30 Legendary Artists Who Never Won a GrammyPhotos via Hulton Archive/Getty, Paul Natkin Music Lists Grammys
Institutions like the Grammys and The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame are superficial and full of deeply problematic nonsense. We know that less than 10 percent of Rock Hall inductees are women, and in recent news, the Grammy organization reportedly has rampant corruption, sexism and racism. Corporate, black tie award shows aren’t why anyone picks up a guitar or microphone. But much like the Oscars, even fans who recognize these realities find it hard not to get swept up in the dramatic unveiling of the annual Grammy winners, losers and snubs. So whether you’re glued to the screen, watching the ceremony each year or sitting out entirely for any number of reasons, it’s worth revisiting the long list of legacy artists who have done just fine without any golden phonograph-shaped trophies. Many of the artists whose snubs are particularly shocking are from the ’60s and ’70s—back when the Grammys had far fewer categories, so it’s technically easier to win a Grammy now. A good chunk of these artists have been given Lifetime Achievement Awards, but that’s not exactly as satisfying as being recognized during your prime among fellow nominees. Here are 30 legendary artists who have never won a Grammy.
ABBA are arguably Sweden’s finest export—musical or otherwise. They’re not just karaoke favorites either—this pop group is one of the best-selling artists of all-time, and they’ve somehow been robbed of a single Grammy nomination.
2. A Tribe Called Quest
As hip-hop’s finest and most critically-acclaimed group, A Tribe Called Quest are surely deserving of a Grammy victory. Their most notable nominations include Best Rap Album nods for Beats, Rhymes And Life and The Love Movement—not even their two greatest albums.
3. The Beach Boys
Is there anybody who dislikes The Beach Boys? The influential American pop/rock band may have received a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 2001, but they haven’t taken home the traditional prize, despite four nominations and a massive Pet Sounds snub.
If Leonardo DiCaprio could break his long-held Oscar drought, so can beloved Icelandic art-pop artist Björk. Unlike many of the acts on this list, she’s still making music, so there’s plenty of hope, especially since she received a nomination as recently as 2018 for her album Utopia.
5. Bob Marley
The king of reggae, Jamaican music and dorm room walls everywhere surprisingly never won a golden phonograph, despite posthumously receiving a Lifetime Achievement Award in 2001 and the fact that five of his children (Damian, Ziggy, Stephen, Cedella and Sharon) have Grammys of their own.
6. Busta Rhymes
Trevor Smith, Jr. (aka Busta Rhymes) might have been one of the fiercest MCs in the game, but that doesn’t necessarily translate into Grammys glory. Out of a dozen nominations, he’s come up empty.
7. The Cure
Sad boy hero Robert Smith and co. might be Grammy-less, but they’re probably not losing any sleep or smudging eye makeup over it. The British band joins A Tribe Called Quest in being a group with two album nominations that were far from their best—Bloodflowers and Wish.
8. Curtis Mayfield
Curtis Mayfield, soul legend and the man behind the brilliant Super Fly soundtrack, died relatively young at age 57, but he saw quite a few Grammy honors in his day, even if he never won—a Lifetime Achievement Award and Grammy Legend Award.
9. Depeche Mode
New Wave and electronic rock favorites Depeche Mode put out their first album in 1981, but they didn’t get any Grammy love until 2001—though their “Devotional” video snagged a nod in 1994. At the very least, we demand justice for “Personal Jesus” and “Enjoy the Silence.”
10. Diana Ross
If original Supremes member Diana Ross hasn’t received a Grammy yet, we’re gonna need everyone else to return theirs. But before you pick up your pitchfork and torch, she was, in fact, awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award and thankfully, was nominated for “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough.”
11. Eric B. & Rakim
Is there another DJ and MC pairing quite as lethal as Eric B. & Rakim? Unlikely, but there hasn’t been a single acknowledgement of the duo from the Grammys. The pair reunited to play shows in past years, so maybe a new album will come to fruition, and the Recording Academy will get a shot to right this wrong.
12. Iggy Pop
Maybe it’s not surprising that The Stooges never appeared on the Grammys’ radar, but surely Iggy’s 40-plus year solo career would’ve warranted a victory. Apparently 1977’s Lust for Life was unworthy of recognition, but Post Pop Depression was nominated in 2016. Despite that confusing tale, Iggy Pop will receive a Lifetime Achievement Award at this year’s shindig.
13. Janis Joplin
Janis Joplin had one of rock ‘n’ roll’s roughest voices, and she was truly unparalleled. As a member of the 27 Club, she never lived to see her 2005 Lifetime Achievement Award, but at least “Me and Bobby Mcgee” was recognized with a nomination in 1971.
