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Rosanne Cash, Patty Griffin, Phoebe Bridgers, More Cover Tom Waits: "There Is No Other Songwriter In The World Like Tom Waits"

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Rosanne Cash, Patty Griffin, Phoebe Bridgers, More Cover Tom Waits: "There Is No Other Songwriter In The World Like Tom Waits"

An all-female roster of artists, including Aimee Mann, Corinne Bailey Rae and others, honors the legendary singer on a new tribute album, ‘Come On Up To The House: Women Sing Waits’

GRAMMYs/Nov 23, 2019 - 05:09 am

There's always been an undercurrent of beauty propelling the songs of Tom Waits across his five-decade career in music.

Oftentimes, you gotta scour through the grime of that avant-garde kitchen sink from which the brilliant rhythmic clatter of the music accompanying his lyrics rises. Then there's Waits’ Howlin'-Wolf-gone-Kurt-Weill wail at full tilt, which has been a playground of sonic mud in which everyone from Keith Richards to Les Claypool to the late, great Larry Taylor of Canned Heat got their hands dirty. But even when Waits goes the opposite and lays on the orchestral accompaniment to the lonely barroom balladry of his Asylum Records years throughout the '70s and mid-'80s, it arguably takes a true blue fan of the man to listen beyond the scouring scowl of his distinctively gruff vocal delivery.

This is precisely what makes Come On Up To The House: Women Sing Waits such a revelation for anyone who has welcomed Waits into their home. Produced by Warren Zanes, the Tom Petty biographer and former guitarist for Boston garage rockers, The Del Fuegos, the 12-track collection—out today, Nov. 22, on Dualtone Music Group—brings together a breathtaking cross-generational collective of artists to reinterpret their favorite Waits tune.

The album, which comes just weeks ahead of Waits’ 70th birthday on Dec. 7, enlists an all-female roster of artists, including Rosanne Cash, Patty Griffin, Aimee Mann, Phoebe Bridgers and others, to reimagine tracks from the legendary singer's expansive canon. (Nearly half of the tracks are from 1999's Mule Variations.) The women-led cast makes for a wonderfully distinctive album, as their renditions replace Waits' growl with the grace of the female voice.

"With Waits turning 70 this year, I felt it was time to truly salute him as a major American artist," the album’s producer, Warren Zanes, tells the Recording Academy. "Sometimes I feel like we don't tip our hats to him quite the way we should. Why not have the party while he can still attend? And we don’t want to imagine, looking back over our lives, not having these songs. They made a difference, and lets say ‘thank you’ and lets do it musically."

The Recording Academy spoke with several of the artists featured on Come On Up To The House: Women Sing Waits to discuss their perspectives on the project and their connection to Waits' music.

Joseph, "Come on Up to the House"

Natalie Closner-Schepman (of Joseph): What I love about Tom Waits was his snarly, jagged-edged voice that made me trust him because it gave me the impression he doesn't care about what doesn't matter. It's not precious or perfected. It made me lean in for some ancient, grandfatherly wisdom, and I got some in-lines like, "There's no prayer like desire," or, "The dice is laughing at the man that he throwed."

The ultimate truths Tom is serving are genderless. To me, they feel timeless and human. That said, they're presented in colors and textures that can be gruff, but only in the way that your blue-collar grandad is a little gruff. I imagine a tobacco-and-clove-smelling, coverall-wearing guy with rough white whiskers and leathery skin telling us all about it on a porch at the end of the day.

That's the kind of work-worn tenderness I feel, and that's the scene I imagine when he tells us to "come on up to the house." What is comforting about that scene is comforting coming from a maternal voice as well. That's what's exciting to me about hearing these songs through a woman's voice: You got your pat on the back, and now here is a set of arms to wrap you up. My sisters and I are young, but when we sang the song, we tried to channel that ancient, sorrow-enduring, no-bullshit mother wisdom as we did our best to deliver a deep, spiritual invitation to feel seen and held. 

Aimee Mann, "Hold On"

Warren Zanes (album producer): [Aimee and I] knew one another from way back on the Boston scene. Before Til' Tuesday, she played in a band called The Young Snakes, and they toured with The Del Fuegos. I knew I wanted her on this because I know it's not just me who is affected by her voice in a particular way. She's got an emotional depth and an ability to go into film auteur kinds of emotions more than singer/songwriter emotions. And I thought that made her a perfect fit, especially to do "Hold On."

