The Grammy Awards are widely recognized as the most prestigious honors given out in the music business. Every year, musicians from dozens of genres see their lifelong dream of winning one of those golden record players finally come true, often after years of toiling away.
But some people have won Grammys having very little musical experience — or none at all! Given the wide variety of categories the Grammy Awards honor, there have been plenty of people to win trophies over the years that would likely shock you. Here are some surprising people who can call themselves Grammy winners.
Believe it or not, Hillary Clinton won a Grammy while she was the sitting first lady of the United States. The former senator won the award at the 1997 ceremony but it wasn’t because she recorded her own rock album while living in the White House. The award was for the audio version of her 1996 book, “It Takes A Village,” in the category of best spoken word or non-musical album. Clinton was nominated for a second Grammy in 2004 for the audio version of her book, “Living History,” but lost.
Former President Jimmy Carter has used his signature, Southern accent to snag more than one Grammy in his post-political career. Carter has actually won three Grammys and been nominated for nine of them since 1998, meaning he’s won as many Grammys as the Rolling Stones. His first win came in 2007 for the audio version of his book, “Our Endangered Values: America’s Moral Crisis.” All three of his wins have come in the category of best spoken word album, with the other two coming in 2016 and 2019.
So how exactly did the guy from “Scrubs” win one of music’s most coveted honors? He can thank his skills of putting together a film soundtrack for that. In 2005, Braff won a Grammy in the category of best compilation soundtrack album for the companion record for his movie, “Garden State.” Braff produced the soundtrack, which was loaded with great tracks by artists like Coldplay, The Shins and Zero 7. To date, it is his only nomination, making him a perfect one for one at the ceremony.
Before he won praise for his role in “Joker,” Joaquin Phoenix won a Grammy for his work doing music for another film. His sole win and nomination (so far) came for his work on the soundtrack of the Johnny Cash biopic “Walk the Line.” The award came in 2007 in the category of best compilation soundtrack album, which was shared with Phoenix because the majority of the record’s songs featured the actor’s own singing.
To go with his Oscar and Emmy Awards, famed movie director Martin Scorsese has a Grammy on his shelf. He won the trophy in 2006 for his Bob Dylan documentary, “No Direction Home.” The win came in the category of best long form music video, which has since been renamed best music film. It was Scorsese’s third Grammy nomination overall, with the others coming for the soundtrack of his film, “Gangs of New York,” and the overall production of his documentary, “Martin Scorsese Presents: The Blues.”
Trey Parker & Matt Stone
The guys who gave the world “South Park” have also snagged a Grammy for a different major piece of work. Trey Parker and Matt Stone each won a Grammy in 2012 for their popular Broadway musical, “The Book of Mormon,” which is their only nomination so far. They shared the award in the category of best musical theater album. It’s just another reason why that show deserves to be considered among the most successful ones in Broadway history.
Typically, if an author like Walter Mosley is going to win a Grammy, it’s going to be because he recorded a thrilling audio version of one of his books. But Mosley actually won his Grammy simply by writing some words. The author of books like “Devil in a Blue Dress” and “47” won in the category of best album notes for the text he wrote to go with the Richard Pryor comedy album collection, “…And It’s Deep Too!” in 2002.
Rather than winning a Grammy for reading the audio version of his memoir, acclaimed actor Jack Nicholson won an award for his reading of a children’s book. In 1988, Nicholson won a Grammy in the category of best recording for children because of the life he brought to the story of “The Elephant’s Child,” which was written by Rudyard Kipling. The audio version of the classic story featured music by Bobby McFerrin, who also won a Grammy, which is a lot less surprising.
Did you know that David Fincher has won more Grammys than Justin Bieber? The Oscar-nominated director of movies like “Seven” and “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” has won two Grammys to Bieber’s lone statue. Fincher’s wins have both come in the category of best music video, a form in which he has plenty of directorial experience. He first won in 1995 for directing the video for the Rolling Stones’ “Love is Strong,” and again in 2014 for Justin Timberlake’s “Suit & Tie.”
