Artists will be honored during Grammy Week
Nirvana, Nile Rodgers, Ann & Nancy Wilson of Heart and The Supremes are among the Recording Academy’s Special Merit Awards honorees for 2023. The Recording Academy’s Special Merit Awards Ceremony celebrates the 2023 Lifetime Achievement Award, Trustees Award, Technical Grammy Award, and Best Song For Social Change Award recipients. The event returns for the first time since 2020 during Grammy Week on February 4th at the Wilshire Ebell Theatre.
Bobby McFerrin, Ma Rainey and Slick Rick “The Ruler” will also receive the honor. Henry Diltz, Ellis Marsalis and Jim Stewart are the Trustees Award recipients while the Audio Engineering Society (AES) and Dr. Andy Hildebrand are the Technical Grammy Award honorees. The Best Song For Social Change honoree will be announced at a later date.
“The Academy is proud to celebrate this diverse slate of influential music people spanning numerous genres and crafts as our 2023 Special Merit Awards honorees,” states Harvey Mason jr., CEO of the Recording Academy. “Each creator on this list has made an impact on our industry — from technical to creative achievements — representing the breadth of music’s diverse community. We’re excited to celebrate this group of legends next month that continues to inspire and shape the music world.”
This Special Merit Award is presented by vote of the Recording Academy’s National Trustees to performers who, during their lifetimes, have made creative contributions of outstanding artistic significance to the field of recording.
Ten-time Grammy Award winner Bobby McFerrin has blurred the distinction between pop music and fine art, exploring uncharted vocal territory and inspiring a whole new generation of a cappella singers and the beatbox movement. From his trailblazing, solo a cappella performances to his inspired collaborations with Chick Corea and Yo-Yo Ma, his iconic global No. 1 hit “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” and his work conducting top-tier orchestras, McFerrin’s calling has always been to connect people through the unlimited possibilities of music. McFerrin has redefined the role of the human voice with his experiments in multi-tracking, his collaborations, his improvising choir Voicestra, and his legendary solo performances.
Formed in 1987 by Kurt Cobain and Krist Novoselic, Nirvana emerged from the Pacific Northwest onto the world stage with the 1989 release of its debut album Bleach. Two years later Nirvana’s sophomore album Nevermind would spark a seismic shift in global youth culture. Rising to No. 1 worldwide and featuring Grammy Hall of Fame single “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” Nevermind‘s impact would transform Cobain, Novoselic and Dave Grohl into one of the most successful and influential musical entities of all time. Nirvana’s third and ultimately final studio album, In Utero, was released in 1993, completing an indelible run that returned rock ‘n’ roll integrity and passion to the top of the charts. With a 2014 induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and more than 75 million records sold, Nirvana continues to be a singular inspiration for generations of fans and musicians the world over.
Often called the “Mother of the Blues,” Ma Rainey (Gertrude Pridgett Rainey) was known for her deep voice and mesmerizing stage presence that drew packed audiences in the early twentieth century. A songwriter as well as a performer, her lyrics and melodies reflected her experiences as an independent, openly bisexual African-American woman. Rainey signed a recording contract with Paramount Records in 1923, making her one of the earliest recorded blues musicians. Between 1923 and 1928, she recorded almost 100 records, many of them national hits that are now part of the American musical canon. Her 1924 recording of “See See Rider Blues” (for which she was accompanied by a young Louis Armstrong) was added to the Library of Congress’s National Recording Registry in 2004.
Nile Rodgers is a Rock & Roll Hall of Fame inductee, Songwriters Hall of Fame inductee and a multiple Grammy Award-winning songwriter, composer, producer, arranger, and guitarist. As the co-founder of Chic, Rodgers pioneered a musical language that generated chart-topping hits like “Le Freak,” the biggest-selling single in the history of Atlantic Records, and sparked the advent of hip hop with “Good Times.” His work in the Chic Organization including “We Are Family” with Sister Sledge and “I’m Coming Out” with Diana Ross and his productions for artists like David Bowie (“Let’s Dance”), Madonna (“Like A Virgin”) and Duran Duran (“The Reflex”) have sold over 500 million albums and 100 million singles worldwide while his innovative, trendsetting collaborations with Daft Punk, Daddy Yankee and Beyoncé reflect the vanguard of contemporary hits.
Renowned as “THE most sampled hip-hop artist in history” and “Hip-hop’s greatest storyteller,” Slick Rick “The Ruler” has set the pace for rap’s past, present, and future. The Ruler’s catalog, which includes the anthems “La-Di-Da-Di” and “The Show,” boasts over 850 samples, ranging from Snoop Dogg’s “Lodi Dodi” through Beyoncé and J. Cole’s “Party.” Noted as “the third artist signed to Def Jam Recordings” and “the most successful British-American rapper,” his multiplatinum discography encompasses The Great Adventures of Slick Rick , The Ruler’s Back , Behind Bars , and The Art of Storytelling .
Two-time Grammy Award nominees The Supremes were the leading act of Motown Records during the 1960s. Founded by Diana Ross, Mary Wilson and Florence Ballard, The Supremes were trailblazers in the history of music, transcending all genres as the first female group that defined a generation. They were leaders at a pivotal time during the American Civil Rights movement by bringing together audiences that had racial and cultural differences through their style and music. Named the No. 1 female recording group of all time by Billboard in 2017, the group achieved an unprecedented 12 No. 1 hits and five consecutive No. 1s from 1964-1965 with “Where Did Our Love Go,” “Baby Love,” “Come See About Me,” “Stop! In the Name of Love,” and “Back in My Arms Again.” The Supremes were inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1988 with The Beatles, received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1994, and were inducted into the Vocal Group Hall of Fame in 1998.
Ann Wilson and Nancy Wilson are being recognized as Lifetime Achievement Award honorees for their creative work with the rock band Heart. Heart was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, sold over 35 million records, garnered four Grammy Award nominations, landed 10 Top 10 albums, received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, had several No. 1 hits, and achieved “the longest span of top 10 albums on the Billboard charts by a female-led band.” Heart’s influence can be palpably felt everywhere from rock and heavy metal to hip-hop and pop. As a result, their music resonates in nearly every corner of pop culture.