The Grammys Past: Best New Artists Winners – Where Are They Now?

The Star
Grammys 2012: How have the best new artist winners fared?
Published On Thu Feb 09 2012

From Bobby Darin to Esperenza Spalding, where are the Grammys’ best new artist winners now?


No award given.


Bobby Darin beat Edd Byrnes, Mark Murphy, Johnny Restivo and Mavis Rivers.

Famous for his songs “Mack the Knife” and “Splish Splash”, Darin also acted in movies, making his film debut in 1961’s Come September. He also owned two successful music production companies and starred in his own television variety show in 1972, but died the next year at age 37 of heart problems.


Bob Newhart beat The Brothers Four, Miriam Makeba, Leontyne Price and Joanie Sommers.

Newhart’s spectacularly successful career as a standup comic was followed by memorable forays into movies and television, including the Bob Newhart Show (1972-78), Newhart (1982-1990) and Bob (1994). Newhart continues appear in television and film, most recently in Horrible Bosses (2011).


Peter Nero beat Ann-Margaret, Dick Gregory, The Lettermen and Timi Yuro.

Working with a long list of notable musicians such as Frank Sinatra, Ray Charles and Andy Williams, the pianist’s jazzy hybrid of pop, classical, swing, and bop became one of the most popular mainstream sounds of the 1960s. Nero continues to record music, often with full symphony orchestras. He is currently artistic director of the Philadelphia Pops Orchestra.


Robert Goulet beat The Four Seasons, Vaughn Meader, New Christy Minstrels, Peter, Paul & Mary and Allan Sherman.

Goulet continued to record until 1970. From then on, he worked in theatre, TV and film, appearing in Camelot, The Simpsons, Mr. Wrong, Toy Story 2, South Pacific and La Cage Aux Folles. He suffered from pulmonary fibrosis and died in 2007, while awaiting a lung transplant.


The Swingle Singers beat Vikki Carr, John Gary, The J’s With Jamie and Trini Lopez.

In 1973, the original French a cappella vocal group disbanded. Founder Ward Swingle moved to London and recruited all new members who performed under a number of names, eventually settling on the original moniker, The Swingle Singers. Since this incarnation, the group has never disbanded. As individual members leave the group, the remaining members hold auditions for replacements.


The Beatles beat Petula Clark, Astrud Gilberto, Antonio Carlos Jobim and Morgana King.

John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr went on to record some of popular music’s most memorable records, including Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, The White Album, and Abbey Road, before disbanding in 1970. Paul McCartney continues to record and tour. Ringo Starr has appeared in numerous movies and television shows, and tours with various guest musicians in the All-Starr Band. John Lennon was murdered in 1980. George Harrison succumbed to cancer in 2001.


Tom Jones beat The Byrds, Herman’s Hermits, Horst Janowski, Marilyn Maye and Sonny & Cher.

Jones became a Las Vegas mainstay in the 1970s. In later years, he participated in many successful recordings with contemporary artists in numerous genres. He continues to record and perform, including an appearance on American Idol in 2011. Jones was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in 2006 for services to the music industry.


No award given.


Bobbie Gentry beat Lana Cantrell, The 5th Dimension, Harpers Bizarre and Jefferson Airplane.

Born Roberta Lee Streeter, Gentry was one of the first female country artists to write and produce much of her own material. Her glamourous image also paved the way for future superstars like Shania Twain and Faith Hill. She charted 11 singles in the Billboard charts, issuing her last album in 1971. Since 1979, she has been living in Los Angeles out of the public eye.


Jose Feliciano beat Cream, Gary Puckett & The Union Gap, Jeannie C. Riley and O.C. Smith.

Feliciano had a huge hit with 1970’s Feliz Navidad album and single. Throughout the 70s he composed music for several television shows including Chico and the Man, McMillan & Wife and Kung Fu, as well as guesting on numerous albums. Felicano continues to record and perform.


Crosby, Stills & Nash beat Chicago, Led Zeppelin, Neon Philharmonic and Oliver.

