ARE YOU EXCITED FOR THE GRAMMYS? Probably not, but this year, it might not be so bad. In the run-up to Sunday’s ceremony, we’ll have daily posts about Grammys past and present, including yesterday’s, about why the much overlooked Best Alternative Music Album is the most Internet friendly (and best) category out there, and today’s, a list of 54 fun facts, tidbits, and NUGGETS from the 54-year history of Best Album of the Year.
1959 — The Music from Peter Gunn by Henry Mancini
For the first few years of the category, classical releases were eligible for Album of the Year, which explains why Mancini’s competition in 1959 included not only Frank Sinatra and Ella Fitzgerald, but Tchaikovsky: Concerto No. 1 in B Flat Minor, Op. 23, as performed by Van Cliburn, not that you didn’t know that already.
1960 — Come Dance with Me! by Frank Sinatra
Even by Ol’ Blue Eyes standards, Come Dance with Me!, one of his more uplifting releases, was insanely popular. The album stayed on the Billboard pop charts for over two and a half years, yet never hit #1.
1961 — The Button-Down Mind of Bob Newhart by Bob Newhart
One of only two comedy albums to win Best Album. Newhart also took home the award for Best New Artist.
1962 — Judy at Carnegie Hall by Judy Garland
By the early 1960s, Judy Garland was a mess. Suicide attempts, nervous breakdowns, bankruptcy, hepatitis, alcohol dependency, multiple divorces, she had been through it all. But for one night, April 23, 1961, the so-called “greatest night in show business history,” she was on her A-game, performing all her stirring classics, including “Over the Rainbow,” which eventually led to her winning the Best Album award, the first female to do so.
1963 — The First Family by Vaughn Meader
By far the weirdest Best Album winner ever, The First Family is a comedy album gently parodying President John F. Kennedy and the rest of the Kennedy clan. It was recorded the same night as JFK’s famous Cuban Missile Crisis speech, and would go on to sell an unprecedented seven million copies in four months.
1964 — The Barbra Streisand Album by Barbra Streisand
Initially, Columbia Records president Goddard Lieberson was reluctant to sign Babs, finding her style too out of date, too cabaret. But he eventually relented, and Streisand recorded her self-titled debut with Columbia — and every other album in her bazillion-times platinum career since then, too.
1965 — Getz/Gilberto by Stan Getz & João Gilberto
The 10th highest selling jazz of all-time, sandwiched between Hello, Dolly! by Louis Armstrong and Al Di Meola’s Elegant Gypsy.
1966 — September of My Years by Frank Sinatra
A great Sinatra album, sure, one of his finest even, but the 1966 nominee class is noteworthy for being the first time a rock group was nominated for Best Album: Help! by the Beatles. Obviously, it lost, though at least not to The Sound of Music Soundtrack.
1967 — A Man and His Music by Frank Sinatra
With A Man and His Music, a double-album in which Sinatra rerecorded new versions of old songs, and included an obnoxious narration throughout, Sinatra became the first of only three artists to win Best Album three times.
1968 — Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band by the Beatles
Hey, look, rock music! Sgt. Pepper won four, including Best Contemporary Album, of the Beatles 11 total Grammys.
1969 — By the Time I Get to Phoenix by Glen Campbell
The title track was penned by Jimmy Webb, who was writing about his love affair with Linda Ronstadt’s cousin, Susan, a relationship that’s the basis for two other famous Webb songs: “The Worst That Could Happen” and “MacArthur Park,” best known for Richard Harris’ version.
1970 — Blood, Sweat & Tears by Blood, Sweat & Tears
Blood, Sweat & Tears was led by Al Kooper, who, despite barely knowing a thing about the instrument, played organ on the greatest rock song of all-time, Bob Dylan’s “Like a Rolling Stone.”
1971 — Bridge over Troubled Water by Simon & Garfunkel
Originally meant to be a small gospel hymn, “Bridge over Troubled Water” exploded into a “Let It Be”-like grand pop song, with an extra verse added by Paul Simon late in the track’s history. But despite its now immortal title, “Bridge” was once mislabeled by the song’s string composer, Jimmy Haskell, who referred to it as “Like a Pitcher of Water.”
1972 — Tapestry by Carole King
Tapestry was the number one album in the U.S. for 15 straight weeks in 1971, a record for a solo female artist until Adele’s 21 last year.
1973 — The Concert for Bangladesh by George Harrison & Co.
The three-disc live album and film Concert for Bangladesh, featuring the likes of Harrison, Bob Dylan (who performed “Blowin’ in the Wind” for the first time in eight years), Eric Clapton, Billy Preston, Leon Russell, and Ringo Starr, has raised over $15 million in funds for Bangladesh to date.
1974 — Innervisions by Stevie Wonder
Wonder, who was all of 23 years old when Innervisions came out, played nearly instrument on the album, including harmonica, drums, bass, piano, synthesizer, congas, and, for good measure, some hand-clapping, too.
1975 — Fulfillingness’ First Finale by Stevie Wonder
The Jackson 5 can be heard singing background vocals on the number-one hit, “You Haven’t Done Nothin’.”
1976 — Still Crazy After All These Years by Paul Simon
While accepting his Best Album award, Simon jokingly commented, “I’d like to thank Stevie Wonder, who didn’t release an album this year.” The next year, however…