13 surprising Grammy winners

Baha Men 1, Velvet Underground 0.

February 8, 2016

Ooooooooh! The 2016 Grammy Awards are coming up. Who doesn’t love the Grammys? Acts of varying quality pop up, collect awards, and 96% of the time do a duet with Stevie Wonder. It’s never particularly exciting or revolutionary, but it is a sensible Sunday (or sometimes Wednesday) night in and you’re enabled to have a moan about Meghan Trainor being terrible so everybody wins. Thanks Gram-Grams!

Not everyone is destined to pick up one of those snazzy statuettes, mind you. Talking Heads, Katy Perry, and Nicki Minaj are all without a gold gramophones on their mantles, while human pointy turd John Mayer has seven. It’s a weird dynamic and you might be surprised who has walked away with the Recording Academy’s signature prize.

As the latest go-around of the Grammys looms on the horizon, we dug through the archives to highlight 13 winners that might be a bit of a surprise. If Björk plays her cards right, she could one day have as many Grammys as Zach Braff.

Baha Men

Theory: The person that let the dogs out (WOOF! WOOF! WOOF! WOOF!) is also the Zodiac Killer. Prove us wrong, Investigation Discovery!

Novelty tunesmiths the Baha Men emerged triumphant at the 2001 Grammy Awards thanks to “Who Let The Dogs Out” topping cuts from Jennifer Lopez, Moby, Enrique Iglesias, and fellow jock jam irritants Eiffel 65 to earn Best Dance Recording honours. Why let something like “Who Let The Dogs Out” having all the charm of a diarrhea-filled water balloon muck up the fun, right guys?

Grammy noms have been in short supply for the Baha Men since their victory, but children still scream the song in your face at football games so their legacy will never die.

Tia Carrere

Are there any Crucial Taunt die-hards among Grammy voters? Tia Carrere (THE RELIC HUNTER HERSELF) has racked up multiple Grammys in her career and would be a sensible bet for more if Best Hawaiian Music Album were still a thing. Carrere and producer Daniel Ho scored wins in 2009 and 2011 before the category was shuttered and absorbed into the Best Regional Roots Music Album side of things.

Henry Rollins

Everybody’s ultra-cheery bud Smilin’ Hank can do a fair amount of Grammy dickswinging. In 1995, Rollins beat out the likes of Kenneth Branagh, Ben Kingsley, Ken Burns, and Gregory Peck READING THE BIBLE to score Best Spoken Word Album honours for Get in the Van: On the Road with Black Flag.

The hulking mass of spoken word engagements also performed the Rollins Band tune “Liar” at that year’s ceremony. We hope to one day reach a point where historians can sort out if that song is awesome, horrible, or some blurred combo of the two.

Zach Braff

We’d like to extend university freshman of the mid ’00s a hearty congratulations on winning a Grammy. Zack Braff’s quickly embraced then quickly loathed coming-of-age tale Garden State came complete with a frosh-friendly soundtrack (The Shins, Iron & Wine, Zero 7) that was crowned Best Compilation Soundtrack Album for a Motion Picture, Television or Other Visual Media at the 2005 shindig. (TAKE THAT, SHREK 2!). Paste Magazine subscribers likely came in their pants the moment the award was dished out.

Magic Johnson

Basketball players have a history of putting out shit singles and shit albums (this does not apply to Wayman Tisdale), but Magic’s had a pretty good career just as a guy that pops up in music videos. The Lakers great did a bang-up job co-starring in New Edition’s “My Secret (Didja Getit Yet?)” promo and his cameo in Michael Jackson’s “Remember the Time” video gets by on Johnson’s impressive stockpile of goodwill.

The three-time NBA MVP can also boast that he’s earned a Grammy. In 1993, What You Can Do to Avoid AIDS was selected as Best Spoken Word or Non-Musical Album with Magic and Robert O’Keefe the winners.

Bill Clinton, Mikhail Gorbachev, and Sophia Loren

It’s not all that nutty for a U.S. president or a Clinton to win a Grammy, but this combo is pretty impressive. The trio of Bill Clinton, former Soviet Union president Mikhail Gorbachev, and the supernaturally ageless Sofia Loren all own the shit out of some Grammys. (They’d probably phrase it differently, of course.) All three snared their statuettes thanks to their Best Spoken Word Album for Children win for Prokofiev: Peter and the Wolf/Beintus: Wolf Tracks. (Reminder: Peter and the Wolf is like wolf nip to Grammy voters.)

The win marked the first time that an American prez earned the prize, but Hillary Clinton beat her husband to the gold gramophone punch. The (current) White House hopeful nabbed Best Spoken Word Album honours in 1997 for It Takes a Village.

Todd McFarlane

Yes, the Spawn dude with a bad habit of jizzing his money away on home run balls. Todd McFarlane scored a Grammy for Best Short Form Music Video courtesy of his work helming Korn’s “Freak On A Leash” promo. Do you like to imagine McFarlane was hands-on during the scene where Jonathan Davis is doing his scat/beatbox thing IN THE BULLET’S FACE? We do. We think about this all the time. It’s ruined several of our staff’s marriages, but these issues need to be explored.

The video for “Freak on a Leash” was also aided by Little Miss Sunshine‘s directorial duo Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris, making for a truly unlikely collaboration.

Christopher Guest, Eugene Levy, and Michael McKean

It sounds like the ravings of someone that’s been huffing glue all day, but there really was a time when the folk mockumentary A Mighty Wind was considered a huge fucking deal. Or at least as much of a huge fucking deal as one might expect for that sort of project. That’s not a knock on Christopher Guest, Eugene Levy or Michael McKean, though. A Mighty Wind holds up as excellent from a comedic and musical standpoint. (The film’s last gag hits a sour note, mind you.)

In 2004, the act-uniting title track was awarded Best Song Written for a Motion Picture, Television or Other Visual Media over contenders from 8 Mile, Gangs of New York, 2 Fast 2 Furious, and Chicago.

Vaughn Meader

Provided you were born after 1950, Vaughn Meader’s name is likely the most unfamiliar Grammy winner you’ve come across in this rundown. He’s also the act with the snazziest award on the list. Meader won Album of the Year honours over artists like Ray Charles and Tony Bennett in 1963 thanks to his LP The First Family.

That’s not some obscure jazz record or anything like that. Meader won thanks to a comedy album that was a parody of John F. Kennedy and his family. America loved its Kennedy yuks at the time and Meader was a big star for his ability to bring a trunkful of ’em.

Sadly, the Grammy victory would prove to be bittersweet. Meader, a celebrated comedian and impressionist, saw his career largely evaporate after JFK’s assassination later that year.

Exclusive videos, interviews, contests & more.

sign up for the a.side newsletter

sign up