What’s Your Grammy IQ?
How much do you know about the biggest night in music? Test your Grammy knowledge and discover a few fun facts along the way.
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A celebration of pop music—and more
Given out by the Recording Academy since 1958, the Grammys (named after the gramophone) honor the best in popular music, but that’s not all. In addition to the awards we see presented on TV, trophies are given in just about every genre of music, including classical, jazz, gospel, reggae, and even non-musical recordings such as spoken word (which includes audiobooks) and comedy. But, the most prized awards are the four in what’s called the “General field:” Record of the Year, Album of the Year, Song of the Year, and Best New Artist. Only one artist has ever won all four in one night—read on to see if you can guess correctly who it is. Find out what the Grammys and other award shows used to be like.
Answer: 3. Sir Georg Solti
With 31 wins, the late music director for the Chicago Symphony Orchestra is the most decorated Grammy winner of all time and also holds the record for most wins in the classical field. Following his death in 1997, Sir Solti won posthumously for Best Opera Recording for Wagner: Die Meistersinger Von Nurnberg at the awards handed out in 1998. Second place Grammy winner is celebrated artist and producer Quincy Jones, who has 28 awards; although Jones does hold the top spot for most nominations ever, with 80 nods. Michael Jackson does not even break the top 10—but the King of Pop holds another record we’ll get to later. Learn all the insider secrets you never knew about award shows.
Who has won all four General field awards (Record, Song, Album, and Best New Artist) in the same night?
2. Mariah Carey
3. Christopher Cross
Answer: 3. Christopher Cross
Only two artists have ever won all top four awards: Adele and Christopher Cross. But out of only 12 people ever nominated for all four at once (including Mariah Carey), Cross is the only artist who scored them all in one night, in 1980. If you’re scratching your head wondering who Christopher Cross is, you’re not alone: He hasn’t earned a Grammy nod since 1981. You may remember his hits “Sailing” and “Arthur’s Theme (Best That You Can Do)”—that’s the one with the lyrics, “If you get caught between the moon and New York City…” Adele, on the other hand, has 15 wins out of 18 nominations, taking home Best New Artist in 2008, as well as Record, Song, and Album in the same night in two different years: 2012 and 2017. In doing so, she became the first artist ever to sweep the three awards twice. Discover 21 things you never knew about that other awards show, the Oscars.
Who holds the record for most overall Grammy wins by a woman?
1. Alison Krauss
3. Aretha Franklin
Answer: 1. Alison Krauss
This bluegrass/country singer, songwriter, and musician has a whopping 27 Grammy wins. Krauss is not only the most decorated female winner, but she also comes in third place for most Grammy wins of all time. Her latest Grammy was in 2012 for Best Bluegrass Album, Paper Airplane. Beyoncé comes in second with 23 wins as of 2019; she also holds the record for the most nominations by a female artist, with 70 nods, including four going into the 2020 awards. Could Queen Bey possibly tie Krauss this year as the biggest female winner? It’s possible! Aretha Franklin comes in third for female wins, with 18 trophies. Franklin is also one of 57 trailblazing women who made history.
Answer: 3. Morten Lindberg
You’ve probably never heard of him, but sound engineer and producer Morten Lindberg has the most Grammy nominations ever, 28, without a win—although he’s up for two this year, so he might finally make it off the biggest loser list. Composer Zubin Mehta comes in second with 18 nods and no wins; R&B crooner Brian McKnight ties with composer Valery Gergiev with 17 nominations and no wins. Rapper Snoop Dogg has also been famously overlooked, with 16 nominations. The biggest female loser is Icelandic singer Bjork, with 15 nods and no wins. Other famous losers include country stars Dierks Bentley, Tanya Tucker, and Martina McBride, all with 14 nominations, and Katy Perry with 13 nods and no awards. Find out 16 things you never knew about the Emmys.
Who was the youngest individual artist to ever receive a Grammy win?
