"The Recording Academy has given recognition through its annual GRAMMY Awards to all sorts of contemporary recordings in the various creative fields. However, our heritage is so rich and runs so deep that it is the feeling of our National Trustees that those great recordings of lasting qualitative or historical significance released before the inception of the GRAMMY Awards in 1958 certainly should also receive their rightful recognition." — Bill Lowery, former Recording Academy Chairman/President, 1974
Since approximately the beginning of the 20th century, a vast body of music has been dedicated to "tape." In all its forms, genres and styles, made by thousands of artists and other contributors, each of whom was influenced by the last, this collection of music has made our world far richer than gold or silver. This wealth of musical riches is reflected not only in the lineage of music's highest honor, the GRAMMY Award, but also in the nearly 1,000 classic recordings enshrined in the GRAMMY Hall Of Fame.
At The Recording Academy's annual Board of Trustees meeting in May 1972, a proposal was passed to establish a hall of fame to honor recordings of "lasting historical or qualitative significance which have made contributions to our cultural heritage." And in 1973 the GRAMMY Hall Of Fame was officially launched. Paul Weston, The Recording Academy's first Chairman/President, communicated the unique distinction of this initiative, stating that the GRAMMY Hall Of Fame would honor not actual individuals, but "the recordings themselves."
Over a subsequent six-month period, various Academy committees culled the history of recorded music in preparation for the selection of the Hall's first class. A 90-member committee, composed of Recording Academy representatives and individuals with years of experience in various fields within the music industry, ratified the GRAMMY Hall Of Fame's first five recordings: Louis Armstrong & His Hot Five's "West End Blues"; Nat "King" Cole's "The Christmas Song"; Bing Crosby and the Ken Darby Singers' "White Christmas"; Coleman Hawkins' "Body And Soul"; and George Gershwin with Paul Whiteman's "Rhapsody In Blue." This inaugural class was announced on the 16th Annual GRAMMY Awards telecast on March 2, 1974.
Five more recordings were inducted in 1975. The Hall's first 10 recordings were featured in glass and rosewood cases at The Recording Academy's temporary display within the Universal Studios Tour in Los Angeles. Each case was equipped with a playback button providing visitors the opportunity to hear the recordings and the displays were augmented by the actual original recordings, photographs and historical data.
Meanwhile, The Recording Academy formulated plans for a "Recording Arts Museum," a venue that would not only house the GRAMMY Hall Of Fame but afford visitors an opportunity to learn about music and the recording process.
"It will be enjoyed by the public as a tourist attraction; but visitors will also leave it with a better understanding of the recording industry," said then-Recording Academy Chairman/President Jay S. Lowy in 1980.
Dating back to the early '70s, several cities were considered as possible sites for the museum project, including Burbank, Calif.; Anaheim, Calif.; Orlando, Fla.; Atlanta; New York; and Philadelphia. At The Academy’s annual Trustees meeting in 2002, New Orleans was proposed as a potential site for the "GRAMMY Exposition And Hall Of Fame," the latest working title of the project.
The museum project ultimately crystalized in 2008 with the opening of the GRAMMY Museum. Nestled within the flourishing L.A. Live entertainment complex in downtown Los Angeles, the dynamic four-story facility features educational exhibits and offers an array of public programs while also serving as the permanent home for the GRAMMY Hall Of Fame, and thus representing the fruition of an Academy vision spanning nearly four decades.
The GRAMMY Hall Of Fame continued to expand throughout the '80s and '90s, adding classic recordings from artists such as Bill Haley And The Comets, the Beatles, Art Tatum, Béla Bartók, Patsy Cline, Miles Davis, Carl Reiner & Mel Brooks, the Andrews Sisters, and Mothers Of Invention, among many others. From 1998–1999, the Hall welcomed a robust total of 327 seminal recordings, an influx by The Academy designed to enhance the GRAMMY Hall Of Fame’s depth and breadth.
Now celebrating its 40th anniversary, the Hall's legacy grows annually by honoring both single and album recordings of all genres of lasting qualitative or historical significance that are at least 25 years old.
Recordings continue to be reviewed annually by a special member committee comprised of eminent and knowledgeable professionals from all branches of the recording arts, with final approval by The Academy’s Board of Trustees. Commemorative certificates are then awarded to recipients.
From the Beatles to Beethoven, the Police to Bob Marley, Woody Guthrie to Grandmaster Flash, Prince to Joni Mitchell, Michael Jackson to Carole King, Muddy Waters to Ray Charles, Glen Campbell to Peggy Lee, and George Carlin to Martin Luther King Jr. — the GRAMMY Hall Of Fame embodies the creative spirit and cultural significance of the greatest recorded music of all time.