Grammy Preview: Carole King, Bergmans Join The Club

Paul Grein
Stop The Presses!

Carole King and the husband-and-wife team of Alan and Marilyn Bergman are about to join a very exclusive club—songwriters who have won a Grammy for Song of the Year and have also received a career-capping, honorary award from the Recording Academy. King won Song of the Year for 1971’s tender “You’ve Got A Friend.” The Bergmans won for 1974’s movie classic “The Way We Were.” Both will receive Lifetime Achievement Awards on Feb. 10.

Here’s a complete list of songwriters who have received both of these honors.

Henry Mancini and Johnny Mercer. Mancini and Mercer won Song of the Year twice, with 1961’s gorgeous “Moon River” and 1963’s bittersweet “Days Of Wine And Roses.” The Oscar-winning movie classics originated in Breakfast At Tiffany’s and Days Of Wine And Roses, respectively. Audrey Hepburn sang “Moon River” in the former movie. Mancini took both songs into the top 40. Andy Williams also popularized both songs. Jerry Butler also had a top 40 hit with “Moon River.” Both songwriters had one additional Song of the Year nomination with different collaborators. Mercer teamed with Sadie Vimmerstedt to write 1963’s “I Wanna Be Around.” Mancini joined forces with Ray Evans & Jay Livingston to write 1964’s “Dear Heart.” Mercer, who died in 1976 at age 66, was voted a Trustees Award in 1987. Mancini, who died in 1994 at age 70, was presented posthumously with a Lifetime Achievement Award in 1995.

John Lennon and Paul McCartney. Lennon and McCartney won Song of the Year for 1966’s “Michelle.” The song was featured on The Beatles’ album Rubber Soul—though their version wasn’t released as a single. (One-hit wonders David & Jonathan had a top 20 hit with it.) With its lilting melody and French phrases, “Michelle” is one of the Beatles’ most “adult contemporary” oriented songs. That no doubt boosted its appeal to Grammy voters, who were resistant to rock at the time. (“In My Life,” also from Rubber Soul, has better stood the test of time.) Lennon and McCartney were also nominated for Song of the Year with 1964’s “A Hard Day’s Night,” 1965’s “Yesterday,” 1968’s “Hey Jude” and 1970’s “Let It Be.” In addition, McCartney was nominated for writing 1982’s glossy “Ebony And Ivory.” The Beatles were voted a Trustees Award in 1972. McCartney picked up a Lifetime Achievement Award in 1990. Lennon, who was shot to death in 1980 at age 40, was presented with one posthumously in 1991.

Paul Simon. Simon won Song of the Year for 1970’s elegant power ballad “Bridge Over Troubled Water.” Simon & Garfunkel’s classic recording of the song was #1 for six weeks from February into April of that year. Aretha Franklin’s gospel-infused cover version hit #6 in June 1971. Country great Buck Owens, disco star Linda Clifford and the cast of Glee also charted (or bubbled under) with the song. Simon was also nominated for Song of the Year for 1968’s “Mrs. Robinson” and 1986’s “Graceland.” Simon & Garfunkel received a Lifetime Achievement Award in 2003. They opened the Grammy telecast that year performing another of Simon’s best songs, “The Sound Of Silence.”

Carole King. King won Song of the Year for 1971’s “You’ve Got A Friend,” which echoes the lyrical theme of “Bridge Over Troubled Water,” but with a folksy intimacy replacing the cool elegance of Simon’s song. The song first appeared on her landmark album Tapestry. A mellow cover version by James Taylor reached #1 in July 1971. A soulful cover by Roberta Flack & Donny Hathaway reached #29 the following month. This is King’s only song to make the Song of the Year finals. King and her former songwriting partner (and former husband) Gerry Goffin were never nominated for the award, despite writing such classics as “Will You Love Me Tomorrow,” “The Loco-Motion” and “Up On The Roof.” Goffin & King, who divorced in 1968, received a Trustees Award in 2004.

Alan & Marilyn Bergman. The songwriters won Song of the Year for 1974’s instant standard “The Way We Were,” which they co-wrote with Marvin Hamlisch. The Oscar-winning song originated in Barbra Streisand’s 1973 movie of the same name. Streisand’s single spent three weeks at #1 in February 1974. A cover version by Gladys Knight & the Pips reached #11 in August 1975. The Bergmans, who were married in 1958, were also nominated for Song of the Year with 1960’s “Nice ‘N’ Easy” (which they wrote with Lew Spence), 1972’s “The Summer Knows” from Summer of 42 (which they wrote with Michel Legrand) and 1978’s “You Don’t Bring Me Flowers” (which they wrote with Neil Diamond). Streisand saluted the Bergmans in 2011 with her Grammy-nominated album Barbra Streisand Sings The Lyrics Of Alan and Marilyn Bergman.