1. Luis Miguel
2. LeAnn Rimes
Answer: 2. LeAnn Rimes
A bit of a trick question: LeAnn Rimes is the youngest individual winner, for Best New Artist and Best Female Country Vocal Performance in 1996 when she was 14. But, 14-year-old Luis Miguel won for Best Mexican-American Performance with Sheena Easton in 1984. The youngest group winners are the Peasall Sisters, who appeared on the O Brother, Where Art Thou? soundtrack, which won Album of the Year in 2001—they were just 8, 11, and 14. As for our other multiple-choice answer, Beyoncé was 19 when she received her first Grammy—kind of ironic considering she had lost Star Search just six years earlier, one of the “failures” of wildly successful people.
Which artist was the oldest to ever receive a Grammy win?
1. Betty White
2. George Burns
3. Pinetop Perkins
Answer: 3. Pinetop Perkins
Pinetop Perkins was 97 years young when he won for Best Traditional Blues album in 2011—and passed away just a month later. Perkins started his career as a guitarist but after an arm injury opted for the piano, and is considered to be one of the most influential blues performers. He was inducted in the Blues Hall of Fame in 2003. George Burns is the second oldest to have received a Grammy win, at 95, while President Jimmy Carter holds fast to the number three spot, which he slipped into in 2016 at age 91 and then solidified in 2019 at 94 for his audio recording of his book Faith: A Journey for All. Betty White ties blues musician Elizabeth Cotten for the oldest female Grammy winners: They both won at age 90. The Golden Girls comedian snagged Best Spoken Word Album in 2012, for If You Ask Me (And of Course You Won’t).
Answer: 1. Michael Jackson
The late artist had a banner year in 1984 when he became the first and only solo artist ever to take home eight awards in one night, winning trophies for his Thriller album as well as performances for “Beat It,” “Billie Jean,” and others. Santana tied the record for eight awards in 2000, but as a group, so Jackson still holds the solo record. Paul Simon comes in third for most awards in one night, winning seven in 1971 (five shared with his partner Art Garfunkel). In 2010, Beyoncé became the first woman to win six awards in one night; Adele tied the record in 2012. Beyoncé, though, could overtake Adele with any 2020 wins out of her four nods. Don’t miss these pop songs ruined by correct grammar.
What was the first-ever rap song to win Record of the Year?
1. Eminem, “Lose Yourself”
2. Childish Gambino, “This Is America”
3. Jay-Z, “Empire State of Mind”
Answer: 2. Childish Gambino, “This Is America“
The Grammys do present separate awards for Best Rap Song and Best Rap Album, yet rap has had a harder time making it into the top four categories. But the 2019 win for “This is America” by Donald Glover, aka Childish Gambino, finally broke into the winner’s circle, becoming the first rap song to win Record of the Year, as well as the first to win Song of the Year. For reasons unknown, though, Glover didn’t make it to the ceremony to accept the historic awards. Co-writer and producer Ludwig Göransson, who accepted on his behalf, said, “I really wish he was here with us right now, because this truly was his vision, and he deserves this credit.” Don’t miss our list of every Oscar Best Picture Winner ranked—from best to worst.
Only one Record or Song of the Year winner was a foreign-language song. What was it?
1. “Feliz Navidad”
3. “Nel Blu Dipinto Di Blu (Volaré)”
Answer: 3. “Nel Blu Dipinto Di Blu (Volaré)“
Believe it or not, 1958’s “Volaré” is the only Record of the Year or Song of the Year winner in a foreign language. (Song of the Year goes to the songwriter; Record of the Year to the artist, engineers, and producers.) “Volaré” was first recorded by Italian singer-songwriter Domenico Modugno in 1958 and sung in Italian; it was also popularized by Dean Martin’s version. Sixty years later, 2018’s Grammys brought a huge outcry over “Despacito,” originally sung in Spanish and remixed with some English, not winning any of its nominations: The massive hit was the first foreign-language song to be nominated for both Record and Song of the year since “La Bamba” by Los Lobos some 30 years prior (that song was originally recorded by Ritchie Valens in 1959). Jose Feliciano’s Christmas staple “Feliz Navidad” wasn’t nominated on its release in 1970, but did make it into the Grammy Hall of Fame—and onto number 19 of our list of 20 best-ever Christmas songs, ranked.
