Tuesday, November 29, 2005

The Envelope, Please

The 2005 Grammys will be awarded in early 2006. But in the old days, they were presented at the end of the calendar year. In fact, the 1959 Grammys were presented 46 years ago tonight. That ceremony included the first awarding of the Best New Artist Grammy. Best New Artist is easy to make fun of, mostly because we can't predict the future. But the people who vote are supposed to be insiders, so you'd think they'd have a better track record for picking stars. Fact is, the winners of the Best New Artist Grammy occasionally become insignificant within about five minutes of winning it. Other winners don't. A few representative years follow, courtesy of The Envelope, an exhaustive site archiving information on every entertainment award you can think of.

1959: The winner: Bobby Darin. The losers: Edd Byrnes, Mark Murphy, Johnny Restivo, Mavis Rivers. The pattern of insignificance is thus set: Edd Byrnes was a teen idol famous solely for a supporting role on TV's 77 Sunset Strip, and for a profoundly stupid novelty hit with Connie Stevens based on his role. Murphy and Rivers were jazz performers; Restivo was a rockabilly singer.

1962: The winner: Robert Goulet. The losers: the Four Seasons, the New Christy Minstrels, Peter Paul and Mary, Allan Sherman, Vaughn Meader. This was the Grammys' first big miss on artists (the Seasons, PP&M) who would play significant roles in musical history yet to be made. As for the others, Sherman was famous for parody songs and Meader was famous for his impression of John F. Kennedy. There was precedent for giving the award to a comedian--Bob Newhart won it in 1961.

1964: The winner: The Beatles. The losers: Petula Clark, Astrud Gilberto, Antonio Carlos Jobim, Morgana King. Evidence here of the popularity of the Brazilian/bossa nova sound at this moment in history. However, thanks to British performers like the Beatles and (to a far lesser extent) Clark, it was already irrelevant by the time the awards were handed out in April 1965.

1969: The winner: Crosby Stills and Nash. The losers: Chicago, Led Zeppelin, Oliver, the Neon Philharmonic. The strongest batch of nominees in the award's history up to this point, despite Oliver and the Neon Philharmonic.

1972: The winner: America. The losers: Harry Chapin, the Eagles, Loggins and Messina, John Prine. Strong field: for the first time in the award's history, every nominee would go on to a decent career.

1976: The winner: Starland Vocal Band. The losers: Boston, Dr. Buzzard's Original Savannah Band, Wild Cherry, the Brothers Johnson. It's one-hit wonder night at the Grammys.

Coming tomorrow: More odd choices from the late 70s to the mid 90s.


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