Adding Neil Young to the group in 1970, CSN released a hit album before disbanding. A live recording issued after the breakup also sold well. The band re-formed in 1974 and put out a best-selling compilation album. Young left and they released the hit CSN in 1977. They have continued to perform and record, with and without Young, over the past 40 years, becoming an enduring live act. The band was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1997.


The Carpenters beat Elton John, Melba Moore, Anne Murray and the Partridge Family.

After enjoying a string of top ten hits in the 1970s, siblings Richard and Karen Carpenter suffered through drug addictions and mental health issues. Following Karen’s death in 1983 from complications caused by anorexia, Richard continued to produce and compile Carpenters music. He currently lives in California where, along with his wife, he is active in philanthropy and the arts.


Carly Simon beat Chase, Emerson, Lake & Palmer, Hamilton, Joe Frank & Reynolds and Bill Withers.

Numerous gold records followed Simon’s Grammy win. She received Academy, Golden Globe and Grammy awards in 1988 for “Let The River Run” from the movie Working Girl. She has written a series of children’s books and currently lives in Martha’s Vineyard where she is involved in charity work, writing poetry and music.


America beat Harry Chapin, Eagles, Loggins and Messina and John Prine.

America’s songs continued to crack the top 40 until 1983, and the band continued to tour and record until 2006. Members Dewey Bunnell and Gerry Beckley released an album in 2011 while former member Dan Peek, who had forged a career in contemporary Christian music, died the same year.


Bette Midler beat Eumir Deodato, Maureen McGovern, Marie Osmond and Barry White.

Midler has continued as a successful recording artist and movie and television actor. She has won four Grammys, four Golden Globe awards, three Emmys and a Tony award. She is also active in charity work, founding an organization dedicated to improving neglected neighbourhoods in New York City.


Marvin Hamlisch beat Bad Company, Johnny Bristol, David Essex, Graham Central Station and Phoebe.

One of only 13 people to have been awarded Emmys, Grammys, Oscars, and a Tony, Hamlisch co-wrote the most successful Broadway musical of the decade, A Chorus Line, which opened in 1975. Hamlisch continued to write for the stage and screen in the ”˜70s and ”˜80s, scoring an Oscar nomination for “Nobody Does It Better,” written for the James Bond movie The Spy Who Loved Me. Since the early ”˜80s, he has worked as producer and arranger on a variety of recordings.


Natalie Cole beat Morris Albert, Amazing Rhythm Aces, Brecker Brothers and KC & the Sunshine Band.

Cole had a string of hits throughout the 70s and 80s. Her 1991 release, Unforgettable: With Love, sold over five million copies in the U.S. In addition to her best new artist award, Cole has won eight Grammy awards, the latest in 2009, and has been nominated 12 times. She continues to tour.


Starland Vocal Band beat Boston, Brothers Johnson, Dr. Buzzard’s Original Savannah Band and Wild Cherry.

Subsequent albums did poorly and the group disbanded in 1980. Members Bill Danoff, Taffy Nivert, Jon Carroll and Margot Chapman continue to record and perform sporadically.


Debby Boone beat Stephen Bishop, Shaun Cassidy, Foreigner and Andy Gibb.

Boone performed Christian music throughout the 80s, winning two more Grammys. She has written children’s books and produced videos for children. Boone has also appeared on Broadway and television. She continues to record and tour, releasing Swing This! in 2011.


A Taste of Honey beat The Cars, Elvis Costello, Chris Rea and Toto.

A Taste of Honey had two huge hits, the disco song “Boogie Oogie Oogie” and a cover of Kyu Sakamoto’s 1963 gold hit “Sukiyaki.” By 1980, the once four-member group had become a duo and throughout the decade the band’s popularity waned. Janice-Marie Johnson went on to a solo career, Hazel Payne became a stage actress, Donald Ray Johnson records and play blues in Calgary and keyboardist Perry Kibble passed away in 1999. “Boogie Oogie Oogie” was used a national TV ad campaign for Burger King in 1999 and has also been sampled by hip-hop and rap artists.


