Since 1959, the year Best Spoken Word Album was introduced at the Grammy Awards, 13 individuals have garnered posthumous nominations for Best Spoken Word Album. This year, with her bid for the memoir “The Princess Diarist” (2016), the late Carrie Fisher is the 14th posthumous nominee. Should Fisher triumph in the category, she will be the ninth to win after her death. Do you think the recording academy will pay tribute to the late actress and writer?
Charles Laughton, who scored the Best Actor Oscar for “The Private Life of Henry VIII” (1933), was the first posthumous nominee and winner, picking up the prize for “The Storyteller: A Session with Charles Laughton” (1963), the actor’s recounting of his youth.
Four years later the legendary broadcast journalist Edward R. Murrow garnered the award, in honor of “Edward R. Murrow – A Reporter Remembers, Vol. I: The War Years” (1967), a collection of Murrow’s coverage of World War II. Murrow died two years prior to the album’s release.
Remarkably, Martin Luther King Jr. did not win a Grammy for his recording of the timeless “I Have a Dream.” In 1969, one year after his death, King was nominated in this category for that recording but ultimately fell short to poet Rod McKuen‘s “Lonesome Cities.”
King would resurface in the category in the following decade, however, posthumously winning the prize for “Why I Oppose the War in Vietnam” (1971). King defeated fellow posthumous nominee John F. Kennedy, recognized for “In the Beginning,” a recording featuring the late president, incumbent President Richard Nixon and astronauts from the Apollo 8, 11 and 12 missions.
In 1970, television personality Art Linkletter and his daughter Diane earned the prize for “We Love You, Call Collect,” a recording lamenting youth drug use. Diane had committed suicide the year prior, a death her father blamed on substance abuse.
Fifteen years following her death, jazz legend Billie Holiday surfaced in Best Spoken Word Album, nominated for “Songs and Conversations” (1974), a compilation of the vocalist’s greatest hits and studio conversations. But Holiday lost to actor Richard Harris, recognized for his recording of the book “Jonathan Livingston Seagull.”
In 1981, nearly a decade after her passing, gospel singer Mahalia Jackson earned a nomination for “I Sing Because I’m Happy, Vols. 1 and 2,” a collection of songs and never-before-released interviews. Jackson fell short to actress Pat Carroll, who prevailed for the recording of her one-woman show “Gertrude Stein, Gertrude Stein, Gertrude Stein.”
One of John Lennon‘s many posthumous Grammy nominations came in Best Spoken Word Album. “Heart Play (Unfinished Dialogue)” (1985), featuring audio from a Playboy interview with the late musician, earned the nomination but would lose to “The Words of Gandhi,” performed by Oscar winner Ben Kingsley.
Ever since Lennon’s loss, however, every single posthumous nominee in Best Spoken Word Album has triumphed.
First there was the late actor and musician Ricky Nelson, honored alongside the team of fellow rock icons Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, Chips Moman, Roy Orbison, Carl Perkins and Sam Phillips for “Interviews From the Class of ’55 Recording Sessions” (1987).
“Saturday Night Live” favorite Gilda Radner lost her battle with ovarian cancer in 1989 but the recording of her memoir “It’s Always Something” (1990) emerged victorious in Best Spoken Word Album, as did the late CBS journalist Charles Kuralt‘s “Spring” (1998).
The late actor and activist Ossie Davis shared the prize with wife Ruby Dee for their recording of “With Ossie and Ruby: In This Life Together” (2007). And most recently the legendary Joan Rivers became the category’s eighth posthumous winner with the recording of her bestseller “Diary of a Mad Diva” (2015).
Be sure to make your Grammy predictions so that Hollywood record executives and top name stars can see how their songs and albums are faring in our Grammy odds. Don’t be afraid to jump in now since you can keep changing your predictions until just before winners are announced on January 28. And join in the fierce debate over the 2018 Grammys taking place right now with Hollywood insiders in our music forums. Read more Gold Derby entertainment news.