Celebrate 50 Years of the American Music Awards, Plus Will It Return?

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50 years ago in 1974, the American Music Awards were started by Dick Clark Productions as an alternative to the Grammy Awards. At the time of its inception, winners and nominees were selected by recording industry members based on commercial success with sales, airplay, and tour sales. It changed in 2006 to be a bit more fan-based as the public can now participate in polls to help choose the winners. A few more things were added to the criteria like video views and social networking. Historically it aired in late January/February until 2002 when it switched to the Fall so as not to compete with the other big award shows early in the season and be a Fall ratings booster for ABC. The fate of the show as of late is questionable since there wasn’t one in 2023 and no show announcements yet for 2024. It’s possible that it could be discontinued as DCP Productions produces the Billboard Awards too and both are currently ‘network’ homeless. Until we know the fate of this 50-year awards show, let’s look back at some of the highlights over the early years.

1974 Inaugural Hosts


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Roger Miller, Helen Reddy, and Smokey Robinson were hosts for the first award show which was held on February 19, 1974. Ironically the Australian ‘I Am Ready’ singer Reddy won an award for Favorite Pop/Rock Female Artist and would go on to help host the show three more times.

Teens Unite!

American singer Michael Jackson (1958 - 2009) poses with Donny Osmond at the American Music Awards in Hollywood, 19th February 1974.

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1970s teen idols/friends Michael Jackson and Donny Osmond pose at the American Music Awards in Hollywood, 19th February 1974. It was their first time presenting at an awards show.

‘Rhinestone Cowboy’ Meets Pop

Singers Olivia Newton-John and Glen Campbell (1936 - 2017) with their awards at the American Music Awards, USA, 31st January 1976. Newton-John won two awards for Best Pop/Rock Album ('Have You Never Been Mellow') and Favorite Pop/Rock Female Artist, and Campbell won the Favorite Pop/Rock Song award for 'Rhinestone Cowboy'.

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Olivia Newton-John and Glen Campbell with their awards in January 1976. Newton-John brought home two awards Best Pop/Rock Album (‘Have You Never Been Mellow’) and Favorite Pop/Rock Female Artist, and Campbell won the Favorite Pop/Rock Song award for ‘Rhinestone Cowboy.’ The pair also hosted this year alongside the ‘Queen of Soul’ Aretha Franklin.

Was 1978 The Best Ever?

AMERICAN MUSIC AWARDS, David Soul, Natalie Cole, 1977

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Starsky & Hutch star David Soul along with Natalie Cole hosted the 1978 show along with Glenn Campbell. Cole would win the Female Artist Soul/R&B award.

SANTA MONICA, CA - JANUARY 16: Country singer Loretta Lynn poses for a portrait with Conway Twitty (Left) and Kenny Rogers at the American Music Awards which were held at the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium on January 16, 1978 in Santa Monica, California.

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Megawatt country stars Conway Twitty, Loretta Lynn, and Kenny Rogers pose for a portrait after they swept the major country awards for the night. Twitty won Best Male Country Artist, Lynn for Best Female, together for Best Duo, and Rogers Best Single with “Lucille.” As far as Best Country Album? That went to none other than Dolly Parton.

11th January 1978: American rock group Fleetwood Mac poses in front of a curtain after winning either Favorite Band, Duo or Group, Rock/Pop or Favorite Album, Rock/Pop at the American Music Awards. L-R: Drummer Mick Fleetwood, singer Stevie Nicks, singer Christine McVie, bassist John McVie and singer/guitarist Lindsey Buckingham. Christine McVie holds the group's award.

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On the rock side of things, Fleetwood Mac took home the award for Best Duo and their massive hit album ‘Rumors.’ They beat out the Eagles for ‘Hotel California’ and Best Duo.

Who Has The Most Wins?

LOS ANGELES, CA - CIRCA 1981: Michael Jackson receives American Music Awards circa 1981 in Los Angeles, California.

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Michael Jackson won his first Awards in 1981 for Favorite Soul/R&B Male Artist and Favorite Soul/R&B Album with ‘Off The Wall’ with a total of 26 AMAs in his lifetime. However, he does not own the title for the most ever won. That honor would of course go to Taylor Swift who has 40. We suspect it helps that things are fan-voted for now. With that being said, it is safe to say she will forever hold this record, especially if the AMAs are dead.

Randy Owen, Jeff Cook (1949 - 2022), Mark Herndon, Teddy Gentry of Alabama attend the American Music Awards circa 1985.

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As far as most group wins? That honor goes to country act Alabama with 18 wins!

Most Shocking Moments

“We Are the World” (1986)

If it wasn’t hard enough to get the whole group together once, how about twice?

Prince’s ‘Purple Rain’ Ruled the Night (1985)

No doubt ‘Purple Rain’ is about as iconic as the ’80s get, as was Prince, the star who recorded it. As each win stacked up Prince was oddly quiet through every thank you speech until it won album of the year beating out another mega iconic album of the 1980s, ‘Thriller.’

Garth Brooks Turns Down Artist of the Year (1996)

In a solidarity tribute to all musicians, he turned it down.

Did you have a favorite year of the American Music Awards? Would you even miss it if it doesn’t come back?

1974 (50 Years Ago)
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1974 (50 Years Ago)

January 2024

In this time capsule issue of ReMIND Magazine we look back 50 years ago to 1974!

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