Rickie Lee Jones beat The Blues Brothers, Dire Straits, The Knack and Robin Williams.

After releasing three more albums, Jones won a second Grammy in 1989. Subsequent recordings did not meet with the same success as her earlier material. She continues to tour, but has not released new music since 2009.


Christopher Cross beat Irene Cara, Robbie Dupree, Amy Holland and The Pretenders.

Cross won an Academy Award for “Arthur’s Theme” in the same year as his Best New Artist Grammy, but never subsequently matched his early popularity. He continues to tour and record, releasing an album of new material in 2011.


Sheena Easton beat Adam & the Ants, The Go-Go’s, James Ingram and Luther Vandross.

Easton went on to sing the theme song for the James Bond movie For Your Eyes Only and released several more chart-topping hits. She also appeared on television (Miami Vice) and theatre (Man of La Mancha, Grease, The Colors of Christmas, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat). She currently lives in Nevada and continues to perform.


Men at Work beat Asia, Jennifer Holliday, Human League and Stray Cats.

The Australian band broke up in 1986, but members Colin Hay and Greg Ham reunited under the name Men at Work to tour South America in 1996. Most famous for their hit “Down Under,” the band performed at the closing ceremony of the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney. In 2010, an Australian judge ruled that “Down Under” contained a flute riff based on the children’s tune “Kookaburra Sits in the Old Gum Tree” and the band was forced to pay five per cent of past (since 2002) and future profits.


Culture Club beat Big Country, Eurythmics, Men Without Hats and Musical Youth.

Following lead singer Boy George’s drug arrest in 1986, the popular new wave band best known for their hit “Karma Chameleon” broke up. They reunited for a 20th anniversary concert in 2002, but became inactive again due to George’s successful DJ career. Last year, George announced the band would release a new album and start touring again in 2012.


Cyndi Lauper beat Sheila E., Frankie Goes to Hollywood, Corey Hart and The Judds.

One of the biggest stars of the MTV era, Lauper went on to record 10 albums since 1983’s She’s So Unusual, which produced the mega-hit “Girls Just Want to Have Fun.” Her last album in 2010, Memphis Blues featured versions of several classic blues songs. That year she also appeared in Donald Trump’s show The Celebrity Apprentice. An activist for the LGBT community, Lauper opened a 30-bed housing facility for homeless lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered youth in New York in 2011.


Sade beat a-ha, Freddie Jackson, Katrina & The Waves and Julian Lennon.

Sade has continued to make well-received records over the past 24 years. She is the best selling British female singer of all time with over 57 million albums in world wide sales. In 2002, Sade was made an Officer of the Order of the British Empire for her contributions to the music industry.


Bruce Hornsby & The Range beat Glass Tiger, Nu Shooz, Simply Red and Timbuk 3.

Hornsby’s second album sold a million copies but was not as successful as his debut. His fourth album went gold. Hornsby continues to tour and record in various styles and has also worked as a producer, guest musician with the Grateful Dead, and songwriter (“Jacob’s Ladder” for Huey Lewis and “The End of the Innocence” for Don Henley)


Jody Watley beat the Breakfast Club, Cutting Crew, Terence Trent D’Arby and Swing Out Sister.

Watley had a hit two years later with “Real Love”. She also starred in a best selling exercise video “Dance to Fitness,” as well as appearing in a GAP advertising campaign. Subsequent albums always scored well on the dance charts. She has also appeared on Broadway and is currently working on an album and a novel.


Tracy Chapman beat Rick Astley, Toni Childs, Take 6 and Vanessa Williams.

Having released eight studio albums and won a total of four Grammy Awards, Chapman remains a successful musical presence, though her subsequent releases did not match the success of her debut. Her album New Beginning cracked the U.S. Top 10 in 1996.


Milli Vanilli (revoked) beat Neneh Cherry, Indigo Girls, Soul II Soul and Tone Loc.

After being outed as non-singers whose music was performed by anonymous studio artists, Rob Pilatus and Fabrice Morvan attempted a comeback in 1993. That album sold only 2,000 copies, precipitating a downward spiral which culminated in Pilatus’ drug and alcohol related death in 1998. Fabrice Morvan has continued to work sporadically as a DJ and performer.


