The History of The GRAMMY Awards at Madison Square Garden
Madison Square Garden will host The GRAMMY Awards for the first time since 2003 and for only the fourth time in history on Sunday January 28, 2018. The iconic awards show’s 60th Anniversary presentation boasts an impressive list of live performers including Lady Gaga, U2, Childish Gambino, Little Big Town and Elton John with Miley Cyrus, among many others. The Late Late Show’s James Corden will host from the stage of The World’s Most Famous Arena.
The GRAMMY Awards relationship with Madison Square Garden dates back to 1972, when the 14th annual event took place in the Felt Forum, which is now known as the Theater at MSG. When The GRAMMY Awards returned to the building 25 years later, they were held upstairs in The Garden proper, where they were held in 2003 and will be held again in 2018. As we look to ahead to January 28, we thought it was also time to look back on the history of the GRAMMYs at MSG. The notion that dozens of legends have congregated in unison in the venue is downright incredible. .
The evening of March 15, 1972 was extraordinary. On that night, singer/pianist and songwriter Carole King was the big GRAMMY winner in The Garden, earning Song of the Year for James Taylor’s “You Got a Friend” – which she wrote – plus Album of the Year for Tapestry and Record of the Year for “It’s Too Late.” The latter category placed King against soul great Isaac Hayes (“The Theme from Shaft”), rock act Three Dog Night (“Joy to the World”), ex-Beatle George Harrison (“My Sweet Lord”) and singer Taylor’s aforementioned recording of her song. The show was hosted by legendary crooner Andy Williams, with assistance from rock guitarist Chuck Berry, who was in the midst of a comeback.
Other winners at the Felt Forum that night were The Carpenters for their eponymous album, which was named Best Pop Vocal by a Duo or Group and soul diva Aretha Franklin, who won Best Rhythm and Blues Woman Vocal performance for the fifth year in a row, this time with her rendition of Simon & Garfunkel’s “Bridge Over Troubled Water.” Elsewhere, Carly Simon was named best new artist, while singers Sammi Smith and Jerry Reed had the best female and male country vocal performances with “Help Me Make It Through The Night” and “When You’re Hot, You’re Hot,” respectively.
A quarter of a century later, on February 26, 1997, The GRAMMYs were held again at The Garden. The show marked the first time members of the public were admitted to see the televised portion of the show. R&B star Kenneth “Babyface” Edmonds” was the night’s big winner with four awards in an evening that celebrated music’s diversity. From The Beatles to the Fugees and from Beck to LeAnn Rimes, music’s foremost awards show had become a multi-cultural event. The composition “Change the World” – sung by rock artist Eric Clapton and penned by Babyface – was fittingly named the song and record of the year.
Meanwhile, Toni Braxton took home Best Female R&B Vocal and Best Female Pop Vocal honors and Celine Dion earned Best Pop Album and Album of the Year distinctions for Falling Into You. First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton even won a GRAMMY for her recording of her book on child rearing, while the Fab Four – who only had four Awards in their career to date – earned an additional three, including best pop performance by a duo or group honors for the previously unreleased 1996 single “Free As A Bird.”
Fast forward to 2003 GRAMMYs, The Garden was electrified by Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band’s haunting performance of “The Rising,” a song that deservedly won three rock category trophies. While Nelly’s delivery of “Hot in Herre,” which took best male rap performance, was also exceptional. But it was newcomer Norah Jones who swept the night by winning in every category in which she was nominated, including Album of the Year for Come Away With Me, Best New Artist, and Record and Song of the Year for “Don’t Know Why.”
Notable winners that year included The Foo Fighters’ “All My Life” (Best Hard Rock Performance), Coldplay’s A Rush of Blood to the Head (Alternative Music Album), The Dixie Chicks’ “Long Time Gone” (Best Country Performance by a Duo or Group), Mary J. Blige’s “He Think I Don’t Know” (Female R&B Performance) and Usher’s “U Don’t Have to Call” (Male R&B Performance). When another newcomer, John Mayer, stunned the audience and himself to beat out icons like James Taylor and Elton John for Male Pop Vocal Performance with “Your Body Is a Wonderland,” he told the crowd, “This is very, very fast. And I promise to catch up.”
Now, as we wait for what the 2018 GRAMMYs will bring to The Garden on January 28, here’s what we know. Elton John and Miley Cyrus will definitely perform one of Elton’s classic hits, while other performers intend to honor him with a tribute even two nights later called Elton John: I’m Still Standing – A GRAMMY Salute. The Recording Academy has also confirmed performances by previous award winners U2, Kendrick Lamar and Sam Smith.
Those confirmations come in addition to the previously announced appearances by Childish Gambino, Daddy Yankee, Luis Fonsi, Kesha, Lady Gaga, Little Big Town, Bruno Mars with Cardi B – likely performing “Finesse” together — plus SZA and P!nk.
Other expected collaborations will take on a more serious tone and include Alessia Cara, Khalid and Logic, who will team for their track “1-800-273-8255,” which has been nominated for Song of the Year.
As for the year’s nominations, rapper Jay-Z (who already has 21 GRAMMYs) leads the pack this year with eight, including Album of the Year for 4:44. Meanwhile Kendrick Lamar has seven nods for Damn. Bruno Mars is close behind with six nominations for 24K Magic. SZA is the year’s top nominated female artist with five including Best New Artist. Perhaps the most interesting category this year is Best Rock Album, in which dreamy alternative band The War on Drugs is up against the harder edged Queens of the Stone Age and metal bands Mastodon and Metallica.
Madison Square Garden is once again proud to welcome The GRAMMY Awards back to The World’s Most Famous Arena. Honoring the best that music has to offer while recognizing its many important genres, The Recording Academy continues to uphold the legacy of popular music while evolving with new categories that build new traditions.