How does a comic book artist win a Grammy? Well, in the case of Todd McFarlane, it’s because of his work behind the camera in music videos. The artist who became a household name for drawing “Spawn” won a Grammy in 2000 for animating the music video for Korn’s “Freak on a Leash.” It was actually McFarlane’s second nomination in consecutive years, as he also picked up one for animating Pearl Jam’s video for “Do the Evolution” in 1999.
Comedy icon Lily Tomlin has been nominated for five Grammys but it’s been an awfully long time since she took one home. In 1972, Tomlin won in the category of best comedy recording for her album, “This is a Recording.” She was nominated three more times in the same category throughout the 1970s and again in 2005 in the category of best spoken word album, but she lost every time. After also winning Tony and Emmy Awards, that means Tomlin is just an Oscar away from the heralded EGOT.
Cheech & Chong
The comedy duo of Cheech Marin and Tommy Chong is well known for making stoner jokes a popular art form but did you know they also won a Grammy? In 1974, the pair won for their album, “Los Cochinos,” in the category of best comedy recording. They were regulars in that category for nearly 15 years, racking up an impressive six nominations from 1972-1986 but never winning another.
“Parks and Recreation” star Rashida Jones can also count herself among the proud people who’ve earned a Grammy — and it wasn’t for working as an actor or voice-over artist. Jones, the daughter of music legend Quincy Jones, won in the category of best music film in 2019 for a film she made about her famous father. “Quincy” was co-directed and co-written by Jones and it marked her debut as a director.
Actor Don Cheadle may not have won the Oscar he was nominated for in 2005 but he scored a Grammy in 2017. The award came in the category of best compilation soundtrack for visual media for his work producing the album that went with his Miles Davis biopic, “Miles Ahead.” It was actually Cheadle’s second Grammy nomination, as he was up for best spoken word album in 2004 with his reading of “Fear Itself,” a book by another surprising winner on this list, Walter Mosley.
Along with memorable roles in comedies like “American Pie” and “Best in Show,” actor Eugene Levy can count a Grammy win among his achievements. In his only career nomination so far, Levy won in the category of best song written for a motion picture, television or other visual media for his hand in crafting the title track from the movie, “A Mighty Wind.” In the film, Levy played a folk singer, actually performing his own vocals. He also wrote several songs for the soundtrack, including the winning one.
Martin Luther King, Jr.
For most people on this list, a Grammy win is probably one of their greatest achievements but for Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., it doesn’t rank all that high. The civil rights icon has been nominated for three Grammys but only one nomination came while he was alive, in 1964. But King wouldn’t live to see himself actually win a Grammy. His win didn’t come until 1971, when he won in the category of best spoken word recording, for a recording of his famous speech, “Why I Oppose the War in Vietnam.”
Sir Ben Kingsley was on a roll in the early 1980s, winning an Oscar, a BAFTA, two Golden Globes and a Grammy from 1982-1985. It was in that latter year that he won his Grammy, in the category of best spoken word or non-musical album. The honor came for his reading of “The Words of Gandhi.” The previously mentioned awards were also for his role in bringing Gandhi to life on screen in 1982’s “Gandhi.” Rarely has any single actor won so many awards for inhabiting a single role.
Christopher Reeve was acclaimed as an actor but he took on arguably his life’s greatest role, as an advocate for people with spinal cord injuries, during the final 10 years of his life. After Reeve was left quadriplegic following a horseback riding accident in 1995, he wrote two books, with the audio versions of both earning him Grammy nominations. He won his lone Grammy in 1999 for the reading of his book, “Still Me,” in the category of best spoken word album.
If you already knew that Audrey Hepburn is one of the elite few entertainers to ever win the EGOT, you were already well aware that she’d won a Grammy. But it’s probably a surprise to most people. The “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” star and legendary style icon won the musical award on her only career nomination. Her trophy came in 1994, shortly after her death, in the category of best spoken word album for children for her audiobook, “Audrey Hepburn’s Enchanted Tales.”
Another respected thespian who won a Grammy in the category of best spoken word album for children is Sir Patrick Stewart. He was given the award in 1996 for his dramatic reading of Sergei Prokofiev’s “Peter and the Wolf.” It was Stewart’s second career Grammy nomination, as he was also up in the category of best spoken word or non-musical album for his reading of “A Christmas Carol.” Fellow “Star Trek” icons William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy were also each nominated for Grammys in their careers but neither could “make it so.”
