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56 Years of GRAMMY Winners: Who is the ‘King Among Kings?’

by Aryo Adhianto

(GRAMMY.ORG, LOS ANGELES) With 4 big wins, including Best Album and Best Record of the Year, Daft Punk championed the 56th Grammy Awards ceremony on Sunday, January 26. The Academy—consists of music critics, academicians, media, labels, and the fans—has officially endorsed the ever-increasing ‘convergence’ of electronic and danceable Pop music in recent years, following the success of Daft Punk and fellow artists and/or producers such as Lorde, Pharrell Williams, Jay-Z, Zedd, Bruno Mars, and Justin Timberlake.

Those 56th Grammy winners may not be as much as surprise for the audiences, in response to such level of recording quality and huge popularity they’ve earned so far; and as anticipated, Daft Punk—the French electronic duo who revitalize live performance within electronic music production—was crowned as the ‘king’ of the 56th Grammy. However, The Grammy has been going on for 56 years. Throughout its history, there were 109 categories of awards, before they were cut to 78 in 2011; this means there were hundreds of Grammys have been crowned prior to Daft Punk and all other winners this year. The Grammy is much more associated with pop music than serious music, and it seems that it will be noted that way in pop music history. If it is a pop music event, let see who are the ‘kings’ and ‘queens’ holding the crowns for the most Grammy Awards won in a lifetime? Guess what, he ain’t no Pop star.

And the crown goes to…

The king among kings, according to Wikipedia’s Grammy Award records, is crowned to the late Sir Georg Solti, a Hungarian-British conductor who conducted the Chicago Symphony Orchestra for twenty-two years. He has won a total of 31 Grammy Awards out of 74 nominations. Sir Georg Solti beats a surprisingly few names of Pop music in the top 10 list, such as Quincy Jones at 27 Grammys, U2 and Stevie Wonder at 22, Kanye West at 21, and Bruce Springsteen at 20 Grammys.

‘Grammy King’ Sir Georg Solti conducts the Tenth Symphony of Shostakovich

Other interesting fact goes to the dominance of actors of Classical music within the top 5 list of the most Grammy Awards won. Pierre Boulez, a French composer and conductor, and American pianist and composer Vladimir Horowitz, occupy the list at number four and five. Meanwhile, the Pop producer and songwriter Quincy Jones—the man who gave Michael Jackson the King of Pop standing—stays at number two. The facts might be surprising, especially for those who believe Pop music is the only thing that matters throughout 56 years of Grammy history. In fact, among 15 names enlisted in the top 10, Pop music shares only five names, a number less than Classical names.

There is one more detail not to be missed, that is the rise of a queen among kings. Won 27 Grammys, an American bluegrass-country singer-songwriter Alison Krauss shares her position with Quincy Jones at number two. Being the only women who managed to get on the list, and she isn’t a Pop Diva, it turns out that Grammy has never been easy for female musicians so far.

The king, the good, and the bad

Sir Georg Solti, the King of kings, might have left us all (he passed away in 1997); but the shadow of his 31 Grammys remains, especially within the categories other than Pop. The fact that Sir Georg Solti had won 31 Grammys could be a blow for the Classical music’s rejuvenation and the cultivation of its inter-generation values among its young devotees. From the Grammy point of view, the dominance of the elders can be seen as the continuation of a hard-to-accomplish such high standards of becoming a great Classical musician—which is good for safeguarding the future of Classical music, but perhaps is bad for the industry.

The Solti’s shadow is not unique to Classical music. Within the Jazz categories for example, the similar domination belong also to the elder cats such as Pat Metheny, Chick Corea, Herb Alpert, and Paquito D’Rivera. In fact, Pat Metheny and his band the Pat Metheny Group have won 20 Grammy Awards in total, including seven consecutive awards for seven consecutive albums, including Best Jazz Fusion Performance (1983, 1984, 1985, 1988, 1990) and Best Contemporary Jazz Performance/Album (1993, 1994, 1996, 1999, 2003, 2005).

On the contrary, Pop categories highlighted some significant dynamics, especially in the past three decades. In Best Pop Vocal Performance (Male) for example, names such as Michael Bolton, Sting, Justin Timberlake, John Mayer, have won the awards each in turn. The emergence of new, young artists also fit in to the zone; they even dominated the top 10 list of Grammy youngest winners of all time, from Beyonce at 19 years old, Lorde at 17 years old, to Le Ann Rimes at 14 years old. Yet, the dynamics in Pop categories are often associated solely to the ones who earned the most commercial success, or those who managed to draw the most fans.

All in all, the Grammy is about history, where the king, the good, and the bad, are only part of its ongoing growth as the premier outlet for honoring achievements in the recording arts, as well as supporting the music community. Let’s hope that we are constantly taking lessons from it.

Author: Aryo Adhianto

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