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Initially, Columbia Records president Goddard Lieberson was reluctant to sign Babs, finding her style too out of date, too cabaret.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…
1977 — Songs in the Key of Life by Stevie Wonder
Wonder’s then year-old daughter, Aisha Morris, is the youngest person to ever appear on a Best Album winner. She can be heard cooing and crying in “Isn’t She Lovely?”
1978 — Rumours by Fleetwood Mac
Of the 10 highest selling albums of all-time, Rumours, with sales in excess of 40 million, is the only one with a title referring to band members hating each other, or in the words of author Ken Caillat, “With all the rumors flying around about this album, why don’t we call the album Rumours? But let’s spell it the English way.” In and around the Rumours sessions, John and Christine McVie had recently gotten divorced, Mick Fleetwood was separating from his wife, and Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks’ long-term relationship went kaput.
1979 — Saturday Night Fever by the Bee Gees
Stephen Stills, of Buffalo Springfield and Crosby, Stills, Nash, & Young fame, lent his guitar talents in an unspecified capacity to this soundtrack.
1980 — 52nd Street by Billy Joel
52nd Street was the first album ever released on CD, on October 1, 1982.
1981 — Christopher Cross by Christopher Cross
Ugh, it beat Pink Floyd’s The Wall (and Black Flag’s Damaged, which obviously wasn’t nominated). NEXT.
1982 — Double Fantasy by John Lennon & Yoko Ono
A mere six hours before Lennon was shot and subsequently killed by Mark David Chapman, he autographed a copy of Double Fantasy for his soon-to-be assassin, a moment frozen in time in this eerie photo. The album was initially reviled by critics, but after Lennon’s death, many of the negative reviews were pulled from publication.
1983 — Toto IV by Toto
In the music video for “Rosanna,” Toto IV‘s first single, a young Patrick Swayze can be briefly seen wearing a red jacket.
1984 — Thriller by Michael Jackson
Michael Jackson took home nine awards at the 1984 Grammys: eight for Thriller and one for his work on the E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial audiobook, which the King of Pop narrated.
1985 — Can’t Slow Down by Lionel Richie
Only one of a handful of 1980s albums to have five singles all chart in the Billboard top-10.
1986 — No Jacket Required by Phil Collins
Phil Collins named his third solo album after an incident at Chicago’s famed restaurant, the Pump Room. Collins intended to dine with Led Zeppelin’s Robert Plant, but upon entering, was told by the Maître d’ that his outfit didn’t meet the restaurant’s dress code. He would later go on Late Night with David Letterman and The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson and publicly bitch about the snub, as one does, until the Pump Room’s manager mailed him a sport coat, saying from then on, Collins could wear whatever he wanted while dining at his establishment.
1987 — Graceland by Paul Simon
Why can you call Simon “Al”? Well, at a party he went to with his wife Peggy Harper, the couple ran into French composer Pierre Boulez, who mistakenly referred to them as “Al” and “Betty.”
1988 — The Joshua Tree by U2
In 2011, two U2 fans died from heat exhaustion in Joshua Tree National Park while looking for the exact tree on the album cover. Thing is, the tree’s not in that park; it’s off Route 190, nearly 200 miles away.
1989 — Faith by George Michael
All the races want all the sex: Faith was the first album by a white artist to hit #1 on Billboard’s R&B chart.
1990 — Nick of Time by Bonnie Raitt
Also nominated for Best Album in 1990: Tom Petty’s Full Moon Fever and Traveling Wilburys Vol. 1, featuring the talents of Tom Petty, marking the first time in Grammy history an artist competed against himself for its top award.
1991 — Back on the Block by Quincy Jones and Various Artists
Before Tevin Campbell achieved platinum-level success with T.E.V.I.N. and I’m Ready, he got his big break from Jones, who chose “Tomorrow (A Better You, Better Me),” a cover of an instrumental track by the Brothers Johnson, as Back on the Block‘s first single.
1992 — Unforgettable… with Love by Natalie Cole
Made famous by her father, Natalie Cole covered “Orange Colored Sky” on Unforgettable. You know who else gave their own unique spin to the song? Burt Ward, of Batman fame, with production by none other than Frank Zappa.
1993 — Unplugged by Eric Clapton
In his autobiography, here’s what Clapton had to say about Unplugged: “[The album] was also the cheapest to produce and required the least amount of preparation and work. But if you want to know what it actually cost me, go to Ripley and visit the grave of my son.” JESUS.
