Top 10 Legendary Musicians Who Never Won a Grammy

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The Grammys, much like the Oscars, have lost some of its luster and credibility in recent years with such pop phenoms such as Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera taking home Grammys. But even more indefensible is the rock and roll legends that haven’t won a Grammy. Some of the most famous and influential musicians in music history have never won a Grammy and here are the top 10 on the list. Bob Marley and Jimi Hendrix won Lifetime Grammy Achievement Awards after their deaths, but we won’t count those since they were given out based on a career and not a year, so to speak.

10. Buddy Holly

Although his success lasted only a year and a half before his death in an airplane crash, Holly is described by critic Bruce Eder as “the single most influential creative force in early rock and roll.” His works and innovations were copied by his contemporaries and later musicians, notably The Beatles, The Beach Boys and The Rolling Stones, and exerted a profound influence on popular music. In 2004, Rolling Stone ranked Holly #13 on their list of the 100 Greatest Artists of All Time. Buddy Holly died in 1959, the year of the first Grammy Awards ceremony and was never eligible for a Grammy during his lifetime.

9. The Doors

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The Doors’ music was a fusion of psychedelic rock, hard rock, blues-rock, and acid rock. They were considered a controversial band, due mostly to Morrison’s cryptic lyrics and unpredictable stage persona. After Morrison’s death on July 3, 1971, the remaining members continued as a threesome until disbanding in 1973. Despite a career that barely totaled eight years, The Doors still enjoy a huge cult following as well as status in the mainstream music industry as being hugely influential and original. According to the RIAA, they have sold over 32 million albums in the US alone. The Doors went winless by the Grammys for during their entire eight years together.

8. Lynyrd Skynyrd

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The band became prominent in the Southern United States in 1973, and rose to worldwide recognition before several members, including lead vocalist and primary songwriter Ronnie Van Zant, died in a plane crash in 1977. The band reformed in 1987 for a reunion tour with Ronnie’s younger brother, Johnny Van Zant as the frontman, and continues to record music today. The band was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame on March 13, 2006. The band now has a total of 7 deceased members. A Grammy still eludes this iconic and pioneering Southern rock band.

7. Jimi Hendrix

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Hendrix synthesized many styles in creating his musical voice and his guitar style was unique, later to be abundantly imitated by others. Despite his hectic touring schedule and notorious perfectionism, he was a prolific recording artist and left behind more than 300 unreleased recordings. With all of his popularity and musical influence he never won a Grammy. In 1992, Hendrix was awarded the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award.

6. Queen

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As of 2005, according to The Guinness Book of World Records, Queen albums have spent a total of 1,322 weeks or twenty-seven years on the United Kingdom album charts; more time than any other musical act including The Beatles and Elvis Presley. Also in 2005, with the release of their live album with Paul Rodgers, Queen moved into third place on the list of acts with the most aggregate time spent on the British record charts, but Queen has still never won a Grammy.


5. Grateful Dead

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The Grateful Dead’s musical influences varied widely; in concert recordings or on record albums one can hear psychedelic rock, blues, rock and roll, country-western, bluegrass, country-rock, and improvisational jazz. These various influences were distilled into a diverse and psychedelic whole that made the Grateful Dead “the pioneering Godfathers of the jam band world. 30 years of touring though couldn’t garner a Grammy award.

4. Led Zeppelin

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With their heavy, guitar-driven sound, Led Zeppelin are regarded as one of the first heavy metal bands. However, the band’s individualistic style draws from many sources and transcends any one genre. The band have sold more than 300 million albums worldwide, including 111.5 million sales in the United States and they have had all of their original studio albums reach the U.S. Billboard Top 10, with six reaching the number one spot. Led Zeppelin are ranked #1 on VH1’s 100 Greatest Artists of Hard Rock. Rolling Stone magazine has described Led Zeppelin as “the heaviest band of all time” and “the biggest band of the ’70s”. But sorry, no Grammy for you.

3. Diana Ross

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A twelve-time Grammy and Oscar-nominated singer, record producer and actress, whose musical repertoire spans R&B, soul, pop, disco and jazz. During the 1960s, she helped shape the sound of popular music and the Motown Sound as lead singer of The Supremes before leaving for a solo career in the beginning of 1970. Since the beginning of her career with The Supremes and as a solo artist, Diana Ross has sold more than 100 million records. Apparently not enough to win a Grammy though.

2. Bob Marley

He was the lead singer, songwriter and guitarist for the ska, rocksteady and reggae bands: The Wailers (1964 – 1974) and Bob Marley & the Wailers (1974 – 1981). Marley remains the most widely known and revered performer of reggae music, and is credited for helping spread Jamaican music to the worldwide audience. Although he never won a Grammy in his lifetime, he was recently announced as a 2007 Grammy Hall of Fame inductee.

