Since the Grammys began 63 years ago, only 11 Black artistes have won album of the year — the top prize. At the 2022 Grammy Awards, pianist, singer and songwriter Jon Batiste became the latest Black artiste to take home the night’s biggest award of Album of the Year.
Batiste, who is the bandleader and musical director of the “Late Show with Stephen Colbert,” won the award for his work on the 2021 studio album “We Are.” He beat out Kanye West, Taylor Swift, Billie Eilish, Olivia Rodrigo, Lil Nas X, and Doja Cat for the honor. H.E.R., Tony Bennett, Lady Gaga, and Justin Bieber were also hoping to win.
“I believe this to my core, there is no best musician, best artist, best dancer, best actor,” “Freedom” artiste Batiste said Sunday night while accepting his award. “The creative arts are subjective and they reach people at a point in their lives when they need it most. It’s like a song or an album is made and it almost has a radar to find the person when they need it the most.”
Batiste earlier in the evening took home four Grammys: Best Music Video, Best American Roots Performance, Best American Roots Song and Best Score Soundtrack for Visual Media. Most importantly, he is now the first Black artiste to win Album of the Year (the highest honor in music) in 14 years.
Here are all the other Black artistes who have won the coveted album of the year at the Grammys:
In 1974, Stevie Wonder became the first Black artiste to win album of the year for his 16th studio album, “Innervisions,” which he released in August 1973. He received the award 15 years after the Grammys began.
“Fulfillingness’ First Finale”, released on July 22, 1974, was Wonder’s first album to top the Pop charts and led to him winning the Grammy Award for Album of the Year for the second year in a row. Wonder won Album of the Year again in 1977 for “Songs in the Key of Life”. He is now the only artiste in Grammy history to win album of the year with three consecutive studio albums.
Michael Jackson won album of the year in 1984 for his album, “Thriller.” The nine-track album produced hits like “The Girl is Mine”, “Thriller”, “Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin”, “Beat It” and “Human Nature”. At the 1984 Grammys, Jackson became the first artiste ever to win eight Grammy Awards in one night.
He won album of the year in 1985 for “Can’t Slow Down”, his sophomore solo album that remained in the Top 10 on the Billboard 200 for the entire year of 1984.
In 1991, Jones won album of the year for “Back on the Block”. The collaborative album featured some well-known artistes including Ella Fitzgerald, Miles Davis, Luther Vandross, Dionne Warwick, Barry White, Ice-T, Big Daddy Kane, Dizzy Gillepsie, and Ray Charles.
Natalie Cole, who is the daughter of leading jazz pianist Nat King Cole, won album of the year in 1992 for her 12th studio album “Unforgettable…With Love”. Released on June 11, 1991, the album includes covers of her father’s music. It has also been certified seven times platinum.
In 1994, Whitney Houston won album of the year for the soundtrack of “The Bodyguard,” the hit 1992 movie she starred in. The soundtrack album has been certified platinum 17 times and sold more than 44 million copies worldwide, making it one of the best-selling soundtracks of all time.
Her debut solo album, “The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill”, won album of the year in 1999, making her the first-ever hip-hop artiste to win the coveted award. The singer and songwriter is the only female artiste in Grammys history to win album of the year for an album on which she was the sole producer, according to Billboard. Hill is also one of only five artistes to win album of the year and best new artiste on the same night.
In September 2003, ATL hip hop duo Outkast released their double album “Speakerboxxx/The Love Below”. The album won the Grammy for Album of the Year in 2004, making it the second time that a hip-hop act won the title. It was the duo’s fifth studio album.
Singer, songwriter, pianist, and composer Ray Charles posthumously won album of the year in 2005 for “Genius Loves Company,” which was his final studio album. It was released two months after he died in June 2004. Its co-producers, John Burk and Phil Ramone, accepted the award in 2005 on Charles’ behalf.
In 2008, jazz pianist, keyboardist, bandleader, and composer Herbie Hancock took home album of the year for “River: The Joni Letters”. The album was a collection of covers of songs by the white folk artist Joni Mitchell. The win marked the first time in 43 years that a jazz album had been selected as album of the year. The announcement came as a shock to many in the music world.
“I’d like to thank the Academy for courageously breaking the mold this time, in doing so, honoring the giants upon whose shoulders I stand, some of whom like Miles Davis, John Coltrane … unquestionably deserved the award in the past,” Hancock said after accepting the award. “But this is a new day, that proves that the impossible can be made possible.”