At the Grammys, there are four big categories, where recordings, songs and artists from all musical genres compete against one another: Record of the Year, Song of the Year, Album of the Year and Best New Artist. Over the years, many entries from the country music field have appeared.
We will look back at country contenders in all four categories over the next two weeks. If a year isn’t listed, then there were no country music nominations in the category that year. We’ll start with Record of the Year, beginning with this year’s nominees and working our way back.
- Mary J. Blige, “Be Without You”
- James Blunt, “You’re Beautiful”
- Dixie Chicks, “Not Ready to Make Nice”
- Gnarls Barkley, “Crazy”
- Corrine Bailey Rae, “Put Your Records On”
The Chicks are nominated here for the first time in their career, but they face stiff competition. I’d imagine this is a race between Blige and Blunt. “You’re Beautiful” and “Be Without You” were inescapable hits this year. Blige is the top nominee and this is the biggest category she has a chance to win in, and Blunt’s ballad is classic Grammy fodder.
- Brandy & Monica, “The Boy is Mine”
- Celine Dion, “My Heart Will Go On”
- Goo Goo Dolls, “Iris”
- Madonna, “Ray of Light”
- Shania Twain, “You’re Still the One”
Country hasn’t gotten much love in this race lately, as evidenced by the eight years separating the genre’s noms in this category. Twain won two Grammys in the country field for her warm anniversary ballad, but lost to Celine Dion’s Titanic anthem. Gotta love Twain, but for my money, “Ray of Light” is still a mind-blowing listen today. Madonna deserved this one.
- Boyz II Men, “I’ll Make Love to You”
- Mary Chapin Carpenter, “He Thinks He’ll Keep Her”
- Sheryl Crow, “All I Wanna Do”
- Bonnie Raitt, “Love Sneakin’ Up On You”
- Bruce Springsteen, “Streets of Philadelphia”
Mary Chapin Carpenter was a surprise nominee with one of her biggest hits. It remains the only country record to ever be nominated without also hitting the top 40 of the pop singles chart.
- Eric Clapton, “Tears in Heaven”
- Billy Ray Cyrus, “Achy Breaky Heart”
- Celine Dion & Peabo Bryson, “Beauty and the Beast”
- k.d. lang, “Constant Craving”
- Vanessa Williams, “Save the Best for Last”
Yes, Cyrus’ hit was big enough to actually get a nod in this category. People forget that “Achy Breaky” went as high as #4 on the pop chart, mostly on the strength of single sales. Thankfully, country music expatriate k.d. lang was also present, with a much more respectable hit.
- Joe Jackson, “Steppin’ Out”
- Paul McCartney & Stevie Wonder, “Ebony & Ivory”
- Willie Nelson, “Always On My Mind”
- Toto, “Rosanna”
- Vangelis, “Chariots of Fire (Theme)”
That’s right. Willie Nelson lost to a band that shares a name with a dog from an old movie.
- Christopher Cross, “Sailing”
- Bette Midler, “The Rose”
- Kenny Rogers, “Lady”
- Frank Sinatra, “Theme from ‘New York, New York’”
- Barbra Streisand, “Woman in Love”
Rogers managed to score two consecutive Record of the Year nominations, which was no small feat. This time, he did it with a huge hit that topped the pop charts for six weeks, in addition to being a big country hit. He lost to Cross, who swept the big four categories that year.
- Doobie Brothers, “What a Fool Believes”
- Earth, Wind & Fire, “After the Love Has Gone”
- Gloria Gaynor, “I Will Survive”
- Kenny Rogers, “The Gambler”
- Barbra Streisand & Neil Diamond, “You Don’t Bring Me Flowers”
I’ve never heard the winning record, or the Earth, Wind & Fire hit, but the other three have been on many a car trip mix tape that my parents subjected us kids to growing up.
- Bee Gees, “Stayin’ Alive”
- Billy Joel, “Just the Way You Are”
- Chuck Mangione, “Feels So Good”
- Anne Murray, “You Needed Me”
- Gerry Rafferty, “Baker Street”
Anne Murray was a big country star, but “You Needed Me” is one of her only hits that actually did better on the pop charts than it did at country. It remains one of her signature songs, but lost to another tender ode to love by Billy Joel.