Phoebe Bridgers, "Georgia Lee"

Phoebe Bridgers: My dad played the more atonal, evil Tom Waits songs at a deafening volume to piss off my mom, so it's incredible that I can listen to it at all. Then, I downloaded every record onto my iPod at some point when I was a teen, and I couldn't listen to anything else for years. I would sleep with my headphones on and get nightmares about [his 1999 song] "What's He Building?" 

My grandparents are from the Bay Area, close to Petaluma, and I remember the Polly Klaas kidnap and murder story. It was horrifying. This song is about the [less-known] murder of a black 12-year-old-girl named Georgia Lee Moses. When her body was discovered, no one even knew she'd been missing. 

Shelby Lynne & Allison Moorer, "Ol' 55"

Allison Moorer: An artist like Tom Waits has such a deep body of work and is also completely unique. So all I can tell you is that my sister and I were honored to participate [on this album]. We picked the song that we thought we could bring something special to with our way of singing together and our harmonies. I think "Ol' 55" is an incredible love song. It's a song about a car that's not about a car. But then again, most songs about cars aren’t really about the car. [Laughs.] The reason why I listen to Tom Waits is because the songs are, at bottom, deeply romantic—in the tragedy, in the longing, in the depth, in the looking for truth in an everyday experience.

Angie McMahon, "Take It With Me"

Angie McMahon: In regards to getting into him, it was maybe when me and my dad were comparing the Tom Waits version and the Bruce Springsteen version of the song "Jersey Girl," or it was maybe when a pirate sang "Little Drop of Poison" in the Shrek 2 film. Regardless, I chose "Take It With Me" because it's my number one Tom Waits song and is on my list of favorite songs ever recorded. I didn't think I would cover it initially because I didn’t want to ruin it for myself, but the melody evokes so much that I didn’t really have to do anything. I think that he's one of the pillars of inspiration and storytelling standards for so many songwriters.

Corinne Bailey-Rae, "Jersey Girl"

Corinne Bailey-Rae: It's so hard to say exactly what I love about "Jersey Girl." There's a poignancy to it, something charming about the modest promise by the narrator to take his girl "on all the rides." I love how the song evokes a carnival and speaks about the early days of love when you feel time spent with anyone else is wasted and you can't wait to see your baby. Waits is a masterful songwriter, and I found myself in tears doing the takes as the lines unfolded their secret meanings to me.

Patty Griffin, "Ruby's Arms"

Patty Griffin: I started singing "Ruby's Arms" at my shows years ago, and then I didn't do it for a long time. So when it came up to do this album, I decided to go for that one again. The reason I was drawn to it in the first place was that it's about poor people, for one thing. That's a very powerful subject for me, because those are my people who I grew up with. It's really, truly compassionate without being super sentimental, though it does make me think of people in my own family and makes me think of all of the people you know that are in your life who just can't settle into civilization. [Laughs.] It’s a very non-Hollywood story.

The quality of Tom's work is so dense that you can go back and find something else to love that you hadn’t heard before over a period of nearly 50 years. That's what's so cool about him. Everybody loves him. [Laughs.] We're all just very, very lucky to be alive with all these great gifts he's given us over the years.

Rosanne Cash, "Time"

Rosanne Cash: What an honor to sing a song like "Time." Many years ago, I recorded it just for myself, for the pleasure of singing those words. Maybe I seeded the notion in the deepest part of the creative ether, the place from where these songs travel through Tom. For whatever reason and from whatever source, I'm just thrilled to be a part of this album. There is no other songwriter in the world, past or future, like Tom Waits.

Kat Edmonson, "You Can Never Hold Back Spring"

Kat Edmonson: I first discovered Tom Waits when I was 24. I felt late to the game because I'd been hearing about him for years. I remember being in a bar one night and two guys were having a competition to see who could recite the most Waits lyrics. It was then that I began to understand how prolific of an artist he was, and I soon went exploring on my own. I chose "You Can Never Hold Back Spring” because it's my favorite song of Waits. It's pure and hopeful, and I feel like its message is a part of me. I'm inclined to sing about hope. Tom Waits is very good at breaking your heart, not only through his writing, but through his delivery.