14. Jimi Hendrix
It’s pretty telling that Jimi Hendrix, who’s lauded as one of the greatest electric guitarists to ever live, has never won a Grammy. Like Joplin, maybe we can cut the Grammys some slack because of his short career, but he did receive a Lifetime Achievement Award and a nod in 1970 for his searing rendition of “The Star Spangled Banner”
15. The Kinks
This is perhaps one of the most egregious omissions. It may seem like a foregone conclusion that The Beatles and The Rolling Stones are the only worthy contenders for the crown of best British Invasion band, but I’d beg to differ. The Kinks don’t have any Grammy history to speak of, but one of these days, they’ll receive that big ol’ Lifetime Achievement Award.
There’s a school of thought that says Nas was the greatest MC to ever live. With his 1994 debut album Illmatic, he definitely makes a strong case. He’s swung and missed on all 13 Grammy chances, but there’s a decent chance he’ll emerge victorious with a Lifetime Achievement award soon.
17. The Notorious B.I.G.
Wherever you fall on the east versus west coast debate in hip-hop, there’s no arguing that the legacy of The Notorious B.I.G. will live on forever. The NYC gangster rapper only lived until age 24, but he received a Grammy nomination in 1995 and an entire haul of nominations in 1997.
The Grammys—and America at large—never quite got Britpop, but Oasis diehards can rest easy knowing their bitter rivals Blur never took home an award either (although Damon Albarn did win with Gorillaz). The influential, brother-fronted Oasis did at least garner a nomination for their biggest U.S. hit “Wonderwall” and their “All Around the World” video.
Uncle Jam, the ringleader of P-Funk or however else you want to refer to George Clinton, is more than deserving of his Lifetime Achievement Award with Parliament-Funkadelic in 2019. The sultan of psychedelic funk is, was and always will be a wizard, regardless of his lack of Grammy nominations.
20. Patti Smith
As one of rock’s premier poets, Patti Smith is perhaps too arty and cool for the Grammys. They snubbed Smith’s 1975 punk classic Horses, but at least they recognized her spoken word talent for M Train and Jo Nesbø’s Blood On Snow.
21. PJ Harvey
PJ Harvey is criminally underrated here in the states. The English singer/songwriter’s arresting, genre-hopping sound that she’s honed across her three-decade career did at least receive some praise via seven Grammy nominations.
Like ABBA, Queen just seem like one of those massive pop acts that was destined for Grammy domination. They took home a Lifetime Achievement Award in 2018, and they did receive praise for “Bohemian Rhapsody” and “Another One Bites the Dust,” but shockingly, their arms were never famously full of Grammys like Adele in 2012.
23. The Ramones
We probably shouldn’t have expected a band of greasy, leather-clad mod tops to win a Grammy, but it’s still a snub that stands out. Like many artists listed here, they may not have craved institutional recognition, but they did receive a Lifetime Achievement Award in 2011.
If Hendrix didn’t win a Grammy for his shredding, at least we can all feel better about Neil Peart’s drumming skills not being recognized either. Rush were perpetual outsiders in more ways than one, but their shape-shifting progressive rock did manage to find itself competing for seven Grammys.
25. Sam Cooke
As wonderfully depicted in the recent Netflix series The Two Killings of Sam Cooke, Cooke’s political and symbolic importance might have been overshadowed by his earlier pop recordings, but his voice has soothed listeners for decades, and it continues to do so. The soul singer was recognized with a Lifetime Achievement Award in 1999 and was nominated for six Grammys in the 1960s.
26. Snoop Dogg
Snoop Doggy Dogg, Snoop Lion, Snoop Dogg or simply Calvin Broadus has had an impressive hip-hop career, sprinkled with far more personality than your average rapper. Having said that, his 16 Grammy nominations have all soured. Snoop, if you’re reading this and you’ve somehow also lost your fortune, maybe lottery tickets are a lost cause.
27. Talking Heads
The bands that emerged from CBGB don’t have the best luck at the Grammys, and Talking Heads are no different. But this New Wave and art rock band did have commercial and critical acclaim behind them, so it’s a little surprising that they were only nominated twice.
28. Tori Amos
As with many veteran artists, the Grammys doesn’t always recognize an act’s first or second project. However, Tori Amos’ second album, 1994’s Under the Pink, is a welcome exception, and she also garnered seven other nominations across the ’90s and 2000s.
29. Tupac Shakur
Is it fitting that 2Pac and Biggie Smalls have never won a Grammy, considering that both had similar career paths and untimely deaths? Maybe so, but Tupac Shakur did best his rival rapper in terms of nominations, with Shakur at six and Biggie at four.
30. The Who
On its surface, The Who’s lack of Grammy victories seems impossible. But once you realize the Grammys didn’t have a Best Rock Album category until 1995, it makes a lot more sense. The Who’s only two nominations came in the ’90s, though they won a Lifetime Achievement Award as well.