Mariah Carey beat The Black Crowes, The Kentucky Headhunters, Lisa Stansfield and Wilson Phillips.

Carey has continued to release music for the past 20 years, becoming one of the world’s most successful recording artists. Only The Beatles have more #1 hits on the Billboard chart. She has also appeared in films and television. In 2011, she gave birth to twins and became a spokesperson for Jenny Craig.


Marc Cohn beat Boys II Men, C+C Music Factory, Color Me Badd and Seal.

Cohn was shot during an attempted carjacking in 2005. He survived, and continues to tour and record. Cohn’s last collection of original material was released in 2007, while an album of covers came out in 2010.


Arrested Development beat Billy Ray Cyrus, Sophie B. Hawkins, Kriss Kross and Jon Secada.

After releasing a second album in 1994, Arrested Development broke up. Founder Speech (Todd Thomas) attempted a solo career which resulted in four releases. The group reunited for an album in 2006 and continues to tour. A new single was released in 2011.


Toni Braxton beat Belly, Blind Melon, Digable Planets and SWV.

Braxton’s commercial successes continued after her initial Grammy win. Her follow up album, Secrets sold over eight million copies and spawned the hit singles “You’re Making Me High” and “Un-break My Heart”, as well as winning her a further two Grammys. Despite this, she has twice filed for bankruptcy. Braxton performed in Las Vegas between 2006 and 2008, released the album Pulse in 2010, and currently appears in a reality series about her family.


Sheryl Crow beat Ace of Base, Counting Crows, Crash Test Dummies and Green Day.

A string of hits and eight Grammy Awards followed her initial win. Crow became one of the most popular singers of the 90s, with radio staple hits like “If It Makes You Happy” and “Everyday is a Winding Road.” Diagnosed with breast cancer in 2006, Crow returned to music in 2008, following successful treatment. She continues to record and perform.


Hootie & the Blowfish beat Brandy, Alanis Morissette, Joan Osborne and Shania Twain.

Hootie & the Blowfish’s subsequent albums did not match the success of their debut, which sold 16 million copies in the U.S alone. Lead singer Darius Rucker has recently become a star in the country music field.


LeAnn Rimes beat Garbage, Jewel, No Doubt and the Tony Rich Project.

The youngest best new artist winner at 14, Rimes has sold over 37 million albums, and won three Academy of Country Music Awards and 12 Billboard Music Awards. She continues to tour and record, with her most recent album being last year’s Lady and Gentlemen. She is active in charities and has written two children’s books and a novel.

In 2009, Rimes gained notoriety in the tabloids when she had a well-publicized extramarital affair with Eddie Cibrian, to whom she is now married.


Paula Cole beat Fiona Apple, Erykah Badu, Hanson and Puff Daddy.

Having two songs break into the top 20 in 1997 was a career peak: she has continued to release music, most recently 2010’s Ithica, but has not duplicated her earlier success. In addition to her best new artist win, Cole is the only woman who has been nominated for a best producer award.


Lauryn Hill beat the Backstreet Boys, Andrea Bocelli, Dixie Chicks and Natalie Imbruglia.

Hill’s 2001, “MTV Unplugged No 2.0″ debuted at No.3 on the Billboard chart. But subsequent touring by the former member of the Fugees was marked by increasingly erratic behaviour and feuds with bandmates. Hill continues to perform, but has not released any new material since 2002.


Christina Aguilera beat Macy Gray, Kid Rock, Britney Spears and Susan Tedeschi.

A veteran of The Mickey Mouse Club, the best-selling recording artist made her film debut in 2010’s Burlesque. Aguilera is currently working on her seventh studio album and judging contestants on the reality singing competition show The Voice.


Shelby Lynne beat Brad Paisley, Papa Roach, Jill Scott and Sisqo.

Six albums preceded Lynne’s Best New Artist Grammy. Her releases continue to be well received as she tours and records.