Iris Dement, "House Where Nobody Lives"

Zanes (album producer): It was just by pure chance that Brad Jones had worked with Iris Dement on this song we got to include here. It actually got the whole ball rolling on the project. I had made four solo records after the Del Fuegos, and Brad had a hand in all of them. He is somebody I have worked with a lot through the years.

Courtney Marie Andrews, "Downtown Train"

Courtney Marie Andrews: "Downtown Train" is a perfectly written song about longing. Waits paints a beautiful image of someone who is just slightly out of reach, and he always has a brilliant way of writing poetic pop songs, which is no easy task. His language makes me want to see someone I long for on a downtown train. That's why it's easy to sing Tom Waits songs, because you can easily imagine yourself as one of his characters.

The Wild Reeds, "Tom Traubert's Blues"

Sharon Silva (of The Wild Reeds): Phoebe Bridgers' [version of] "Georgia Lee" on [this album] is so amazing. The track listing for this whole album is incredible. At first, I was intimidated to see we were the last song, because I always put a lot of stock into whatever the album closer is when I listen to records. But I was like, "Wow, it worked!" It worked lyrically, and it worked as a bookend to the opening song that Joseph does.

We were in between doing "Tom Traubert’s Blues" and "Downtown Train," but we didn’t know who had dibs on what yet. Between the three girls, we are constantly ping-ponging ideas back and forth for a while. But we [chose] "TomTraubert’s Blues" because of the chorus and the way it feels super empathetic and really nostalgic.

For our version, we sped it up quite a bit because we wanted to change the rhythm of it and thought it would sound best for heavy harmony that way. I personally connected with this song on a very deep level. It felt really real and really dark in how it just reaches out and touches you when you feel like you’re at your lowest point.

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A Tribute In Black To Johnny Cash

A star-studded roster of GRAMMY-winning talent celebrates the music and 80th birthday of Johnny Cash in Austin, Texas

GRAMMYs/Dec 3, 2014 - 05:06 am

Though Johnny Cash passed away in 2003, he's having a very good year in 2012. The latest in a series of events honoring the man in black — an 80th-birthday tribute titled We Walk The Line: A Celebration Of The Music Of Johnny Cash — drew a slew of GRAMMY-winning performers to Austin, Texas, for a lively Friday-night show on April 20 at Austin City Limits Live at the Moody Theater.

Top billing went to Cash's surviving Highwaymen brethren, GRAMMY winners Willie Nelson and Kris Kristofferson, who teamed with Shooter Jennings (son of late GRAMMY-winning Highwayman Waylon Jennings) and Jamey Johnson in a reunion of sorts on the song "Highwayman." Under a large banner bearing an image of Cash strumming a guitar, flanked by two silhouettes, Nelson also teamed with GRAMMY winner Sheryl Crow on "If I Were A Carpenter."

Crow sounded almost as if she were addressing Cash when she joked to Nelson, "I would definitely have your baby — if I could. If I didn't have two others of my own. And if you weren't married. And if I wasn't friends with your wife." 

Audience members cheered lustily in approval, as they did throughout most of the show, a taped-for-DVD benefit for the childhood muscular dystrophy foundation Charley's Fund. Just hours earlier, many of them had watched as Nelson helped unveil his new statue in front of the theater, which sits on a street also named after him.

The event was produced by Keith Wortman with GRAMMY-winning producer Don Was serving as musical director. Was recruited Buddy Miller, Greg Leisz, Kenny Aronoff, and new Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee Ian McLagan of the Faces as the house band. The handpicked all-star roster of performers ranged from Iron & Wine's Sam Beam, Brandi Carlile, the Carolina Chocolate Drops, Andy Grammer, Amy Lee of Evanescence, and Pat Monahan of Train to Ronnie Dunn, Shelby Lynne, Old 97's lead singer Rhett Miller, Lucinda Williams, and even Austin-based actor Matthew McConaughey, who, in addition to emceeing, sang "The Man Comes Around."

"We wanted a real broad, diverse group of artists," Wortman said backstage. "With Cash, you're as likely to find his music in a punk rock music fan, a heavy metal fan and a Nashville music fan, so he's not just a country music guy." 

