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Was 1968 the best year for the Grammys?

Written by The Anand Market

Updated on:

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In 1968, The Beatles won their first and only Album of the Year Grammy for “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club band. Credit…PA Images, via Getty Images

The 66th annual Grammy Awards take place on Sunday, and this year’s lineup of artists is pretty exceptional. I mean, Joni Mitchell is efficient! For the first time at the Grammys! I could really stop there, but Billy Joel, Billie Eilish, SZA, U2, Olivia Rodrigo, Burna Boy, Luc Combs, Dua Lipa, Travis Scott and others are expected to take the stage. Will Joel and Eilish take advantage of this opportunity to create a supergroup called the Billies? Will SZA and U2 launch an all-caps collaborative side project called SUZA2? Will Travis Scott meet Joni Mitchell, and if so, what will they talk about? The possibilities for this year’s ceremony are endless and a little strange.

To kick off Grammy week, I thought it would be fun to look back at another great, if somewhat strange, year in Grammy history: the 10th annual ceremony, which took place on February 29 1968 and honored the music of 1967.

The infamous Grammys don’t always get it right. Sometimes their slights are ridiculously blatant (like when Metallic lost the 1989 award for best hard rock/heavy metal recording to… Jethro Tull); other times they play with annoying security (see: Beyonce(the last three defeats of the album of the year). But just like a broken clock proves right twice a day, sometimes justice East served at the Grammys. And 1968 was one of those years.

Consider that Album of the Year went to a release that pushed the format into the future, and is still often (and rightly) mentioned in lists of the greatest albums of all time. Some incredibly deserving artists won their first-ever Grammys that year: Elvis Presley, Aretha Franklin And Tammy Wynette. Many of the winning songs and artists have – gasp – stood the test of time.

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Today’s playlist is entirely selected from the winners of the 10th annual Grammys. Feed your meter, blow up this magnificent balloon and prepare to climb into a time machine ready to take you into the air.


In perhaps one of the least questionable album of the year wins ever, the trophy went to “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” – the only time the Beatles won this particular award. (They had lost the previous two years, to two different Frank Sinatra albums.) “Sgt. Pepper’s” won three more Grammys that night, for engineering, album art and the first and only statue for best contemporary albuma rather confusingly titled honor that would ultimately be renamed Best Pop Vocal Album.
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In 1967, smoky-voiced newcomer Bobbie Gentry took the music world by storm with her sparsely arranged, carefully written “Ode to Billie Joe,” which topped the Hot 100 for four weeks ( ousting The Beatles’ “All You Need Is Love”). ). On Grammy night, “Ode to Billie Joe” won three trophies and Gentry was crowned best new artist, making her the top country act. And the first woman to win this award.
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The rather wordy award for best country and western performance duo, trio or group (vocal or instrumental) went to “Jackson,” that still crackling instant classic recorded by Johnny Cash and his future wife, June Carter.
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The Recording Academy has given much-deserved respect to Aretha Franklin’s name, awarding her both Best R&B Recording and Best R&B Solo Vocal Performance, Female.
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The duo Sam & Dave won a lifetime achievement Grammy in 2019, but their first and only competitive Grammy was for “Soul Man,” which won best R&B group performance at the 10th ceremony. For what it’s worth, that’s one more Grammy than the Blues Brothers won.
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Country star Glen Campbell’s cover of John Hartford’s melancholic folk song “Gentle on My Mind” helped him gain mainstream recognition. The song won a total of four Grammys at the 1968 ceremony: three country awards for Campbell’s version and best folk performance for The Hartford Original.
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Regular readers of this newsletter know that I’m a huge Tammy Wynette fan — see: my Wynette playlist from last year — so I’m happy to report that Wynette won her first Grammy in 1968, when the beautifully sung ” I Don’t Wanna Play House” received the award for Best Female Country and Western Solo Vocal Performance, an award she would win again two years later for “Stand by Your Man.”
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Elvis Presley first recorded this cover of Darrell Glenn’s country-gospel standard in 1960. When it was finally released in 1965, it reached number three on the Hot 100 (a rarity for a gospel anthem) and briefly revived the then declining pop of the King. career. The song was later included on his 1967 album “How Great Thou Art,” which earned him his first Grammy, in the now-defunct category of Best Sacred Performance.
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5th Dimension’s sunny pop anthem, “Up, Up and Away,” won six Grammys at the 1968 ceremony, including top honors for record and song of the year. While these wins may not hold up perfectly in retrospect, personally, I would have attributed the record to Franklin’s “Respect” or the Beatles’ “A Day in the Life,” as well as the song “Suzanne.” by Leonard Cohen, which wasn’t even the case. nominees – they also provide a lasting snapshot of the sound of the late 1960s as it was recognized in real time.
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“Was 1968 the Grammys’ best year?” » track list
Track 1: The Beatles, “Lovely Rita”
Track 2: Bobbie Gentry, “Ode to Billie Joe”
Track 3: Johnny Cash with June Carter Cash, “Jackson”
Track 4: Aretha Franklin, “Respect”
Track 5: Sam and Dave, “Soul Man”
Track 6: Glen Campbell, “Gentle on My Mind”
Track 7: Tammy Wynette, “I Don’t Want to Play House”
Track 8: Elvis Presley, “Crying in the Chapel”
Track 9: The 5th dimension, “Up, Up and Away”