Rachel M. Johnson is a lover of all things pop culture. She's been writing about music and entertainment online for over two years.
Often considered the highest achievement in the music industry, the Grammy Award was first introduced in 1959 to honor musical accomplishments. Many believe that earning the statue cements your status in the music world. Some of the most famous artists of all time have received the trophy, yet you may be surprised by some iconic musicians who haven't. Let's take a look at 18 legendary artists who have never won a Grammy. (Note: These artists have never won competitive Grammy Awards, but several have received Lifetime Achievement Grammy Awards).
Famous Artists Who Never Won a Grammy
- The Doors
- Jimi Hendrix
- Lynyrd Skynyrd
- Diana Ross
- Bob Marley
- The Who
- Guns N' Roses
- Janis Joplin
- Tupac Shakur
- The Notorious B.I.G
- Jimmy Buffett
- Creedence Clearwater Revival
- Sam Cooke
- Motley Crüe
- Chuck Berry
Origin: London (1970)
Members: Freddie Mercury, Brian May, John Deacon, Roger Taylor, Mike Grose, Barry Mitchell, Doug Bogie
With estimated record sales ranging from 170 to 300 million records, iconic British rock band Queen are known for massive hits like "Bohemian Rhapsody," "We Will Rock You," "We Are the Champions," and "Another One Bites the Dust." With a whopping 15 albums released and eighteen number one singles featuring the late and talented frontman Freddie Mercury, Queen was an unstoppable force. It is shocking to learn that this beloved rock band never won a competitive Grammy, although they did receive the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 2018.
Origin: Los Angeles (1965)
Members: Jim Morrison, Ray Manzarek, Robby Krieger, John Densmore, Jim Manzarek, Rick Manzarek, Pat Sullivan
Known for his distinct voice and wild personality, beloved vocalist Jim Morrison was the front man for American rock band The Doors. The group released an impressive eight albums over a five-year period, many of which are considered among the greatest of all time. When Morrison died under uncertain circumstances in 1971, the band continued as a trio until disbanding in 1973. Since their short, yet impacting, reign in the music world, The Doors have sold 33 million records in the United States and over 100 million records worldwide. They are famous for mega-hit songs like "Light My Fire," "Riders on the Storm," and "People Are Strange," yet never earned a Grammy. They received a Grammy Award for Lifetime Achievement in 2007.
Born: Born November 27, 1942, Seattle, WA
Band Members: Jimi Hendrix, Noel Redding, Mitch Mitchell, Billy Cox
Widely regarded as one of the most influential guitarists in all of music history, the legendary Jimi Hendrix had a brief, yet phenomenal, career. He was the first musician to use stereophonic phasing effects in recordings, and penned classic songs like "Purple Haze" and "The Wind Cries Mary," as well as his iconic covers of "Hey Joe" and "All Along the Watchtower." With his band The Jimi Hendrix Experience, he released three successful albums and one solo album in 1970. Hendrix headlined the Woodstock Festival in 1969 and was taking the world by storm until his tragic death in 1970 at 27 (he died from barbiturate-related asphyxia). The famed musician was only ever awarded a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award.
Origin: Jacksonville, Florida, U.S. (1964)
Members: Ronnie Van Zant, Gary Rossington, Ed King
Lynyrd Skynyrd is an American rock band famous for popularizing the Southern rock genre in the 1970s, and under their original lineup they released an impressive five studio albums. They released beloved classics like "Sweet Home Alabama" and "Free Bird," but their music career was cut short in 1977 when lead vocalist Ronnie Van Zant, guitarist/vocalist Steve Gaines, backing vocalist Cassie Gaines, and assistant road manager Dean Kilpatrick were killed in a plane crash. The pilot and co-pilot were also killed, while 20 others survived. The group disbanded after the accident, eventually reforming in 1987. Lynyrd Skynyrd has sold 28 million albums, but they have never received a Grammy Award.
Born: Born March 26, 1944, Detroit, MI
Initially, Ross rose to fame as the lead singer for the vocal group the Supremes. Ross is a talented songstress, actress, and producer, who found much success with the girl group, as well as her solo career. With the Supremes, Ross had several number one hit singles (including "Baby Love," "Come See About Me," and "Stop! In the Name of Love") throughout the '60s, and many more following her departure from the group in 1970. She would go on to have a combined 70 hit singles between her work with the Supremes and as a solo artist. During her solo career, songs like "Ain't No Mountain High Enough," "Love Hangover," and "I'm Coming Out" were some of the most popular tunes ever recorded. Though Ross is a 12-time Grammy nominee, she has never earned a competitive honor. However, she did become the recipient of the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 2012.