1. The Who

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The primary lineup was guitarist Pete Townshend, vocalist Roger Daltrey, bassist John Entwistle and drummer Keith Moon. They became known for energetic live performances, are one of the most influential rock bands of the 1960s and ’70s, and recognized as one of the greatest rock and roll bands of all time. They were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1990, their first year of eligibility. According to the New York Times, The Who have sold 100 million records yet were never recognized by the Recording Academy.


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80 Comments

  1. Grammy Awards Lose the? Remaining Credibility They Had

    With Beyonce winning more Grammys in 1 night than? any other female artist in history, the awards have finally lost whatever remaining credibility they had

    Consider the women who Beyonce has bested. They include: Whitney Houston, Anita Baker, Sade, Patti Labelle, Aretha Franklin, Diana Ross, Mariah Carey, and Chaka Khan. Pity.

    PS: This is not entirely the fault of the Grammys. It is also a reflection of the absolutely bankrupt state of the contemporary pop/r&b music scene.

    Update: Apparently, in one night, Beyonce won the same amount of Grammys that Whitney Houston has won in her entire career, and she topped Mariah Carey’s five.

  2. You can take The Doors off the list, because they just won a Grammy for Best long form music video!

  3. As a teenager, music is all anyone talks about. I have a great bf who has introduced me to most of the TRUE musicians like Buddy Holly. Although I cant bring myself to actually like the songs, I have MAD respect for them. They represent real talent and creativity. As for the whole Britney Spears thing, she sucks. And she knows it. Thats why she has to get so much media attention to bring herself to the limelight rather than just making a good song that does it for her. She mightve written some of her own songs, but I*ve never heard any of them and they arent as faous as the songs written for her. I just think shes fading fast and sex sells, so they make her look slutty to get sales. Really, what has Britney Spears ever done that was deep? What has she done to make a good impression on other girls? And can anyone say shes a good mother? I dont think so. I think shes a bit ridiculous.

  4. Relaxation Beverage on

    Queen, Diana Ross, and The Who are pretty surprising, because of their longevity and commercial success.

  5. I think it’s worth noting that while Bob marley never got a Grammy this is because there was no category. The fact of his death without one- not to mention the sheer number of people who were reggae fans because of him- helped create the category which his sons have won several times now. So before anyone wonders “why isn’t ____ on this list?” ask yourself if an entire category in the Grammys was created because of your favourite artist’s work.

  6. It’s funny. Just before I read this list I read one on modern musical plagiarists and I thought that if there’s ever a list of ALL-TIME greatest music stealers, Led Zep would probably take the No. 1 spot. Then, on this list, bassbait made my point for me. The only Grammy Zep should ever have gotten is one for popularizing the work of Willie Dixon and Robert Johnson.

  7. QUEEN and all of these artists deserve a lifetime Grammy or some new ones life innovative, legends etc..

    Queen wrote, composed, performed and co produced all of their songs! (all of them)

    They were innovative and each member was a college graduate!

    Furthermore they managed to produce music that was not vulgar and is timeless.

    Freddie Mercury is hands down the Best vocalist and overall musician/writer and showman of all time. Maybe not your favorite of this list but if you look at all of the facts it’s true.

    The most impressive thing about Queen is that the pressed on and like many of the above started so very young with no stage mother or production company to help them at all.

    These guys are all awesome!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!1

  8. It really hurts to think QUEEN did not win a Grammy!!! Its very hard to understand the thinking of the people who voted at the time. Its a good thing that the people in charge of The Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame did the right thing!!!! I have nothing more to say but,,you really missed out on giving a Grammy to a group that showed so much energy in there performence and made people love rock and roll. Ray

  9. britney spears has won 1 graamy for best dance recording for toxic but grammy not just awarded pop songs they see more in meaningful musicsongs lyrics

  10. I am one with the idea that Britney had a Grammy award is nonsense, she is just a mundane product made by capitalist music industry in which there’s not even a little bit of art. Even her dancing is beyond bullshit, she moves like 5 year-old girls. But.. Even though Christina sings pop as well, it doesnt mean her being worthless. Ok of course we do not even need to mention her vocal ability, but her songs have deep, meaningful lyrics, especially of her album Stripped, opposed to Britney singing and saying only “are you ready, are you ready aha” each 10 seconds. I think Christina Aguilera should not have been mentioned in the article as a way of denigrating, and I even think that she (Christina) is better than most of the artists mentioned here, who couldn’t have had any Grammy.