GRAMMY winner Monahan, who sang Kristofferson's "Help Me Make It Through The Night," commented before the show, "I think of Johnny Cash as a style, as you would think of clothing, or music or whatever. He was his own thing. No can can really describe Johnny Cash entirely. 

"And no one could deliver a song quite like him," continued Monahan. "He sang hundreds of other songwriters' songs and he made those songwriters important because of the way he delivered what they were saying. There's not much that I don't respect about him, and I told his son [John Carter Cash] earlier that I'm almost more inspired by the love for his family than his music."

Lynne, who won the Best New Artist GRAMMY in 2000, sang "Why Me Lord," another song penned by Kristofferson, and delivered a spirited duet with Monahan on "It Ain't Me Babe," said Cash has influenced "all of us."

"We appreciate the majestic rebellion that Johnny gave us all in the music business. And he's also one of the great American icons of all time," she added.

Among the acts who earned the loudest applause in a night full of high-volume appreciation was the GRAMMY-winning Carolina Chocolate Drops, the bluegrass quartet re-exposing the genre's African-American roots. Their rendition of "Jackson" was among many highlights. Earlier, co-founder Dom Flemons revealed the personal inspiration of Cash's catalog.

"Johnny Cash's music has had an impact on me as a rock and roll singer, a country singer, as a folk music performer and great interpreter of song. I just love everything that he's done," said Flemons.

Bandmate Hubby Jenkins added, "Johnny Cash was really great about putting emotional investment into every song that he sang."

Co-founder Rhiannon Giddens said Cash’s core was his voice and his subject matter, and no matter how much production was added, it never diluted his message. 

Miller, who named his band after "Wreck Of The Old '97," a song popularized by Cash, said their intent was to sound like "Johnny Cash meets the Clash." He also recalled always picking "Ring Of Fire," a classic inducted into the GRAMMY Hall Of Fame in 1999, on the tabletop jukebox during childhood visits to a Dallas diner. 

"I didn't know what it was about, but I knew that the guy who was singing it was singing it with everything he had," said Miller, dressed in black in homage to "one of my all-time heroes." "And there was so much heart behind it, and so much conviction. And nobody could sell a song like Johnny Cash. He meant every word he said, and if he didn't mean it, he made it sound like he meant it."

(Austin-based journalist Lynne Margolis currently contributes to American Songwriter, NPR's Song of the Day and newspapers nationwide, as well as several regional magazines and NPR-affiliate KUT-FM's "Texas Music Matters." A contributing editor to The Ties That Bind: Bruce Springsteen from A To E To Z, she has also previously written for Rollingstone.com and Paste magazine.)

Shelby Lynne Gives Thanks
Shelby Lynne

Photo: Mark Sullivan/WireImage.com

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Shelby Lynne Gives Thanks

GRAMMY-winning singer/songwriter details her forthcoming EP, Thanks

GRAMMYs/Dec 3, 2014 - 05:06 am

Since taking home Best New Artist honors at the 43rd Annual GRAMMY Awards in 2001, Southern singer/songwriter (and older sister of alt-country artist Allison Moorer) Shelby Lynne has been prolific yet unpredictable. After releasing a pair of self-produced albums in 2003 and 2005 — Identity Crisis and Suit Yourself, respectively — she portrayed Johnny Cash's mother Carrie in the 2005 biopic Walk The Line.

Three years later, the Alabama native paid tribute to Dusty Springfield with 2008's acclaimed Just A Little Lovin': Inspired By Dusty Springfield. And since 2010 she has added the role of indie label head to her résumé with the launch of Everso Records. To date, she has released four albums on Everso: 2010's Tears, Lies And Alibis and Merry Christmas, the latter marking her first-ever holiday collection; 2011's Revelation Road; and 2012's Revelation Road Deluxe Edition, a boxed set that includes a live album, a live DVD and a documentary on the making of Revelation Road.

On Dec. 10 Everso and Lynne will release Thanks, a five-song EP of original gospel songs. In an exclusive interview with GRAMMY.com, Lynne discussed what prompted her to record a spiritual album, what it's like running her own record label, and "doing her duty."

