10 Best Grammy Performances
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.
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.”
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
“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.