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10 Best Grammy Performances

The Edge, Bruce Springsteen and Elvis Costello
KMazur, Getty Images

With all apologies to all the lip-syncing, highly choreographed pop stars out there, it’s pretty clear that it’s actually classic rockers who have been responsible for some of the best televised Grammy performances of all time. We combed YouTube and the past 30 years of Grammy history to find the 10 best musical appearances from the music industry’s big night.


Chuck Berry

With Stevie Ray Vaughan and George Thorogood



Talk about star power! This 1984 Grammy performance finds the bluesy duo of Stevie Ray Vaughan (R.I.P.) and George Thorogood joining forces with one of the most important pioneers in rock history for a raucous take on “Roll Over Beethoven.”



Paul Simon



With a big vocal assist from South African vocal group Ladysmith Black Mambazo, Paul Simon kicked off the 29th annual Grammy Awards in very impressive style with a performance of “Diamonds on the Soles of Her Shoes” from his genre-busting 1986 smash Graceland.

David Redfern, Getty Images
David Redfern, Getty Images





Perhaps as revenge for being passed over for the first-very Best Hard Rock / Heavy Metal Grammy the year before, Metallica leaned extra hard into their reading of the war horror story “One” the following year. No doubt all the gunfire, fireworks and excessive distortion made this terrifying tale of a soldier rendered limbless by a land mine even less palatable for the rich folks up front.



Guns N’ Roses



A few years before their history-making (and trouble-making) co-headlining tour, Metallica and Guns N’ Roses┬áboth played the same 1989 Grammys. But rather than trying to fight fire with fire, Axl Rose and company showed their superior range by performing this tender acoustic ballad.



Eric Clapton



Two years after the tragic death of his four-year-old son Conor, Eric Clapton‘s performance of “Tears in Heaven,” a tender tribute to the boy, was the centerpiece of the 35th annual Grammy Awards.



Bob Dylan



This is the famous “Soy Bomb” incident, where performance artist Michael Portnoy — unknowingly hired as a backup dancer — ripped off his shirt and danced like he was having a seizure during Bob Dylan‘s performance of “Love Sick.” The shame of it is that the song, from the fantastic 1997 album Time Out of Mind, was worthy of the spotlight in its own right, and this stunt took the focus away from one of Dylan’s strongest (and most clearly sung) televised performances in quite some time.



Billy Joel

With Tony Bennett



With the country still reeling from the 9/11 attacks five months earlier, the 44th annual Grammy Awards took on an understandably somber tone. Big Apple-area born stars Billy Joel and Tony Bennett joined forces for a jazzy take on Joel’s love letter to their wounded hometown.



Bruce Springsteen, Elvis Costello, Etc.



The high-powered team of Bruce Springsteen, Elvis Costello and Dave Grohl paid tribute to recently deceased Clash star Joe Strummer with a crackling version of the group’s 1979 world-gone-wrong anthem “London Calling.”




The Police



“Ladies and gentlemen, we are the Police and we’re back!” That’s the completely pretense-free announcement Sting used to kick off both the 49th annual Grammy Awards and the group’s highly profitable 16-month-long reunion tour. If they had any concern as to how they’d be welcomed back, the crowd reaction to the group’s performance of “Roxanne” must have set them at ease pretty quickly.



Robert Plant & Alison Krauss



Former Led Zeppelin singer Robert Plant, together with his ‘Raising Sand’ partner Alison Krauss, completely dominated the 2009 Grammy Awards. They won awards in all five categories in which they were nominated, and raised the roof with this performance of “Gone Gone Gone (Done Moved On).”


Next: 10 Times the Grammys Got It Wrong

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