This is your first foray into gospel music. What prompted it?
It's fun to write songs with Bible references because they say the Bible's poetic. The music's just gospel music. It kind of comes natural. It's just five tunes where I'm doing what comes natural. … Sam Cooke, Otis Redding and James Brown — all those guys that were our soul pioneers and taught us why we love Muscle Shoals and Memphis — they came out of the church. I mean, people still go back and listen to Wilson Pickett, who was making music 40, 50 years ago. And you know what? Forty years from now people are still going to go back and listen to Wilson Pickett. They're what made us listen, and they still move us. And they came out of the church, the gospel tradition.

You're not known as a gospel artist. Did you also come out of the church, growing up in Alabama?
You don't have to go to church to sing gospel music. There's something about the blues and soul and gospel that make them kind of double first cousins or something. They're all in there together on this EP. The only explanation I have is that I made this music because it moved me.

You've called the album Thanks, and the last track is also titled "Thanks." Are you at a point in your life or career where you're particularly grateful? Is there something personal happening that you're feeling thankful about?
I've always been grateful and thankful. And I'm very grateful in my personal life right now, but that has nothing to do with the music. What happens is, everything you're feeling in your life comes out in your art. 

Is it possible you'll reach a new audience with this music, an audience that's more tuned in to gospel music? Is that something you're hoping for or expecting?
I don't have expectations for my music. I just let it find its way. You know, if you expect something you're probably setting yourself up for not getting it. So I just kind of try to be free and make music that moves me, that I think is beautiful. Because if I'm moved, most likely you're going to be moved, too. I try not to worry about record sales … that's not why I make records, and it's not why I write songs. I never cared about sales or charts. My music is for a few people, to make a few people feel good. If those few people get something out of it then you know what? I feel like I've done my duty.

Do you think it will lead you in a new direction, where you want to write and record more gospel music?
I guess I just want everyone to dig it. And what I'm saying is, I made it for the people who have stuck with me for 27 years. I'm always happy about putting new music out, and I'm always hoping people will dig it. What I don't like is having to explain it to people. … I'm always hoping people can dive in and find their own explanation without me doing it for them. I hope when you hear the song you go, "That's my world. I hear my world in that song."

What's it like running your own record label?
There's nothing easy about it. It's hard as hell. But it's just what I'm doing right now. Nobody's buying records anymore. And you have to listen to what the world is saying. If nobody's buying records anymore, you have to figure something else out.

Are you signing any new artists to Everso?
I'm not signing anyone right now because there's no money. That's the honest answer. You can't sign a bunch of acts if you don't have anything to put them out with. Right now I'm trying to establish myself, get myself in a position where I have a lot of records. I'm proud of what I'm building. And I'm making a living as an independent.

Do you hope to eventually sign other artists?
I can't predict or plan anything. Hopefully I just appreciate every hour. … It's pretty simple. You put out what your heart tells you. I'm led by my heart. And if my heart's feeling good, then I know I'm doing something right. 

(Tammy La Gorce is a freelance writer whose work appears regularly in The New York Times.)

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Dave Koz, MC Lyte host 2012 GRAMMY Pre-Telecast Ceremony

Co-hosted by Dave Koz and MC Lyte, ceremony to present nearly 70 awards and feature performances from Kim Burrell, Joyce DiDonato, Reirth Brass Band, and Trin-I-Tee 5:7, among others

GRAMMYs/May 15, 2017 - 01:36 pm

The 54th Annual GRAMMY Awards Pre-Telecast Ceremony will take place on Sunday, Feb. 12 from 1–3:30 p.m. PT at the Los Angeles Convention Center and will be streamed live in its entirety internationally at www.grammy.com/live and www.cbs.com.

Attended by nominees and industry VIPs, the star-studded ceremony with be co-hosted by current GRAMMY nominee Dave Koz and Recording Academy Los Angeles Chapter President and rapper MC Lyte.

The Pre-Telecast will feature performances by current nominees Kim Burrell, Le'Andria Johnson, Kelly Price, and Trin-I-Tee 5:7 in a "Ladies of Gospel" segment as well as current nominees mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato, singer/songwriter Steve Earle and New Orleans' Rebirth Brass Band.

Presenting the first GRAMMY Awards of the night in 68 categories will be current nominees Gerald Clayton, Chick Corea, Brandon Heath, Arturo O'Farrill, OK Go, Corinne Bailey Rae, and Esperanza Spalding as well as GRAMMY-winning producer Jimmy Jam.

Co-host Koz is nominated for Best Pop Instrumental Album for Hello Tomorrow.