Alicia Keys beat India Arie, Nelly Furtado, David Gray and Linkin Park.

Keys’ second album equalled the success of her first, as did her 2005 release Unplugged. In 2007, her fourth record went to number one and Keys was firmly established as a successful musical performer. Her fifth release, The Element of Freedom went to number one in the U.K. in 2009 and reached platinum status in the U.S.


Norah Jones beat Ashanti, Michelle Branch, Avril Lavigne and John Mayer.

Jones’ debut album, Come Away With Me sold over 20 million copies. Her second effort went quadruple platinum, with 10 million copies sold. Her third, Not Too Late reached number one in 20 countries. Jones continues to perform and record, recently completing her soon-to be-released fifth album, Little Broken Hearts. She’s also active in a country band, The Little Willies, which play covers of classic country songs. She has also appeared in four films.


Evanescence beat 50 Cent, Fountains of Wayne, Heather Headley and Sean Paul.

Despite numerous personnel changes, Evanescence continues to tour and record successfully. Their latest release, Evanescence, opened at number one on the Billboard chart in 2011.


Maroon 5 beat Los Lonely Boys, Joss Stone, Kanye West and Gretchen Wilson.

The California rock band recently had a chart-topping hit with the song “Moves Like Jagger”, which also features front man Adam Levine’s fellow judge on The Voice, Christina Aguilera.


John Legend beat Ciara, Fall Out Boy, Keane and Sugarland.

In 2008, Legend released Evolver which reached gold-selling status and produced the hit “Green Light.” He followed it with 2010’s Wake Up!, a collaborative effort with The Roots. Also active in the political scene, Legend appeared in the viral “Yes We Can” music video for Barack Obama.


Carrie Underwood beat James Blunt, Chris Brown, Imogen Heap and Corinne Bailey Ray.

The former American Idol winner and country music superstar married NHL player Mike Fisher in 2010. Underwood has won five Grammys, is regularly touring and has hosted the CMT (Country Music Television) Awards four times with singer Brad Paisley.


Amy Winehouse beat Feist, Ledisi, Paramore and Taylor Swift.

Winehouse’s life spiralled out of control in a haze of alcohol and drugs, leading to her death in July of 2011. Lioness, a posthumous collection celebrating her career, was released at the end of 2011.


Adele beat Duffy, the Jonas Brothers, Lady Antebellum and Jazmine Sullivan.

Adele’s second album, 21, released in 2011, was phenomenally successful, spending 18 weeks at number one on the charts. She underwent surgery for a vocal chord hemorrhage in November 2011.


Zac Brown Band beat Keri Hilson, MGMT, Silversun Pickups and The Ting Tings.

In 2010, the country band released their second major-label album, You Get What You Give and a live collaboration album, Pass the Jar. Over the past two years, the group has toured with Kenny Chesney, Dave Matthews Band and Kings of Leon. In 2011, they won Vocal Event of the Year at the Academy of Country Music Awards for their song with Alan Jackson, “As She’s Walking Away.”


Esperenza Spalding beat Justin Bieber, Drake, Florence & The Machine and Mumford & Sons.

The jazz artist who beat Bieber for the Best New Artist award in 2011 spent the rest of the year touring Europe and North America. She continues to work on her upcoming album.


The Band Perry faces off against Bon Iver, J. Cole, Nicki Minaj and Skrillex.

SOURCES:,, Entertainment Weekly, artists’ official websites

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2 thoughts on “The Grammys Past: Best New Artists Winners – Where Are They Now?

  1. Great list. Makes you want to go back and vote a couple years all over again. However, for the most part, I think Grammy got it right. I’ve always been miffed why Barry White held such a grudge against Bette winning. Barry has a deep voice, but not nearly the range or versatility as Bette. Plus, years down the road, after Bette’s Tony, Grammys, Emmy and Oscar noms, Barry was still out there whining that he was robbed. HUH??!!! Nonetheless, I do like Barry (and Marie Osmond as well, even though she was a bit of a one-hit wonder, she still looks great, and has had an enduring career). I’ll stop babbling. Thanks, Mr. D!

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