Born: February 6, 1945, Nine Mile, Jamaica
Died: May 11, 1981, University of Miami Hospital, Miami, FL
Iconic Jamaican singer and songwriter Bob Marley is considered one of the pioneers of reggae, and his contributions to the music world have made him a massive figure in pop culture. He formed Bob Marley and the Wailers in 1963, and with the group he released 13 studio albums featuring hit songs like "One Love/People Get Ready," "Get Up, Stand Up," "No Woman, No Cry," and "Redemption Song." Marley would release solo material under the band's name, and would go on to have estimated record sales of more than 75 million worldwide. His life was tragically cut short when he died at the age of 36 from melanoma. While he never won a competitive Grammy, Marley was awarded the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 2001.
Origin: London (1964)
Members: Roger Daltrey, Pete Townshend, Keith Moon, John Entwistle, Kenney Jones, John Bundrick, Doug Sandom
English rock band The Who established themselves as part of the pop art and mod movements when they first formed in 1964. They would go on to find both critical and commercial success, releasing hit singles like "Happy Jack," "Who Are You," and "My Generation." The group released eight albums under their original lineup, ultimately replacing drummer Keith Moon when he died from a Heminevrin overdose in 1978. The Who split in 1983, but they officially reunited in 1996. They have sold over 100 million records and are often cited as an influence by punk rock, hard rock, and mod bands.
Guns N' Roses
Origin: Los Angeles, California (1985)
Members: Axl Rose, Duff McKagan, Slash, Dizzy Reed, Richard Fortus, Frank Ferrer, Melissa Reese
Hard rock and heavy metal American band Guns N' Roses first hit the music scene in 1987, with their debut album Appetite for Destruction. It featured mega-hit singles likes "Welcome to the Jungle," "Paradise City," and "Sweet Child o' Mine." They would go on to release five more studio albums, spawning hits such as "November Rain" and "Knockin' on Heaven's Door"—ultimately selling more than 100 million records. Though Guns N' Roses' lineup has repeatedly changed over the years due to creative differences between band members, they continue to successfully tour. They have received four Grammy nominations for their work, but have no wins.
Origin: January 19, 1943, Port Arthur, TX
Members: Janis Joplin, Sam Andrew, David Getz, James Gurley
Famed rock and blues singer-songwriter Janis Joplin was known for her soulful voice and powerful stage performance, and in her short, yet impactful, career she dominated and shaped the music world. Some of her most popular songs include cover versions of "Cry Baby," "Ball and Chain," and "Piece of My Heart," as well as her original song "Mercedes Benz." Joplin was known for her electric and charismatic stage presence, and though she died of a drug overdose at 27, she inspired many future artists. She has sold 15.5 million albums, and released three official records (and one posthumously).
Origin: June 16, 1971, East Harlem, New York, NY
Assassinated: September 13, 1996, University Medical Center, Las Vegas, NV
Widely considered to be one of the greatest rappers of all time, Tupac Shakur was known for addressing contemporary social issues and was a prominent figure for his activism in favor of racial equality. He released his debut album 2Pacalypse Now in 1991, as well as three more albums before his tragic death in 1996. With songs like "Dear Mama" and "California Love," Shakur's superstar status was cemented. Five albums have been released since his death, all of which have been certified platinum. He has sold over 75 million records worldwide, and remains one of the most prolific musical artists of all time.
Origin: San Francisco (1973)
Members: Neal Schon, Ross Valory, Steve Smith, Jonathan Cain, Arnel Pineda, Prairie Prince, Gregg Rolie, George Tickner, Aynsley Dunbar, Robert Fleischman, Steve Perry, Randy Jackson, Steve Augeri, Deen Castronovo, Jeff Scott Soto
American rock band Journey first formed in 1978, and with lead vocalist Steve Perry, they would go on to have 18 Top 40 singles, including hits like "Don't Stop Believin'," "Open Arms," and "Any Way You Want It." Journey disbanded in 1987 after nine studio albums and one soundtrack. Later, they reunited with a new lineup in 1995. They would go on to release five more albums. Journey has sold 75 million records worldwide and were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2017. Despite all of their success, they have never earned a Grammy Award.
The Notorious B.I.G
Origin: May 21, 1972, St Mary's Hospital, New York, NY
Assassinated: March 9, 1997, Los Angeles, CA
Just like fellow rapper Tupac Shakur, Christopher Wallace (A.K.A The Notorious B.I.G) is considered one of the greatest rappers of all time. During his short, but powerful, career, B.I.G released two chart-topping albums, including Ready to Die (1994) and Life After Death (1997). With massive singles like "Juicy," "Big Poppa," and "Hypnotize," the rapper dominated the music scene until he was tragically murdered in 1997 at the age of 24. Since his death, three more albums have been released under his name and he has sold 17 million records in the US. He was nominated for four Grammy Awards during his career.
