When the nominations for the 63rd annual Grammy Awards were announced on Nov. 24, just about everybody was surprised that The Weeknd’s “Blinding Lights” was missing from the field of eight record of the year nominees. It has many of the markers of previous record of the year nominees and winners: It’s extremely well-crafted, it was (and remains) enormously popular, and it appeals to a broad cross-section of listeners.
“Blinding Lights” logged four weeks at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100. Singles and tracks don’t have to be No. 1 hits — or even Hot 100 hits — to be nominated, but commercial success rarely hurts. Of the first 62 singles to win record of the year, more than half — 33, to be exact — were No. 1 hits on the Hot 100.
The roster of record of the year winners that also topped the Hot 100 includes such classic singles as Bobby Darin’s “Mack the Knife,” Simon & Garfunkel’s “Bridge Over Troubled Water,” Eagles’ “Hotel California” and the last two winners in the category: Childish Gambino’s “This Is America” and Billie Eilish’s “Bad Guy.”
Here are 25 records that, like “Blinding Lights,” did not receive Grammy nominations for record of the year. All reached No. 1 on the Hot 100. All are classics — loved by fans and critics alike. If the tracks were nominated (or won) Grammys in categories other than record of the year, that information is part of the discussion. The years shown are the Grammy years they competed in or would have competed in. The singles are listed in roughly ascending order of how shocking the fact they weren’t nominated for record of the year is.
25. Travis Scott feat. Drake, Big Hawk & Swae Lee, “Sicko Mode” (2018): This was nominated for best rap performance and best rap song, but not record of the year. Scott, an eight-time Grammy nominee, is still waiting for his first win.
24. Guns N’ Roses, “Sweet Child O’ Mine” (1988): The band’s biggest hit wasn’t nominated in any categories. The band’s blockbuster debut album Appetite for Destruction had likewise been ignored the previous year. Sheryl Crow’s cover version of “Sweet Child O’ Mine” won for best female rock vocal performance (1999). GN’R received three nods from 1989-92, but never won.
23. The Staple Singers, “I’ll Take You There” (1972): This received a nod for best R&B vocal performance by a duo, group or chorus, but was passed over in the marquee categories. The Staple Singers never won a Grammy, but received a lifetime achievement award in 2005.
22. 50 Cent, “In Da Club” (2003): This was nominated for best male rap solo performance and best rap song. 50’s only Grammy win to date was for 2009’s “Crack a Bottle,” a collab with Grammy faves Eminem and Dr. Dre, which won best rap performance by a duo or group.
21. The Everly Brothers, “All I Have to Do Is Dream” (1958): This received a nod for best country & western performance in the Grammys’ first year, but not for record of the year. (It would have been a hipper choice than Domenico Modugno’s lounge lizard staple, “Nel Blu Dipinto Di Blu (Volare),” which won the award.) The Everly Brothers never won a Grammy in competition, but they received a lifetime achievement award in 1997.
20. LaBelle, “Lady Marmalade” (1975): This risqué (for its time) smash wasn’t nominated in any category. The trio never received a Grammy nod, though Patti LaBelle has piled up 13 nominations as a solo artist (including two wins). A cover version of “Lady Marmalade” by Christina Aguilera, Lil’ Kim, Mýa and Pink, which also topped the Hot 100, won a 2001 Grammy for best pop collaboration with vocals.
19. The Rolling Stones, “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” (1965): The Grammys were resistant to rock in the ’50s and ’60s, though The Beatles’ earth-shaking “I Want to Hold Your Hand” was nominated for record of the year the previous year. “Satisfaction” was fairly earth-shaking in its own right, but not enough to overcome Grammy attitudes of the time. The Stones finally received their first Grammy nod (in any category) in 1978 when Some Girls was up for album of the year.
18. Percy Sledge, “When a Man Loves a Woman” (1966): This classic received two nods — best rhythm & blues recording and best rhythm & blues solo vocal performance, male or female (shades of today’s “genderless Grammys”) — but nothing in the top category. Twenty-five years later, Michael Bolton’s cover version, which also topped the Hot 100, won a Grammy for best pop vocal performance, male.
17. Rod Stewart, “Maggie May” (1971): Not only was this classic not nominated for record of the year, it wasn’t nominated in any category. In fact, Stewart wasn’t nominated in any category until 1979. He has never been nominated in a “Big Four” category: album, record and song of the year plus best new artist. His only Grammy win to date was for best traditional pop vocal album for Stardust…The Great American Songbook Volume III (2004).
16. The Doors, “Light My Fire” (1967): As noted above, the Grammys were resistant to rock in the ‘60s, but this was such a monster hit, you might have thought it would have been broken through anyway. José Feliciano’s soulful cover version of “Light My Fire” won the following year for best contemporary pop vocal performance, male. The Doors never received a Grammy nod, though they received a lifetime achievement award in 2007.
15. Elvis Presley, “Suspicious Minds” (1969): This smash didn’t receive any nods, nor did any of the other hits from The King’s late ‘60s/early ‘70s comeback. Shocker: Presley won only three competitive Grammys — all in sacred/inspirational categories. (For the record, some of his biggest hits pre-dated the Grammys’ 1958 launch.)
