For the 65th Annual Grammy Awards, which will be presented on Feb. 5, the Recording Academy announced five new awards it will hand out, including songwriter of the year, non-classical.
With this award, the Academy is seeking mainly to recognize people who work primarily as songwriters, not as artists or producers. Due to the Academy’s established rules for the award, artists that primarily write their own music, like Taylor Swift or Adele, would be ineligible for the award in most cases, as would writer-producers like Max Martin. Some exceptions may occur, as you’ll see below.
To be nominated for the award, songwriters need to submit at least five songs in which they are not a lead or featured recording artist, or listed as a producer, during the Grammys eligibility period. If they meet that threshold, they can then submit up to four more songs on which they write along with performing or producing. (Got all that? There will be a quiz at the end.)
While we’ll never know who would have been nominated for songwriter of the year if the category existed at the launch of the live Grammy telecast in 1971, it’s fun to speculate. Here are our best guesses as to 12 people or teams who would have won in prior ceremonies. In all cases, we tried to adhere to the Grammys’ desired qualifications for the award — and to the specific eligibility periods for each Grammys year — as best we could with available information.
(One other note: The Academy now disallows submissions of cover versions of songs that were first released prior to the eligibility year in question. But the Grammys didn’t always make that distinction. Some, like “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face” (1972), “Wind Beneath My Wings” (1989) and “Unforgettable” (1991) even won song of the year. Since the Grammys didn’t used to exclude cover versions, we’re not going to exclude them either in this exercise for some previous winners.)