    • Britney is just T and A and the public buys that nonsense. They seem to care very little about musical talent these days, which is sad, because for me, it’s has ruined the art of pop music.

      Most of these singers in the industry today you wouldn’t even let have a chance at karaoke. They sound terrible live, but somehow they manage to make it.

  11. Not trying to defend Britney, but on her first two albums, home girl could pack a punch with her voice. It wasn’t till later, that they started auto-tuning and manipulating her songs. I don’t know why they did that. It sounds dreadful. That has more to do with the control of her record company and what they want her to be. Kind of sad, but that’s the way the world is.

    Britney is more of a spectacular dancer and show woman than a singer, so is Madonna. Neither one of them sound especially great live and wouldn’t even make it past American Idol’s judges, but at least Madonna isn’t afraid to make a fool of herself., And Madonna only sounds terrible live , I think ,due in part to her constant and extreme movements on stage

    • I noticed that about Britney too. Her voice sounded much better on her first two albums without all that Auto-Tune, which sounds all kinds of dreadful .AutoTune is what kids want.

  12. People must understand that with the Grammy’s, it’s a committee of peers and industry insiders that vote on who gets to win, it’s a not a vote by fans, like Dick Clark’s American Music Awards.

    Yes, it’s very suprising that someone like Diana Ross has never won a Grammy, considering she was a trailblazer and outsold them all , until Madonna came along, and actually knew how to sing, and sounded much better live than on her records – they didn’t have auto-tune in her day.

    However someone else hit the nail on the head when it comes to Diana Ross. She was very spoiled, demanding, and difficult to work with, as well as being an impossible employer. Diana would fire someone or have them fired just because they looked at her, or she didn’t like their hair style. Ask anyone who’s worked with her. She’s reminded them of Cruella DeVille! Yes, she was an extremely vocally talented lady, but trust me, she will win no industry popularity contests- hence no Grammy. If it weren’t for Berry, she may not have been the legend she is today.

    All that being said, name me one singer or actress that has reached the heights Diana Ross has, that isn’t self centered, demanding ,etc. Self absorbed is was makes these people the kind of people you want to throw money at and gobble up at record stores and movie theatres.

    What does Diana care? She’s got tons of AMAs and other awards and she has a Kennedy Center Award-worth more than any Grammy or Academy Award will ever be worth.

    It’s a little known fact that Diana won the French equivalent of an Academy Awards or Lady Sings The Blues or Mahogany. I’m not sure which one. And she has French Grammy Awards. So Phooey on USA. We’re just stupid simpletons.

    • Your comment was ok until you attacked Diana Ross’ character. She was a trailblazer and very ambitious and new what she wanted. She was also a black woman in the sixties. I have heard many many stories of male rock musicians who were equally ambitious and were hard to get along with. I just saw a documentary last night on Simon and Garfunkel making their iconic album “Bridge Over Troubled Waters”. Paul Simon said that he always included an apology on his albums to people because he wasn’t always a nice guy. Others like Bob Dylan and Neil Young have the same reputation. Your comments seem biased to me. When women (in any field) are ambitious and hard to work with they are considered bitches. Men always get a pass. Ms Ross was different (not your typical soul singer). She was a trailblazer, one of the first cross over artists, and you really have no idea what she was up against. Berry Gordy was lucky to have her at Motown. Period. Stop spreading your gossip. That’s my 2 cents.

  13. Stop spreading your gossip. Artist like Bob Dylan, Neil Young and Paul Simon are described as “hard to work with” yet when women are (especially black women especially in the sixties) they are considered “witches.” Men always get a pass in any industry not just music. And for the record, as a trailblazer and one of the first cross over artists. The industry always tried to put her in a box and she was so much more than that. Berry Gordy was lucky to have Diana Ross at Motown. The Supremes were only second to the Beatles in sales and popularity in the sixties.

  14. This list needs to be updated. Diana Ross received a Lifetime Achievement Grammy award in 2012. That award covers here entire career

    Why in the F do people think that a group like Lynyrd Skynyrd deserves a Grammy? Besides making noise and having nothing but a marginal musical sound, they were rude, low class and crude, always trashing hotel rooms and what not.

  15. How is Justin Bieber and Nicki Minaj and Rihanna not on this list?!?! Where are their Grammys ?!?!!
    Just kidding. I’m honestly just kidding. Lol don’t shoot

  16. The Grateful Dead were the best musicians by far. They wrote and played more music than the other nine groups combined. They could draw from more than 100 songs on stage and never had a set list. Their music was complex, musical geniuses. How many bands were willing to put themselves out there and show their mistakes? I would urge all of you to put your preconceived notions aside and listen to The Dead and their wide variety of work. (live).