14. Rihanna featuring Calvin Harris, “We Found Love” (2011): This out-of-the-box smash, released just eight days before the end of the eligibility year, wasn’t nominated in any category, but the accompanying video won best short form music video the following year. Rihanna has won nine Grammys. Surprisingly, that video win is Harris’ only Grammy victory to date.
13. Marvin Gaye, “I Heard It Through the Grapevine” (1968): This classic, Motown’s longest-running No. 1 hit on the Hot 100 in its first three decades, received a nod for best rhythm & blues vocal performance, male. Gaye was never nominated in a “Big Four” category, nor did he win a Grammy for any of his Motown classics. (He finally won a pair of Grammys after he moved to Columbia in the ‘80s.)
12. Roy Orbison, “Oh, Pretty Woman” (1964): This received a nod for best rock & roll recording, but not for record of the year. Twenty-six years later, a cover version that Orby recorded for the HBO special Roy Orbison and Friends: A Black and White Night won a posthumous Grammy for best pop vocal performance, male.
11. Janis Joplin, “Me and Bobby McGee” (1971): This song, co-written by Kris Kristofferson and Fred Foster, was nominated for song of the year, but Joplin’s classic single was passed over for a record of the year nod. Joplin’s recording received a nod for best pop vocal performance, female — one of two nominations Joplin received that year. These were her first and only Grammy nods. Though Joplin never won a Grammy in competition, she received a lifetime achievement award in 2005.
10. Madonna, “Like a Prayer” (1989): This striking single wasn’t nominated in any category, nor was the following year’s equally compelling “Vogue.” Madonna finally got her Grammy due in 1998, when “Ray of Light” was nominated for record of the year and her album of the same name was nominated for album of the year. She nabbed another record of the year nod two years later for “Music.”
9. Bill Withers, “Lean on Me” (1972): Withers wasn’t nominated in any categories in the year he landed his biggest hit. Fifteen years later, Club Nouveau’s cover version of “Lean on Me” received a nod for best R&B performance by a duo or group with vocal. Its success brought Withers a belated award for best rhythm & blues song — 15 years after his version was a hit.
8. Otis Redding, “(Sittin’ on) The Dock of the Bay” (1968): This tender, posthumous smash won two Grammys — best rhythm & blues vocal performance, male and best rhythm & blues song — but wasn’t nominated for the top award. Redding never received a nod in a “Big Four” category, though he got a lifetime achievement award in 1999.
7. Gladys Knight & the Pips, “Midnight Train to Georgia” (1973): This American classic won a Grammy for best R&B vocal performance by a duo, group or chorus, but was passed over in the top category. The group never got a “Big Four” nod. Knight’s only “Big Four” nod was for her co-starring role on Dionne & Friends’ all-star charity collab “That’s What Friends Are For,” a 1986 record of the year nominee.
6. The Righteous Brothers, “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’” (1964): This classic received one Grammy nod — best rock & roll recording — but nothing for record or song of the year. (The song was written by Barry Mann, Cynthia Weil and the late Phil Spector.) Shocker: The Righteous Brothers received just two nominations and never won.
5. The Beach Boys, “Good Vibrations” (1966): This classic received three nominations (but no wins): best performance by a vocal group, best contemporary (R&R) recording and best contemporary (R&R) group performance – vocal or instrumental. (R&R stands for rock and roll.) Added shocker: The Beach Boys have yet to be nominated in a “Big Four” category and have yet to win a competitive Grammy, though they got a lifetime achievement award in 2001.
4. The Temptations, “My Girl” (1965): This was nominated for best rhythm & blues recording, but not for the big one. Three years later, the Temps won their (and Motown Records’) first Grammy for their hit “Cloud Nine.” They received a lifetime achievement award in 2013, but they were never nominated in a “Big Four” category.
3. Prince, “When Doves Cry” (1984): This track wasn’t nominated in any categories, though the Purple Rain soundtrack, on which it appears, won two Grammys and was nominated for album of the year. Still, this brilliant recording, which still sounds funky and fresh 37 years after it was first released, should have been up for record of the year. And when is Prince, who died in 2016, going to get a lifetime achievement award?
2. Al Green, “Let’s Stay Together” (1972): This classic wasn’t nominated in any categories. Green didn’t receive his first Grammy nod until “Call Me (Come Back Home)” the following year. Green has won 11 Grammys, but he has yet to be nominated in a “Big Four” category.
1. Aretha Franklin, “Respect” (1967): This immortal classic won two Grammys: best rhythm & blues recording and best rhythm & blues solo vocal performance, female. It was nominated for a third, best vocal performance, female. Still, it’s hard to fathom that it didn’t receive a record of the year nod. Franklin, the eternal Queen of Soul, was never nominated in a “Big Four” category.
If the Grammys didn’t give any of these classic hits record of year nominations, why should anybody care about their choices? Well, they have also voted for some superb records, as you can see on their official roster of record of the year winners.