Of course, Patrick Stewart isn’t the only member of the “Star Trek: The Next Generation” cast to have won a Grammy, as he shares that honor with LeVar Burton. The beloved actor and “Reading Rainbow” host won his own Grammy in 2000 on what was his second career nomination. Burton had been nominated in 1994 for his reading of Miles Davis’ autobiography but he eventually won the Grammy for his reading of “The Autobiography of Martin Luther King, Jr.” Clearly, if you need someone to read a great person’s autobiography on tape, Burton is a great choice.
You may have known that Magic Johnson won five championships and three MVP honors during his incredible NBA career, but did you know he also won a Grammy? The Los Angeles Lakers legend took home the gold at the 1993 ceremony in the category of best spoken word or non-musical album. The honor was for the audio version of his book, “What You Can Do to Avoid AIDS,” which he wrote not long after going public with the fact that he’d contracted HIV. It’s Johnson’s only Grammy nomination to date.
Of the two Bridges brothers, you’d probably expect that Jeff was the one to win a Grammy, thanks to his own country music career, but you’d be wrong. It was Beau Bridges who took home the pair’s lone Grammy so far in 2009. He shared the award with fellow actors Cynthia Nixon and Blair Underwood for their reading of Al Gore’s groundbreaking book, “An Inconvenient Truth.” Jeff Bridges may be able to hold an Oscar over his brother’s head but Beau Bridges gets to hold the Grammy.
Michael J. Fox
Who doesn’t love Michael J. Fox? Clearly, the Grammy voters love him because they’ve nominated him for three of their awards so far. The three nominations have come for the audio versions of all three books he’s written since 2002. He won in 2010 for the audiobook of his memoir, “Always Looking Up.” Personally, we’d argue he should’ve also won one for Marty McFly’s guitar solo in “Back to the Future,” but whatever.
Another beloved actor who turned her gift of telling life stories into a Grammy win was Carrie Fisher. The “Star Wars” favorite was nominated twice for a Grammy because of the audio versions of two of her memoirs. The first nomination came in 2010 for “Wishful Drinking,” before she eventually won in 2018 for her reading of “The Princess Diarist.” Unfortunately, Fisher didn’t live to see herself become a Grammy winner, as she passed away in 2016.
Few people have accomplished as much in Hollywood as Ron Howard, Grammy or no. The former child star-turned-filmmaker took home his Grammy in 2017 for what has been his only career nomination so far. The award was in the category of best music film, which went to his Beatles documentary, “Eight Days a Week.” It was only Howard’s third time directing a documentary but it clearly struck the right chord with voters.
“Titanic” star Kate Winslet just needs to do some stage work and win a Tony and she’ll have completed the EGOT circuit. What’s interesting is that she won a Grammy nearly a decade before she won an Oscar or a Tony. Her trophy came in 2000 in the category of best spoken word album for children for her reading of a story in the collection “Listen to the Storyteller.” She’d win her Oscar in 2009 and her Emmy in 2011, completing a rare trio of honors.
Of all the politicians who’ve won Grammys, you might be most surprised to see Mikhail Gorbachev on the list. The former Soviet Union leader earned the coveted award in 2004 in the category of best spoken word album for children, for taking part in a new reading of his native Russia’s “Peter and the Wolf.” The only thing more surprising about Gorbachev winning a Grammy is whom he shared it with, as the audiobook also included readings by Bill Clinton and Sophia Loren.
The Muppets are undoubtedly icons of the entertainment business but did you know they once won a Grammy? No, it wasn’t for one of Animal’s epic drum solos. The award came in 2008 in the category of best musical album for children in honor of their holiday record, “A Green and Red Christmas.” I mean, how could an album that featured Pepe the King Prawn singing “Merry Christmas Baby” not win a Grammy?
Yes, the man who brought Frankenstein’s monster to life and terrified audiences in 1932’s “The Mummy” was indeed a Grammy winner. Boris Karloff was actually first nominated for a Grammy in 1963 for reading the children’s book, “The Cat Who Walked By Herself” but it was a much more iconic work that landed him the gold. He would win in 1968 in the category of best recording for children for his classic performance of Dr. Seuss’ “How the Grinch Stole Christmas.”