Answer: 2. Bonnie Raitt
Male artists Sting and U2’s Bono were called out at the 2018 Grammys for multiple stage appearances (presenting and performing) during that year’s show over other female artists. But country rocker Bonnie Raitt is the woman who’s performed most on the Grammys, with nine in total. Her first was “Thing Called Love” in 1990, and most recently as part of a B.B. King tribute in 2016. Aretha Franklin and Whitney Houston tie for second-most performances, with eight each. More female firsts: The first televised Grammy performance and the first solo live TV Grammy performance were Ella Fitzgerald in 1959 and Wanda Jackson in 1971 respectively.
Who is the most Grammy-nominated film composer of all time?
1. Henry Mancini
2. Alexandre Desplat
3. John Williams
Answer: 1. Henry Mancini
Another somewhat trick question here: Henry Mancini is the most nominated film composer, with 72 nods for movie music like “Moon River” from Breakfast at Tiffany’s, “The Pink Panther Theme,” and “Love Theme from Romeo and Juliet.” But John Williams, who has 71 nominations, beats Mancini for wins: 24 to 20. No other film composer comes close: Alexandre Desplat, for example, has ten nominations and two wins. The prolific Williams, who’s composed the themes to everything from Star Wars to Jurassic Park to Harry Potter, scored two nominations for the 2020 awards, nearly 60 years after his first nomination for the television series score for Checkmate. In addition to instrumental scores, some movies have the most rockin’ soundtracks ever.
Answer: 2. U2
Perhaps surprisingly, the majority of the top Grammy winners of all time are individual artists, with the exception of U2. The Irish rock band fronted by Bono has won 22 out of its 46 nominations, and they’re also the only group to win Album of the Year twice (in 1987 for The Joshua Tree and in 2005 for How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb). In contrast, although they were nominated 24 times, The Beatles only won eight Grammys, including a Lifetime Achievement award—shocking, since many believe them to be the most significant rock band ever. British rock group Coldplay has been nominated 29 times and won seven awards.
Answer: 2. Vince Gill
Although country star Alison Krauss is one of the overall biggest Grammy winners with 27 awards, many are in related fields such as Bluegrass, Contemporary Folk, and even Pop. But for Vince Gill, 20 out of his 21 awards are in the Country category. His first win was at the 1991 awards when he won for Best Country Vocal Performance, Male, for “When I Call Your Name”—and that entire decade was good for him, as he won the most Grammys of any artist in the 1990s, 14. Gill is also nominated this year for Best American Roots Song for “I Don’t Wanna Ride the Rails No More.” Unfortunately, Billy Ray Cyrus hasn’t picked up any wins in any category out of his seven nods—but this year could break his losing streak, as he’s nominated for three awards for the huge hit “Old Town Road.”
Which record or records were set with this year’s Grammy nominations?
1. The first time two artists are nominated in all four General fields.
2. The youngest ever person to be nominated in all four General fields.
3. The first Best New Artist nominee who performs all in Spanish.
Answer: 1, 2, and 3
All are true! The nominations for the 2020 awards marked the first time ever two artists have been nominated in all four major categories in one night: “Bad Guy” singer Billie Eilish and “Truth Hurts” rapper Lizzo. Nominated at 17 years old and now 18, Eilish also made history as the youngest artist to be nominated for the four General field awards in one night. Plus, if she wins Album of the Year, she’ll be the youngest solo artist to do so, breaking the record set by 20-year-old Taylor Swift with her 2008 album Fearless. In foreign language news, 2020 Best New Artist nominee Rosalia is the first contender in that category to perform completely in Spanish. The flamenco singer, born in Spain, has had a year of international success, even though she’s yet to crack the Billboard Hot 100 list of most popular songs. Next, check out the award show scandals that rocked the industry.