Origin: Hollis, Queens, New York (1983)
Members: Joseph "Run" Simmons, Darryl "D.M.C." McDaniels, Jason "Jam Master Jay" Mizell
American hip-hop group Run-DMC is widely acknowledged as one of the most influential musical acts in hip-hop culture, and helped pioneer new school hip-hop music. The group released seven studio albums during their 19-year career, and were the first group in the genre to earn a platinum record and earn a multi-platinum certification. Run-DMC is famous for songs like "Sucker M.C.'s," "My Adidas," "It's Tricky," and "Run's House." Despite being pioneers of their music genre, the group never earned a competitive Grammy. They disbanded in 2002 following the murder of member Jason "Jam Master Jay" Mizell.
Born: December 25, 1946, Pascagoula, MS
Famed country singer Jimmy Buffett is known for his music that portrays an "island escapism" lifestyle, and the crooner is not only a beloved musician, but also an actor and businessman. He released his debut album Down to Earth in 1970, and ultimately went on to put out 27 total studio albums. With iconic songs like "Margaritaville," "Come Monday," and "It's Five O'Clock Somewhere" (along with Alan Jackson), Buffett is known for his carefree song styles. Despite being a constant figure in the music and entertainment world for nearly 50 years (and selling more than 20 million albums), the singer has never won a Grammy Award.
Creedence Clearwater Revival
Origin: El Cerrito, CA (1967)
Members: John Fogerty, Tom Fogerty, Stu Cook, Doug Clifford
American Southern rock band Creedence Clearwater Revival found massive success when they first burst onto the music scene in 1967. They released their self-titled debut album in 1968, then six more during their short, but mighty, career, penning hit songs like "Proud Mary," "Bad Moon Rising," and "Have You Ever Seen The Rain?". The group performed at the 1969 Woodstock Festival and had chart-topping success, before they called it quits in 1972. Despite their internal discord, CCR has sold 28 million records in the United States alone, and were inducted in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1993.
Born: January 22, 1931, Clarksdale, MS
Died: December 11, 1964, Los Angeles, CA
Legendary singer/songwriter Same Cooke is known as the King of Soul and was also a powerful civil rights activist. He was a pioneer to the soul music genre and is famous for his distinctive and smooth vocals. Cooke released 13 studio albums between 1957 and 1964, as well as two live albums. With beloved singles such as "A Change Is Gonna Come," "Twistin' the Night Away," and "Bring It on Home to Me," he had an impressive 29 Top 40 hits on the pop charts. Cooke died under mysterious circumstances from a gunshot wound in 1964 at 33. He was awarded the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 1999.
Origin: Los Angeles, California (1981)
Members: Nikki Sixx, Tommy Lee, Vince Neil, Mick Mars
American rock and heavy/glam metal band Motley Crüe released their debut album Too Fast for Love in 1981, and would go on to release an additional eight chart-topping records. With hit singles like "Smokin' in the Boys Room," "Girls, Girls, Girls," and "Dr. Feelgood," the band found much mainstream success. Despite several short-term lineup changes over the years, Motley Crüe continues to rock hard. They have sold over 100 million albums worldwide, have had seven platinum/multi-platinum certifications and have 22 Top 40 mainstream rock hits. Despite being nominated for a Grammy three times, they have yet to win.
Born: October 18, 1926, St. Louis, MO
Died: March 18, 2017, Wentzville, MO
Iconic rock and roll music pioneer Chuck Berry was famous for his incredible guitar solos and spectacular showmanship, influencing what became the rock 'n' roll image. With songs like "Maybelline," "Rock and Roll Music," and "Johnny B. Goode," Berry helped refine and define rhythm and blues. His lyrics focused heavily on consumerism and teen life, and he truly helped shaped the look and feel of rock music. Berry released 20 studio albums during his career and had 45 singles in a career that spanned over 60 years (until his death at 90 in 2017). He is heavily lauded as one of the greatest musicians of all time and continues to influence artists to this day.
© 2019 Rachel M Johnson
Rachel M Johnson (author) on October 03, 2019:
Hi Brittany, I couldn’t agree more! I definitely don’t think the Grammys have the esteem and worth that they used to. The fact that some of these iconic artists never won one is mind-blowing.
Brittany Brown from Sydney, Australia on October 03, 2019:
This is so interesting! I can't believe so many amazing artists like Queen, Janis, and Jimi never won Grammys! I think Grammys have become sorta overrated now, anyway.