The Recording Academy has announced its 2020 Special Merit Awards recipients, and it’s one legendary list. Lifetime Achievement Award honorees this year are Chicago, Roberta Flack, Isaac Hayes, Iggy Pop, John Prine, Public Enemy and Sister Rosetta Tharpe. Ken Ehrlich, Philip Glass and Frank Walker will receive Trustees Award honors, and George Augspurger is being recognized with the Technical GRAMMY Award recipient. A special award presentation ceremony and concert celebrating the honorees will be held on April 18, 2020, at the Pasadena Civic Auditorium. Additional details regarding the ceremony will be announced shortly.
GRAMMY-winning rock band Chicago are among the first acts to bring big jazz band-style horns into rock music. Following their 1969 debut album, Chicago Transit Authority, which was inducted into the GRAMMY Hall Of Fame, they have released five No. 1 albums and nearly three dozen Top 40 hits.
Roberta Flack is a true testament of what music education can do if you foster talent from an early age. Classically trained since age 15, she has garnered four GRAMMYs, a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and an everlasting musical legacy with songs such as “Where Is The Love” and “Killing Me Softly With His Song.”
A soul music pioneer, Isaac Hayes was an in-house songwriter/producer at the legendary Stax Records, where he wrote such hits as “Soul Man” and “B-A-B-Y.” He also had a successful solo career, releasing the GRAMMY-winning “Theme From Shaft” in 1971.
Godfather of Punk Iggy Pop was the lead singer of influential proto-punk band the Stooges and has released more than 15 albums as a solo artist. With rebellious and sometimes dangerous stage antics, he has influenced countless acts, including Sid Vicious and the Clash.
John Prine’s witty approach to storytelling has made him one of the most revered country & folk singer/songwriters since his emergence in the ’70s. He has garnered two GRAMMYs and his classic eponymous debut album was inducted into the GRAMMY Hall Of Fame.
Public Enemy are one of the architects of hip-hop, bursting on the scene in ‘86, with a sonic firestorm of hard-hitting political, cultural rhymes. They’ve since released 13 acclaimed LP’s including their classic album, It Takes A Nation Of Millions To Hold Us Back, which was named one of the greatest albums of all time by Rolling Stone. In 2018, their song “Fight The Power“ was inducted into the GRAMMY Hall Of Fame.
Sister Rosetta Tharpe’s combination of gospel and blues, and her renowned technique on electric guitar, has influenced countless musicians, from Little Richard to Bob Dylan. The Godmother of Rock and Roll’s 1945 hit, “Strange Things Happening Every Day,” has been credited as the first gospel song to cross over to the R&B charts, becoming an early model for rock and roll.
Ken Ehrlich has shepherded the GRAMMY Awards telecast for the last 40 years and his ability to create events that are memorable and innovative has set a standard for television programming in the music industry. He helped pioneer the GRAMMY Moment — unique artist collaborations never before seen onstage.
Composer and pianist Philip Glass is widely regarded as the most influential composer of the late 20th and 21st centuries. Through his operas, film scores, concert pieces, theater works and wide-ranging collaborations with the likes of David Bowie, Paul Simon and Martin Scorsese, his music with repetitive structures has shaped the modern contemporary classical cannon.
Frank Walker began his career as an A&R scout for Columbia Records and went on to discover artists such as country great Hank Williams and blues legends Bessie Smith and Blind Willie Johnson. After wearing many hats at Columbia, he became the label chief for MGM Records in the mid-40s, where he introduced the soundtrack album concept and helped establish the Record Industry Association of America (RIAA).
An audio and acoustical engineer, George Augspurger has designed rooms for some of the most reputable studios in North America. After beginning his career at JBL, where he established the JBL Professional division, he started his own independent consulting firm, Perception Inc., and continues to work after 70 years in the industry.
The Lifetime Achievement Award celebrates performers who have made outstanding contributions of artistic significance to the field of recording, while the Trustees Award honors such contributions in areas other than performance. The Recording Academy’s National Board of Trustees determines the honorees of both awards. Technical GRAMMY Award recipients are voted on by the Academy’s Producers & Engineers Wing Advisory Council and Chapter Committees, and are ratified by the Academy’s Trustees. The award is presented to individuals and companies who have made contributions of outstanding technical significance to the recording industry.