Stephen Sondheim. Sondheim won Song of the Year for 1975’s “Send In The Clowns,” which was the first Broadway song to win that award since Jerry Herman’s “Hello, Dolly!” in 1964. Glynis Johns introduced the song in the Broadway musical A Little Night Music, which opened in March 1973. It qualified for Song of the Year in 1975 because Judy Collins recorded a successful version that year. Collins’ recording reached #36 in August. (It did even better when it was released in 1977, reaching #17.) Sondheim was also nominated for Song of the Year for 1959’s “Small World” from Gypsy, which he co-wrote with Jule Styne. Sondheim received a Trustees Award in 2007.

Barbra Streisand. Streisand won Song of the Year for one of the few songs she ever wrote: 1977’s “Evergreen (Love Theme From ‘A Star Is Born’).” The silky ballad, which Streisand co-wrote with Paul Williams, also won an Oscar. Streisand’s single logged three weeks at #1 in March 1977. Streisand received another Oscar nomination for co-writing 1996’s “I Finally Found Someone,” but that didn’t rate a Song of the Year nom. (Trivia note: Kris Kristofferson, Streisand’s co-star in A Star Is Born, had two songs in the Song of the Year finals for 1971, “Me And Bobby McGee” and “Help Me Make It Through The Night.” They lost to “You’ve Got A Friend.”) Streisand received a Grammy Legend Award in 1992 and a Lifetime Achievement Award in 1995.

Billy Joel. Joel won Song of the Year for 1978’s “Just The Way You Are.” The sleek and snazzy ballad reached #3 in February 1978. It also enabled his album The Stranger to become one of the best-selling albums of its time. “Just The Way You Are,” which was a throwback to a traditional pop style, became a smash even though it was released near the height of the disco boom. Bruno Mars demonstrated the timelessness of the sentiment when his song of the same title hit #1 in 2010. Joel was also nominated for Song of the Year with 1979’s “Honesty,” 1989’s “We Didn’t Start The Fire” and 1993’s “The River Of Dreams.” He received a Grammy Legend Award in 1991.

Michael Jackson. Jackson won Song of the Year for 1985’s humanitarian anthem “We Are The World” (which he co-wrote with Lionel Richie.) USA for Africa’s recording of the song logged four weeks at #1 in April and May 1985. It featured such superstars as Stevie Wonder, Tina Turner, Bruce Springsteen, Bob Dylan and Ray Charles. Artists For Haiti’s remake, “We Are The World 25: For Haiti,” reached #2 in February 2010. Jackson had two songs in the running for Song of the Year for 1983: “Beat It” and “Billie Jean.” (“Billie Jean won for Best R&B Song.) Jackson received a Grammy Legend Award in 1993 and a posthumous Lifetime Achievement Award in 2010. He died in 2009 at age 50.

Burt Bacharach. Bacharach won Song of the Year for 1986’s “That’s What Friends Are For,” which he co-wrote with his then-wife Carole Bayer Sager. Rod Stewart introduced the song in the 1982 movie Nightshift. The song was revived (and given purpose) in 1985 by Dionne & Friends, whose heartfelt version raised millions for AIDS charities. The smash logged four weeks at #1 in January and February 1986. Bacharach and his long-time collaborator Hal David had been nominated for Song of the Year with 1963’s “Wives And Lovers,” 1969’s “I’ll Never Fall In Love Again” and 1969’s “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ On My Head.” Bacharach & Sager were previously nominated for the award for 1981’s “Arthur’s Theme (The Best That You Can Do)” (which they co-wrote with Christopher Cross and Peter Allen). Bacharach and David received a Trustees Award in 1997. Bacharach was voted a Lifetime Achievement Award in 2008.

Eric Clapton. Clapton won Song of the Year for 1992’s “Tears In Heaven,” which he co-wrote with Will Jennings. They wrote the poignant ballad in memory of Clapton’s four-year old son, Conor, who fell to his death in March 1991. The song first appeared in the movie Rush, which premiered in January 1992. Clapton’s single logged four weeks at #2 in March and April of that year. This is Clapton’s only song to make the Song of the Year finals. Among his notable songs that weren’t nominated for the award: “Sunshine Of Your Love” and “Layla.” With Cream, Clapton received a Lifetime Achievement Award in 2006.

Post Script: Several songwriters who have received Song of the Year Grammys are likely to win Lifetime Achievement Awards, Trustees Awards or Grammy Legend Awards in coming years. These include Bruce Springsteen, Sting, Lionel Richie, U2 and Barry Mann & Cynthia Weil, and as well as two songwriter/performers who have passed away: Marvin Hamlisch and Luther Vandross.

Other Song of the Year winners who have a good shot at one of these honorary awards include Jerry Herman, Johnny Mandel, Jimmy Webb, Paul Williams, Bobby McFerrin and Alan Menken.

(I omitted artists who rose to fame in the past 15 years, such as Beyonce, Coldplay, Alicia Keys and John Mayer. They’re on the right track, but it’s way too early to be talking about a Lifetime Achievement Award.)