Age is just a number when it comes to the Grammys. The top musical awards have had winners ranging from new-age popstars to genre veterans and even a former US President. Just take this year’s ceremony when legendary vocalist Tony Bennett picked up the Grammy for Best Traditional Pop Vocal Album at the age of 96.
Interestingly, some of the oldest Grammy winners also included non-musicians for categories such as Best Spoken Word Album. Betty White, George Burns, and Jimmy Carter are a few cases in point.
10/10 Dolly Parton – Last Win At 75 Years Old
With a whopping 52 nominations and 11 wins, Dolly Parton’s music has established her as a titan in country music. Starting with a nomination in 1970, she has been a consistent figure in the Best Country Vocal Performance category (co-sharing her wins with other country singers in some iconic duets).
But over the years, the now 76-year-old has also tried her hand at other genres. For instance, she picked up the Grammy for Best Contemporary Christian Music/Song (for the duet “There Was Jesus” with Christian rocker Zach Williams).
9/10 Quincy Jones – Last Win At 85 Years Old
The legendary producer and hitmaker behind the hits of artists such as Michael Jackson, Aretha Franklin, and many more, Quincy Jones has had a record of 80 Grammy nominations. And he just keeps on winning every decade.
In fact, the Grammy that he won at the age of 85 was for a tribute on his own legacy. He picked up Best Music Film for the music documentary Quincy, a directorial effort by his own daughter Rashida Jones. A title produced by Quincy Jones Productions, the film offers a glimpse into his personal life and artistic journeys.
8/10 Willie Nelson – Last Win At 86 Years Old
The long-haired country legend keeps on crooning on his acoustic guitar and old age never seems to stop him. Starting his Grammy journey with a win for Best Country Male Vocal Performance in 1975, his most recent win came at the age of 86 years when he bagged 2020’s Best Country Solo Performance for “Ride Me Back Home”.
From the ’70s till the present day, Nelson has witnessed changes within the music industry. For instance, the Country Solo Performance category was a new one introduced by the Grammys in 2012, an amalgamation of the previous categories Best Female Country Vocal Performance, Best Male Country Vocal Performance and Best Country Instrumental Performance.
7/10 Bobby Rush – Last Win At 87 Years Old
Incorporating elements of blues, funk, and rap, Bobby Rush was already a well-established blues legend before his Grammy wins. He took home his first one at the age of 83 for Best Traditional Blues Album (Porcupine Meat) followed by another win (Rawer Than Raw) in the same category at the age of 87.
Rush’s music gets love at the Grammys even through artists. Just consider how in 2018, American music duo Smle’s remix of Rush’s classic “Funk O’De Funk” was nominated for Best Remixed Recording.
6/10 Betty White – Last Win At 90 Years Old
Perhaps best known for playing Rose in The Golden Girls, comedy legend Betty White authored a book in 2011 titled If You Ask Me (And of Course You Won’t). The deeply personal book recounts her memories of love and life laced with a healthy dose of celebrity gossip.
When White brought her trademark sense of humor to the narration of the book’s audio version, White earned her first Grammy nomination at the age of 90 in 2011 for Best Spoken Word Recording, which she also won.
5/10 Elizabeth Cotten – Last Win At 90 Years Old
The late Elizabeth Cotten is one of the few Grammy winners who was born in the 19th century. Born in 1893, the American folks and blues guitarist died at the age of 94 in 1987. Four years earlier, won the Grammy in the Best Ethnic or Traditional Folk Recording category for her live album Elizabeth Cotten Live.
Cotten was a self-taught guitarist who used to play with her left hand. What set her apart from other guitarists was her innovative style of holding the instrument. Her method included turning a guitar meant for right-handed people upside down, her fingers playing the bass lines while the melody was handled by her thumb.
4/10 Jimmy Carter – Last Win At 94 Years
Barack Obama. Bill Clinton. Jimmy Carter. These three politicians have not only served as U.S. Presidents but also Grammy winners. Carter, in fact, is a two-time Grammy winner, both of which he earned in his 90s.
The first win came in 2016 when the then-90-year-old had recorded a spoken word album called A Full Life: Reflections at 90. This was followed by another win in the Best Spoken Word Album category with an audiobook rendition of his own autobiographical work of Christian literature Faith.
3/10 George Burns – Last Win At 95 Years Old
As the comedy duo Burns and Allen, George Burns and his wife Gracie Allen earned a lot of acclaim as comedic partners in crime. Unfortunately, Allen passed away in 1964 due to heart disease. Her husband would live on to carry forward the humor-filled legacy that they had created together.
A Tony Award away from being an EGOT (Emmy Golden Globe Oscar Tony) winner, Burns earned his Grammy for Best Spoken Word Recording at the ripe old age of 95. However, this time, Burns touched on more emotional subject matter. The audio of Gracie: A Love Story found Burns at his most vulnerable as he talked about how much his wife meant to him. Burns would go on to live a long life, eventually joining Allen at the age of 100.
2/10 Tony Bennett – Last Win At 95 Years Old
One of the last living stars of traditional pop, Tony Bennett is of a generation that grooved to big band performances and jazzy show tunes. He continues to evoke that grandeur in his music to date. In fact, he continued performing up until 2021 even after being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.
His most recent music credit was the collaborative album Love For Sale, recording original songs with Lady Gaga. The album was nominated for five Grammys this year (including Album of the Year). The duo ended up bagging the Grammy for Best Traditional Pop Vocal Album.
1/10 Pinetop Perkins – Last Win At 97 Years Old
The record for the oldest Grammy winner is currently held by Pinetop Perkins who won the 2011 Grammy for Best Traditional Blues Album (Joined at the Hip). The blues pianist had already received a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 2005 but his competitive win at the age of 97 was the one for history books.
Perkins passed away four months later, leaving behind a musical legacy that spanned more than half a century. Joined at the Hip was a joint effort between Perkins and his usual collaborator Willie “Big Eyes” Smith, the vocalist, drummer, and harmonica player who has been making music with him since the 1980s as a part of the Legendary Blues Band.