- Debby Boone, “You Light Up My Life”
- Eagles, “Hotel California”
- Crystal Gayle, “Don’t it Make My Brown Eyes Blue”
- Linda Ronstadt, “Blue Bayou”
- Barbra Streisand, “Evergreen”
Four out the five nominees have ties to country music, with Ronstadt and the winning Eagles scoring country hits in the seventies and Boone later scoring a couple of her own. Gayle is the only core country artist nominated, though it can be argued that Ronstadt is a far more important influence on the genre than Loretta Lynn’s baby sister.
- Glen Campbell, “Rhinestone Cowboy”
- Captain & Tennille, “Love Will Keep Us Together”
- Eagles, “Lyin’ Eyes”
- Janis Ian, “At Seventeen”
- Barry Manilow, “Mandy”
Wow, we’re in the seventies now. Adult Contemporary stations are still pounding these five records three decades later.
- Roberta Flack, “Feel Like Makin’ Love”
- Elton John, “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down On Me”
- Joni Mitchell, “Help Me”
- Maria Muldaur, “Midnight at the Oasis”
- Olivia Newton-John, “I Honestly Love You”
The Mitchell and John hits are the most well-known to modern audiences, but I’ll always have a soft spot for Newton-John’s heartsick tale of love that can never be.
- Jim Croce, “Bad, Bad Leroy Brown”
- Roberta Flack, “Killing Me Softly With His Song”
- Charlie Rich, “Behind Closed Doors”
- Carly Simon, “You’re So Vain”
- Stevie Wonder, “You are the Sunshine of My Life”
Flack’s beautiful tribute to Don McLean would become new again when future Grammy queen Lauryn Hill covered it when with The Fugees.
- 5th Dimension, “Aquarius/Let the Sun Shine In”
- Blood, Sweat & Tears, “Spinning Wheel”
- Johnny Cash, “A Boy Named Sue”
- Peggy Lee, “Is That All There Is?”
- Henry Mancini, “A Time For Us”
Cash’s only nomination in this category came for his biggest crossover hit. “A Boy Named Sue” reached #2 on the pop chart, and was even requested by President Nixon when Cash played the White House.
- The Beatles, “Hey Jude”
- Glen Campbell, “Wichita Lineman”
- Bobby Goldsboro, “Honey”
- Jeannie C. Riley, “Harper Valley P.T.A.”
- Simon & Garfunkel, “Mrs. Robinson”
Country music never had a higher profile in the big four than it did in 1969. Three of these records topped the country charts, though they were all big pop hits as well. Sadly, Jeannie C. Riley’s MILF lost out to Simon & Garfunkel’s MILF, though they had the unfair advantage of Anne Bancroft playing the role on the big screen.
- 5th Dimension, “Up, Up and Away”
- Ed Ames, “My Cup Runneth Over”
- Glen Campbell, “By the Time I Get to Phoenix”
- Bobbie Gentry, “Ode to Billie Joe”
- Nancy & Frank Sinatra, “Somethin’ Stupid”
Glen Campbell lost this category two years in a row to 5th Dimension, but his song has stood the test of time. Ames’ song is due for a revival. Perhaps Tommy Lee can use it as his theme song if he ever becomes a relief pitcher.
- Herb Alpert & The Tijuana Brass, “What Now My Love”
- David Houston, “Almost Persuaded”
- Mamas & The Papas, “Monday, Monday”
- New Vaudeville Band, “Winchester Cathedral”
- Frank Sinatra, “Strangers in the Night”
The classic anthem for not-quite-cheaters, “Almost Persuaded” was Houston’s biggest hit and earned him four Grammy nominations, two of which he won.
- Herb Alpert & The Tijuana Brass, “A Taste of Honey”
- The Beatles, “Yesterday”
- Tony Bennett, “The Shadow of Your Smile”
- Roger Miller, “King of the Road”
- Ramsey Lewis Trio, “The ‘In’ Crowd”
Roger Miller won eleven Grammys in two years, six of them coming in 1966, largely due to the popularity of “King of the Road.” The real shock here is that “Yesterday” lost.
- Dave Brubeck, “Take Five”
- Jimmy Dean, “Big Bad John”
- Henry Mancini, “Moon River”
- Frank Sinatra, “The Second Time Around”
- Si Zentner, “Up a Lazy River”
Jimmy Dean has more than sausages to his legacy. He’s also the very first country artist to score a nomination in the Record of the Year category.