1994 — The Bodyguard: Original Soundtrack Album by Whitney Houston
Whitney Houston’s masterpiece, with help from Babyface and L.A. Reid, among others, is the highest selling soundtrack of all-time, with Saturday Night Fever, Purple Rain, and Dirty Dancing trailing far behind.
1995 — MTV Unplugged by Tony Bennett
Or the year the Grammys gave up and said, “F*ck it.”
1996 — Jagged Little Pill by Alanis Morissette
Morissette hails from Canada, but after her first two albums for MCA Records Canada bombed, she left the label and moved to Los Angeles, where she met super-producer Glen Ballard. She was also robbed by a man with a gun. Morissette suffered daily panic attacks for months afterward, and channeled much of her angst into the songs that would eventually appear on Jagged.
1997 — Falling into You by Celine Dion
Although it didn’t win, The Score by the Fugees was nominated for Best Album, the first hip-hop album to do so.
1998 — Time Out of Mind by Bob Dylan
“Mississippi” was written during the Time Out of Mind sessions, but instead of including it on the album, he offered it to Sheryl Crow, who added it The Globe Sessions. Dylan liked the song enough, though, that he put it on his next album, 2001’s Love & Theft.
1999 — The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill by Lauryn Hill
Miseducation is a nearly perfect album, but it could have been one more perfect-er: RZA was originally slated to contribute to it. A Wu-Tang song, “Can It All Be Simple,” is sampled on “Ex-Factor,” though.
2000 — Supernatural by Santana
Santana’s eponymous album hit #1 on the Billboard charts in 1971, and it would be 28 years before he did it again, with Supernatural (the highest selling release by a Hispanic artist ever). This was, and remains, the longest gap between chart-topping releases in Billboard’s history.
2001 — Two Against Nature by Steely Dan
A disappointing winner, were it not for the fact that every time someone said “Steely Dan” during the Grammy telecast, they were actually referencing a dildo from William S. Burroughs’ book, Naked Lunch. That’s good trolling.
2002 — O Brother, Where Art Thou? Soundtrack by Various Artists
“Big Rock Candy Mountain” was written and recorded in 1928 by Harry McClintock, who had an honest-to-God hobo name: Haywire Mac.
2003 — Come Away with Me by Norah Jones
The man who wrote Come Away with Me‘s hit single, “Don’t Know Why,” Jesse Harris, also composed the music for Ethan Hawke’s 2006 movie The Hottest State, starring Michelle Williams.
2004 — Speakerboxxx/The Love Below by Outkast
“Millionaire” by Kelis and “Long Way to Go” by Gwen Stefani were originally scheduled to appear on André 3000’s The Love Below, until they were scrapped at the last second, only to appear on Kelis and Stefani’s next albums.
2005 — Genius Loves Company by Ray Charles & Co.
The only Best Album winner to be distributed by a label owned by Starbucks.
2006 — How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb by U2
Michael W. Smith is hugely popular Christian music singer who’s won 40 Dove Awards, given out to “recognize outstanding achievement in the Christian music industry.” So, naturally, the staunch Republican collaborated with U2 on a song during the Dismantle sessions, “North Star,” that has yet to see the light of day.
2007/2008 — Taking the Long Way by Dixie Chicks/River: The Joni Letters by Herbie Hancock
As discussed yesterday, NOPE.
2009 — Raising Sand by Robert Plant & Alison Krauss
Producer T-Bone Burnett has worked with the two most famous musical Dylans: he played guitar with Bob on the saluted Rolling Thunder Revue tour in the 1970s, and produced the debut album, Bringing Down the Horse, for son Jakob’s band, the Wallflowers.
2010 — Fearless by Taylor Swift
At the age of 20, Swift became the youngest person to win Best Album, besting Alanis Morissette’s Jagged Little Pill by a year.
2011 — The Suburbs by Arcade Fire
At this rate, Owen Pallett, who composed the string arrangements for The Suburbs, is going to work with every popular musician of the 21st century. Since 2004, he’s collaborated with not only Arcade Fire, but also Death from Above 1979, Titus Andronicus, F*cked Up, Taylor Swift, Pet Shop Boys, R.E.M., and Duran Duran.
2012 — 21 by Adele
The great Rick Rubin, who’s credited for taking Adele out of comfort zone during the sessions for 21, first noticed the singer while she was on Saturday Night Live, her first major U.S. performance.