Performers Burrell, Earle, Johnson, Rebirth Brass Band, and Trin-I-Tee 5:7 each have one nod: Burrell for Best Gospel Album for The Love Album; Earle for Best Folk Album for I'll Never Get Out Of This World Alive; Johnson for Best Gospel/Contemporary Christian Music Performance for "Jesus"; Rebirth Brass Band for Best Regional Roots Music Album for Rebirth Of New Orleans; and Trin-I-Tee 5:7 for Best Gospel Album for Angel & Chanelle Deluxe Edition. DiDonato has two nominations for Best Opera Recording for Vivaldi: Ercole Sul Termodonte and Best Classical Vocal Solo for "Diva Divo." Price has three nods for Best R&B Performance (with Stokley) and Best R&B song for "Not My Daddy" and Best R&B Album for Kelly.

Presenters Clayton, O'Farrill, OK Go, Rae, and Spalding each have one nomination: Clayton for Best Jazz Instrumental Album for Bond: The Paris Sessions; O'Farrill for Best Large Jazz Ensemble Album for 40 Acres And A Burro; OK Go for Best Short Form Music Video for "All Is Not Lost"; Rae for Best R&B Performance for "Is This Love"; and Spalding for Best Jazz Instrumental Album for Bird Songs (with Joe Lovano/Us Five). Corea has two nominations for Best Improvised Jazz Solo for "500 Miles High," and Best Jazz Instrumental Album for Forever (with Stanley Clarke and Lenny White). Heath has three nominations for Best Gospel/Contemporary Christian Music Performance and Best Contemporary Christian Music Song for "Your Love," and Best Contemporary Christian Music Album for Leaving Eden

The live stream of the Pre-Telecast will remain on GRAMMY.com as video on demand for 30 days following the event. Following the ceremony, the 54th Annual GRAMMY Awards will be broadcast live on the CBS Television Network from 8–11:30 p.m. ET/PT.

Follow GRAMMY.com for our inside look at GRAMMY news, blogs, photos, videos, and of course nominees. Stay up to the minute with GRAMMY Live. Check out the GRAMMY legacy with GRAMMY Rewind. Keep track of this year's GRAMMY Week events, and explore this year's GRAMMY Fields. Or check out the collaborations at Re:Generation, presented by Hyundai Veloster. And join the conversation at Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.

Apple Music Exclusive: Watch Classic GRAMMY Performances

Whitney Houston, 29th GRAMMY Awards

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Apple Music Exclusive: Watch Classic GRAMMY Performances

The Recording Academy teams with Apple Music to offer historical GRAMMY performances by Miles Davis, Marvin Gaye, Whitney Houston, Shania Twain, Kendrick Lamar, and more

GRAMMYs/Nov 24, 2017 - 07:00 pm

To celebrate the GRAMMY Awards' 60th anniversary and the show's return to New York for the first time in 15 years, the Recording Academy and Apple Music are bringing fans a special video collection of exclusive GRAMMY performances and playlists that represent the illustrious history of Music's Biggest Night.

Available exclusively via Apple Music in a dedicated GRAMMYs section, the celebratory collection features 60-plus memorable performances specifically curated across six genres: pop, rap, country, rock, R&B, and jazz. 

The artist performances featured in the collection include Marvin Gaye, "Sexual Healing" (25th GRAMMY Awards, 1983); Whitney Houston, "Greatest Love Of All" (29th GRAMMY Awards, 1987); Run DMC, "Tougher Than Leather" (30th GRAMMY Awards, 1988); Miles Davis, "Hannibal" (32nd GRAMMY Awards, 1990); Shania Twain, "Man, I Feel Like A Woman" (41st GRAMMY Awards, 1999); Dixie Chicks, "Landslide" (45th GRAMMY Awards, 2003); Bruno Mars and Sting, "Locked Out Of Heaven" and "Walking On The Moon" (55th GRAMMY Awards, 2013); and Kendrick Lamar, "The Blacker The Berry" (58th GRAMMY Awards, 2016).

The 60th GRAMMY Awards will take place at New York City's Madison Square Garden on Sunday, Jan. 28, 2018. The telecast will be broadcast live on CBS at 7:30–11 p.m. ET/4:30–8 p.m. PT. 

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