Robin Williams, who died Monday at age 63, was of course best known for his work in film and television. But he also had a meaningful recording career. In September 1979, he had a top 10 album on the Billboard 200, Reality…What a Concept, which brought him a Grammy for Best Comedy Recording. Williams was even nominated for Best New Artist that year, but lost to Rickie Lee Jones.
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Williams went on to win four more Grammys. He actually won two in 1988: The soundtrack from his movie Good Morning, Vietnam (which reached the top 10 in March 1988) won for Best Comedy Recording, and Pecos Bill, a collaboration with Ry Cooder, won for Best Recording for Children.
Williams's other two Grammys were for a pair of live albums: A Night at the Met (Best Comedy Recording of 1987) and Robin Williams — Live 2002 (Best Spoken Comedy Album of 2002). Peter Asher, best known for his work with Linda Ronstadt and James Taylor, produced the latter album.
Williams released two other albums that received Grammy nominations. Throbbing Python of Love was nominated for Best Comedy Recording in 1983, and Weapons of Self Destruction got a nod for Best Comedy Album in 2010.
Neil Portnow, President/CEO of the Recording Academy, released a statement late Monday: "Five-time Grammy winner Robin Williams was a prolific actor and stand-up comedian who literally did it all: television, film, theater, and live performances…. Our entertainment community has lost an immense talent, a true inspiration, and a creative genius, and his remarkable legacy will forever be immortalized in his vast and impressive body of work."
[Photos: Robin Williams, 1951-2014]
Williams never had a hit single, but he came close in 1980, when a novelty song, "I Yam What I Yam" from his movie Popeye, "bubbled under" the Hot 100 at #104. The billing was Robin Williams (POPEYE). The Popeye soundtrack featured music by Harry Nilsson.
You may well recall that Williams appeared in the music video for Bobby McFerrin's 1988 smash, "Don't Worry Be Happy." The song reached #1 in September 1988 and went on to win Grammys for Record and Song of the Year. Williams teamed with McFerrin again to record a cover of the Beatles' "Come Together" for producer George Martin's 1998 album, In My Life.
Williams also made a cameo, along with his daughter Zelda Williams, in the video for the 2011 smash "You Make Me Feel..." by Cobra Starship featuring Sabi.
Incidentally, Williams wasn't the only comedy act nominated for a Best New Artist Grammy in 1979. The Blues Brothers, whose Briefcase Full of Blues was a #1 album in February of that year, were also in the running. That act featured John Belushi, another comedian who also died tragically before his time.