs
This Lifetime Achievement Award honors performers who have made creative contributions of outstanding artistic significance to the field of recording.
Ann and Nancy Wilson of Heart are verging on the half-century mark of their groundbreaking group. Through five decades of changing musical eras, their impact has not waned. From the ’70s, when Ann set the blueprint for rock frontwomen and Nancy established her oft-imitated and never-quite-duplicated guitar playing style, through the ’80s when the band dominated MTV, to 2019 when the sisters spearheaded the all-female Love Alive tour, the Wilsons broke barriers as musicians, singers and songwriters.
The two started early in music. Nancy showed marked virtuosity on the acoustic guitar at 9 years old. Ann, four years her senior, was already singing in the style of blues greats — albeit filtered through rock and roll.
Their 1976 debut album, Dreamboat Annie, spawned the hits "Magic Man" and "Crazy on You,"which remain staples on classic rock radio. "Barracuda" from 1977’s Little Queen followed suit. Drawing from folk, hard rock and the daring to not be pigeonholed by their gender, the Wilsons were among the few women granted authority on a rock stage dominated by men.
By the time the sisters glammed up and became MTV staples and chart-toppers in the mid-‘80s, they were proven songwriters and already a multiplatinum-selling band. It was the GRAMMY-nominated Billboard No.1 album Heart that catapulted Ann and Nancy into the musical stratosphere. The album’s hits were ubiquitous, all cracking the Top 10. Its flagship song, "These Dreams"— sung by Nancy — hit No.1 on the Billboard Hot 100. A year later, the band snagged that position again with "Alone" from their album Bad Animals, and with it, two more GRAMMY nominations. They continued their GRAMMY nomination streak with 1990’s Brigade.
Over the course of 16 studio albums, the pair have sold 35 million records and had seven Top 10 albums. Ann and Nancy also charted on the New York Times bestsellers list with their 2013 memoir, Kicking & Dreaming: A Story of Heart, Soul and Rock & Roll.
Ann and Nancy individually extended their musical reach to the silver screen. Ann through her iconic voice on the unforgettable songs "Almost Paradise," "Best Man in the World" and "Surrender to Me" on stellar soundtracks from the timeless films Footloose, The Golden Child and Tequila Sunrise, respectively. Nancy through her essential, award-winning scores for the box office smashes Say Anything, Almost Famous and Vanilla Sky.
Their abilities have continuously attracted accomplished musicians of all genders who speak with reverence about their skills and consider performing alongside as a distinct privilege. Their songs have been sampled by the likes of Eminem, Lil Wayne, G-Eazy, and Nas.
No matter how much they accomplish, the need to create is ever present with the Wilson sisters. In the last couple of years, they have both released solo albums. Nancy with her first album of original material in 2021 with You and Me, and Ann in 2022 with her third solo album, Fierce Bliss.
Honors and accolades abound for Ann and Nancy: the ASCAP Pop Music Awards Founders Award, a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. But they remain active. As Nancy said in her Rock Hall acceptance speech: "We’re not finished rocking just yet."
Photo: Gutchie Kojima/Shinko Music/Getty Images
Nirvana Receives The Lifetime Achievement Award At The 2023 GRAMMYs
This Lifetime Achievement Award honors performers who have made creative contributions of outstanding artistic significance to the field of recording.
Kurt Cobain, Dave Grohl and Krist Novoselic of Nirvana didn’t invent grunge, but they mainstreamed it in the early ’90s, arguably accidentally and maybe even regretfully. In the process, they almost overnight changed the tenor of rock from exuberant hair metal to a heavier, socially disaffected sound. They became the defining rock band of their era, but also the face of the many troubled musicians who emerged from the Northwest underground scene.
As a punk-rooted, pop-obsessed indie rock band that worshipped at the altar of metal progenitors Black Sabbath, Nirvana created a unique sound accessible to multiple audiences while setting up an untenable paradox with which the band would ultimately have to wrestle. Their pop melodies played against guitar noise and boldly dynamic verse/chorus constructions led to unlikely chart and sales success. But that success fed their own backlash against the trappings of pop stardom, influenced in no small part by lead singer and songwriter Kurt Cobain’s drug addictions and mental illness. After Cobain’s suicide in 1994, Nirvana’s story would become tabloid fodder, but their legacy would prove out as instrumental in turning alternative rock into a ’90s phenomenon.
Cobain and bassist Krist Novoselic met while attending high school in the Seattle area. They kicked around for a few years under various band names and with a number of drummers. In 1989, their debut album Bleach hinted at how the noise, menace, melodies, and songcraft would distill into their fully formed sound just two years later. Drummer Dave Grohl would join permanently in 1990, and the band would sign with major label DGC for Nevermind, the breakthrough album that would set them on the course to unlikely superstardom. "Smells Like Teen Spirit" would become an MTV staple, ultimately affirmed in the pop-culture zeitgeist by a Weird Al Yankovic parody.
Their response to sudden fame was 1993’s follow-up In Utero, sometimes referred to as Cobain’s "suicide note," a deliberately difficult and dour record whose attitude might have been best summed up by "Radio Friendly Unit Shifter," on which Cobain sings “Use just once and destroy/ Invasion of our privacy." Still, it was a stunning work of willful personal dissonance.
In April of 1994, Cobain was found dead from a self-inflicted gunshot wound. "MTV Unplugged" In New York would be released posthumously, winning a GRAMMY for Best Alternative Music Performance and clearly showing a band that was, like all great bands, growing and redefining its sound.
Cobain’s suicide followed the overdose death of Mother Love Bone’s Andrew Wood and would be followed years later by fellow Seattle-scene rockers Layne Staley of Alice In Chains and Soundgarden’s Chris Cornell, sadly, seemingly preordained finales for musicians who sang authentically about such real-world trauma as social alienation, abuse, isolation, and addiction. Seldom has a genre of music so deeply reflected the raw emotions and turmoil of the artists.
In 2005, the Library of Congress added Nevermind to its National Recording Registry of culturally important recordings. Pitchfork called Nirvana "the greatest and most legendary band of the 1990s." The band were first-ballot inductees into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2014.
If the mark of greatness is that your art changes the medium, then Nirvana’s greatness is unassailable.