BetteBack 1974: Bette Midler Wins Her First Grammy

Oakland Tribune
Grammy Awards to Flack, Wonder and Bette Midler
March 3, 1974

LOS ANGELES (AP) - “Killing Me Softly With His Song,” a ballad about the emotional impact of music, was named record of the year Saturday night at the 16th annual Grammy Awards, giving singer Roberta Flack her second such honor in two years.

“I’d like to thank the world.” said Miss Flack, spreading her arms wide. She also accepted a golden statuette for best female pop performance, also a repeat award for her. Miss Flack thanked her record company “for having the good sense to sign me.”

The most awards of the evening–four–went to blind singer-songwriter Stevie Wonder, who received a standing ovation as he was led to the stage by his mother.

Accepting the first of his awards, Wonder handed his statuette to his mother, Loulah Hardaway of Detroit, saying, “I would like for you all not to give this to me but to my mother.”

Beaming at her son, Mrs. Hardaway said, “I would like to thank you all for making this the sunshine of my life tonight.”

Moments later, Wonder made another trip to the stage to receive the award for best  pop vocal performance for that song, “You Are the Sunshine of My Life.” He accepted it in memory of the late singer Jim Croce, who was killed in a plane crash last year.

Wonder also was honored in the categories of best rhythm and blues song, “Superstition,” album of the year, “Innervisions,” and best rhythm and blues vocal, “Superstition.”

Three thousand members of the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences voted in the Grammy competition. The awards were presented before a star-studded gathering at the Hollywood Paladium.

The members chose as the best new artist of the year flamboyant singer Bette Midler.

She rushed to the stage, her carrot red hair in a frizz, and exclaimed, “Isn’t this a hoot!”

Miss Midler, who bills herself as “The Last of the Truly Tacky Ladies,” was nominated in other musical categories, but won no others.

The award for best rhythm and blues vocal group went to Gladys Knight and the Pipps for their recording “Midnight Train to Georgia.” They also won the Grammy for best pop
vocal group for the song “Neither One of Us Wants to be the First to Say, Goodbye.”

Miss Knight reminded the gathering that her group had been nominated for four years in a row but this was the first time it had won. “I got a speech together the first year, and it’s been so long I’ve forgotten it,” she said.

Charlie Rich was named best country vocal performer for “Behind Closed Doors.” The melancholy “Killing Me Softly” was named in the three top categories–record of the year, song of the year and best female vocal performance. In addition to Miss Flack, Grammys went to the songwriters, Norman Gimbel and Charles Fox, and to the record producer, Joel Dorn.

The Grammy for best country instrumental went to the popular record “Dueling Banjos,” by Eric Weissburg and Steve Mandell. Singer-composer Neil Diamond, who did not attend the awards, was given a Grammy for the best motion picture score, “Jonathan Livingston Seagull.”

Early winners in the country music field were Kris Kristofferson and Rita/Coolidge, the-husband-wife team who won Grammys for best country vocal performance by a duo for their record, “From the Bottle to the Bottom.”

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