8 of the Most Iconic Grammy Performances Through the Years

Chuck Berry and Michael Jackson
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It has been 65 years since the Grammy Awards began and the show has gifted us with some incredible performances over the years. While the music industry has changed immensely since the award show’s inception in 1959 as a black-tie affair at the Beverly Hilton. With big names like Frank Sinatra and Ella Fitzgerald up for awards it only boasted only 28 categories. It wasn’t until 1971 that it started broadcasting live and since proven that with each decade comes some amazing performers. Let’s reminisce about a few of the most iconic Grammy performances of all time, starting with Stevie Wonder.

Stevie Wonder (1974)

Little Richard, Stevie Wonder's brother, Lula Mae Hardaway (Stevie Wonder's mother), Stevie Wonder, Chuck Berry and unidentified at the 16th Annual Grammy Awards. Image dated March 2, 1974

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Wonder has had some wonderful Grammy performances but one of the best was in 1974 when he performed “You Haven’t Done Nothin'” and many of the guests were grooving in their seats. Wonder has won 23 Grammy Awards during his long career.

Ella Fitzgerald And Mel Tormé (1976)

American singers Ella Fitgerald (1917 - 1996) and Mel Torme (1925 - 1999) perform a duet on an episode of 'The Garry Moore Show,' New York, New York, March 25, 1960

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While this wasn’t an official performance, we would be remiss not to include their impromptu scat performance that wowed audiences.

Rick James (1982)

Rick James at the 24th Annual Grammy Awards at the Shrine Auditorium on February 24, 1982

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If you wanted a sexy performance, Rick James was sure to deliver! He was nominated for Best Rock and Best R&B performance, proving that he could easily crossover through different genres. His performance of “Give It To Me Baby” introduced by John Denver was truly something to see.

Herbie Hancock (1984)

The 26th Annual Grammy Awards, presented at Shrine Auditorium, Los Angeles. Broadcast on CBS television on February 28, 1984. An event recognizing the achievements and talents of singers, musicians, and music industry persons. Pictured is Herbie Hancock.

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Just a few years later, jazz pianist Herbie Hancock gave a very ’80s performance of “Rockit” surrounded by break-dancers and robots of sorts.

Chuck Berry, Stevie Ray Vaughan And George Thorogood (1984)

The same year, Chuck Berry received a Lifetime Achievement Award so this trio came together to perform “Maybellene” and “Roll Over Beethoven.” When Berry accepted the away, he shouted, “Long live rock ‘n’ roll!”

Jackson performed a jaw-dropping performance of “The Man in the Mirror” with a gospel choir, it was the latest single from his album “Bad.”

Eric Clapton (1993)

British rock star Eric Clapton poses with the six Grammys he won 24 February 1993 at the 35th annual Grammy Awards. His song "Tears in Heaven" won both as record and song of the year, and his album "Unplugged" won as album of the year

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One of the more emotional performances was when Eric Clapton performed “Tears In Heaven” and won six awards in one night for the song and its album.

Whitney Houston (1994)

Whitney Houston attends the 36th Annual Grammy Awards held at Radio City Music Hall circa 1994 in New York City

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Houston performed her version of “I Will Always Love You” from The Bodyguard and it was a truly breathtaking performance. 18 years later, Jennifer Hudson performed the song to honor Houston, who passed away that same year in 2012.


The Grammy Awards air on February 4, 2024, at 8 p.m. ET on CBS and Paramount+.

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