Grammy Preview: Clinton vs. Obama, Round 2

Paul Grein
Stop The Presses!

The 2008 race for the Democratic presidential nomination between Barack Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton was one for the history books. Now, their spouses are engaged in a contest that is similarly close, if perhaps a tad less consequential. Michelle Obama and Bill Clinton are competing for Best Spoken Word Album at the Grammy Awards on Sunday. Obama is nominated for American Grown; Clinton for Back To Work: Why We Need Smart Government For A Strong Economy. Both are books-on-tape released by Random House Audio.

This would be Bill Clinton’s second Grammy. He won for 2004’s My Life. This would put him in a tie with Barack Obama for most Grammys by a U.S. President. Obama won for 2005’s Dreams From My Father and 2007’s The Audacity Of Hope: Thoughts On Reclaiming The American Dream. (The obvious difference: Obama won both of his Grammys before he became President. Clinton won his first after he left the White House.)

But Michelle Obama is also looking to make some Grammy history. She would become only the second First Lady to win. Hillary Rodham Clinton won for 1996’s It Takes A Village. (Clinton even came to Madison Square Garden to pick up her award, Secret Service in tow.)

The other nominees in the category are MSNBC host Rachel Maddow for Drift: The Unmooring Of American Military Power, afternoon talk show host Ellen DeGeneres for Seriously…I’m Kidding and singer Janis Ian for Society’s Child: My Autobiography. (All three women are lesbians, and, in all three cases, open about it.)

DeGeneres hosted the Grammy telecast in 1996 and 1997.

Ian won a Grammy for Best Pop Vocal Performance, Female for 1975’s “At Seventeen.” Both that smash and her 1967 hit “Society’s Child (I’ve Been Thinking)” (which yielded the title of her autobiography) have been inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame.

One other U.S. president has won a Grammy. Jimmy Carter won for 2006’s Our Endangered Values: America’s Moral Crisis.

For the record, four other U.S. presidents have been saluted in the category of Best Spoken Word Recording, but none of them received a Grammy, even posthumously. (All three men had died by the time these recordings were released. And, unlike the aforementioned books-on-tape, none of these winning titles were designed to be released as recordings)

Abraham Lincoln inspired Aaron Copland’s classical orchestral work, A Lincoln Portrait, which is typically performed as actors recite excerpts from Lincoln speeches. Two recordings of the work have won in this category. The narrators were poet Carl Sandburg (1959) and actor William Warfield (1983).

Franklin D. Roosevelt was remembered with 1960’s FDR Speaks, a collection of old speeches.

Harry S. Truman inspired actor James Whitmore’s one-man-show Give ’Em Hell Harry (1975). Whitmore also received an Oscar nomination as Best Actor for the 1975 film which captured the one-man-show.

John F. Kennedy was saluted on That Was The Week That Was, a recording of the BBC tribute that aired Nov. 23, 1963, the day after his assassination, (1964) and John Fitzgerald Kennedy…As We Remember Him, a two-disk set narrated by newsman Charles Kuralt (1965).