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Grammy boxes up hits for holiday set

Relive history with past recipients of the Grammy award

November 29, 1999
Web posted at: 3:54 p.m. EST (2054 GMT)

From Serena Yang
CNN WorldBeat Correspondent

LOS ANGELES (CNN) -- The United States' National Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences (NARAS) has received some 15,000 entries to be winnowed to nominations for 98 Grammy categories before the awards show in February.

New categories for the 2000 Grammys include best soundtrack album and best salsa performance. The Academy has also just released a four-CD box set, a selective sampling of performances by Grammy winners from the award's 40-year history.

"The challenge of the box set initially," says NARAS president and CEO Michael Greene, "was: 'Gosh, with the thousands of great recordings that are out there, we are limited to under 100 to keep it down to four CDs. So what do we put in this thing?' You're moving from The Beach Boys to Marvin Gaye to Billie Holiday to Jimi Hendrix to Miles Davis to John Coltrane to Leontyne Price.

"There's a beautiful connection between music and we think this box set kind of proves that, once and for all."

Although Grammy recordings are nothing new -- a quick scan through any CD-selling Web site reveals more than a dozen albums encapsulating the "best of" past Grammy years and categories -- this latest set offers something unique in the length of time it spans and the breadth of its musical genres.

"The Ultimate Grammy Box" is made up of musical performances that have either won a Grammy Award since the award's 1958 inception, or have been voted into the Recording Academy's Hall of Fame since it was established in 1973. Released last week on the Sony/Legacy label with liner notes by music historian Robert K. Oermann, the set includes 73 songs. Elvis Presley, Bob Dylan, Ella Fitzgerald and Marvin Gaye are among the artists to make the cut.

The Grammy box set looks back at award-winning tunes during the Academy's history

An exclusive voting process

Greene spoke at length about how the Grammy process works.

"It started at a hotel banquet, which was not televised on a network, and I think Henry Mancini was the big winner. 'Volare' got the first record of the year," he says. "Since then, we now are (televised) in 187 countries, (for an audience of some) 1.5 billion people."

And how does one go about winning a Grammy?

"What I always loved about the Grammys is that your very peers are the ones who voted you in," says singer Tony Bennett. "There's no greater honor that could be bestowed upon a performer."

Greene says the voting aspect of the Grammys is perhaps the biggest misconception regarding the Academy. "You have to be a professional, you have to have six records out," he says. "Just because you're a record company executive or a publisher or a publicist or a promoter or a manager, you can't vote."


Review: 'Ultimate Grammy Box' -- this end up


With so many recordings in competition this year, going through the entries and making sure each one is properly categorized can be laborious. After the entries have been compiled, Greene says, "We send out the entry list and the entry list is about as big as a small phone book.

"It goes out to the members. They are eligible to vote in only certain fields. So you can't vote in everything. The final round of voting, the members vote from the top five and when you see the envelope opened on Grammy night, which this year is February 23, that will be the first time anybody will know who those winners are."

And it's anybody's guess what the winners will say. When David Bowie announced Aretha Franklin's Grammy win, she told the audience, "Wow, this is so good I could kiss David Bowie." In accepting one of her four Grammy Awards, Dionne Warwick said, "I want to thank God for giving me the voice to do the song."

And Greene recalls Frank Sinatra's win at the first Grammy Awards in 1957. "(Sinatra) held up the Grammy and it's about a fourth of the size of the current Grammy. It looked a little bit more like a pencil sharpener.

"And he said, 'This is a Grammy. This is not for sales. You get bread for that. This is for music excellence.'"

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Three great women of jazz swap tales
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That thing: Lauryn Hill sets Grammy record
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A century of 'Respect' for women in music
November 3, 1999

Official NARAS site
Sony's complete list of 'The Ultimate Grammy Box' tracks
Note: Pages will open in a new browser window
External sites are not endorsed by CNN Interactive.

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