Motown legends Berry Gordy and Smokey Robinson are poised to make history as the 2023 MusiCares person of the year recipients. As we reported when the news was announced on Thursday Oct. 20, it’s the first time that two individuals have been co-honorees at the annual fund-raising gala.
But that’s not the only way in which Gordy and Robinson will be making history. The two music greats will be the oldest person of the year honorees to date. Gordy turns 93 on Nov. 28. Robinson is 82. The oldest honoree until now was Joni Mitchell, who was 78 when she was honored earlier this year.
And Motown founder Gordy will be the first non-artist to receive the honor, as well as the first honoree who has not won a Grammy in competition. Gordy has received just one nomination – as a co-writer of the Jackson 5 smash “I’ll Be There,” a 1993 nominee for best R&B song. That requires explanation: The song wasn’t nominated when the J5 record was a hit, but it was nominated 22 years later when Mariah Carey and Trey Lorenz covered it. (Gordy probably wasn’t too disappointed when it lost to a then-current Motown smash – Boyz II Men’s “End of the Road.”)
According to MusiCares, the person of the year award “celebrates our honoree’s creative accomplishments and philanthropic work. This star-studded dinner and concert experience raises funds for MusiCares’ vital programs and relief efforts.”
That blurb hints at what MusiCares is looking for in an honoree. They certainly want to recognize an accomplished artist who seems worthy of the honor, but just as important, they want to sell tables and individual tickets, ads in the program book and auction offerings. So, they’re looking for someone who has the connections and history in the music industry to fill the room. That’s why most of the honorees are well along in their careers by the time they are selected.
The next person of the year event will be held on Friday, Feb. 3, 2023 at Los Angeles Convention Center – two days before the 65th annual Grammy Awards are presented at the adjoining Crypto.com Arena.
Here are all of the person of the year honorees to date, shown in reverse chronological order. All years refer to the year the person of the year event was held and the year of the corresponding Grammy telecast (or year of award presentations for the years before the launch of the live telecast in 1971.)