1981 Grammy Award Winners

1981 Grammy Award Winners

Winners Announced: February 25, 1981
Held at: Radio City Music Hall, New York
Host: Paul Simon
Eligibility Year: October 1, 1979September 30, 1980

Notable Trivia

  • ‘Sailing’ Smooth: Christopher Cross made history this year. He swept all four major categories: Record of the Year, Album of the Year, Song of the Year, and Best New Artist. His hit Sailing was a big reason for his success.
  • Iconic Host: Hosting duties were taken up by Paul Simon, no stranger to Grammy gold himself. He had already won multiple awards, both as a solo artist and as half of Simon & Garfunkel.
  • Operatic Heights: Luciano Pavarotti, the operatic tenor, won his first Grammy this year. He was awarded Best Classical Vocal Soloist Performance, broadening the awards’ musical diversity.
  • Rap Debut: Kurtis Blow’s The Breaks was nominated in the Best R&B Vocal Performance, marking the first time rap was recognized in Grammy history.
  • Country Classic: George Jones sang his way into hearts with He Stopped Loving Her Today. The song earned him the Grammy for Best Male Country Vocal Performance and is often cited as one of the greatest country songs.
  • Genre Expansion: The B-52’s got a nod for Rock Lobster in the Best Rock Performance by a Duo or Group category. This nomination indicated the Grammys’ willingness to embrace alternative and new wave music.
  • Jazzed Up: Pat Metheny, the jazz guitarist, won his first Grammy for Best Jazz Fusion Performance. His album Offramp got him this prestigious accolade, proving that jazz was far from forgotten in the awards circuit.

1981 Grammy Winners

Record of the Year:
Sailing – Christopher Cross
Album of the Year:
Christopher Cross, Christopher Cross (Warner Bros.)
Song of the Year:
Sailing – Christopher Cross, songwriter
Best New Artist:
Christopher Cross
Best Pop Vocal Performance, Male:
This Is It – Kenny Loggins
Best Pop Vocal Performance, Female:
The Rose – Bette Midler
Best Pop Performance By a Duo or Group With Vocal:
Guilty – Barbra Streisand and Barry Gibb
Best Pop Instrumental Performance:
One on One, Bob James and Earl Klugh
Best Rock Vocal Performance, Male:
Glass Houses, Billy Joel
Best Rock Vocal Performance, Female:
Crimes of Passion, Pat Benatar
Best Rock Performance By a Duo or Group With Vocal:
Against the Wind, Bob Seger and the Silver Bullet Band
Best Rock Instrumental Performance:
Reggatta de Blanc – Police
Best Rhythm and Blues Song:
Never Knew Love Like This Before – Reggie Lucas and James Mtume, songwriters
Best Rhythm and Blues Performance, Male:
Give Me the Night, George Benson
Best Rhythm and Blues Vocal Performance, Female:
Never Knew Love Like This Before – Stephanie Mills
Best Rhythm and Blues Performance By a Duo or Group With Vocal:
Shining Star – Manhattans
Best Rhythm and Blues Instrumental Performance:
Off Broadway – George Benson
Best Jazz Vocal Performance, Male:
Moody’s Mood – George Benson
Best Jazz Vocal Performance, Female:
A Perfect Match/Ella and Basie, Ella Fitzgerald
Best Jazz Instrumental Performance, Soloist:
I Will Say Goodbye, Bill Evans
Best Jazz Instrumental Performance, Group:
We Will Meet Again, Bill Evans
Best Jazz Instrumental Performance, Big Band:
On the Road, Count Basie and Orchestra
Best Jazz Fusion Performance, Vocal or Instrumental:
Birdland – Manhattan Transfer
Best Country Song:
On the Road Again – Willie Nelson, songwriter
Best Country Vocal Performance, Male:
He Stopped Loving Her Today – George Jones
Best Country Vocal Performance, Female:
Could I Have This Dance – Anne Murray
Best Country Performance By a Duo or Group With Vocal:
That Lovin’ You Feelin’ Again – Roy Orbison and Emmylou Harris
Best Country Instrumental Performance:
Orange Blossom Special/Hoedown – Gilley’s Urban Cowboy Band
Best Gospel Performance, Contemporary or Inspirational:
The Lord’s Prayer, Reba Rambo, Dony McGuire, B.J. Thomas, Andrae Crouch, the Archers, Walter and Tramiane Hawkins and Cynthia Clawson
Best Gospel Performance, Traditional:
We Come to Worship, Blackwood Brothers
Best Soul Gospel Performance, Contemporary:
Rejoice, Shirley Caesar
Best Soul Gospel Performance, Traditional:
Lord, Let Me Be an Instrument, James Cleveland and the Charles Fold Singers
Best Latin Recording:
La Onda Va Bien, Cal Tjader (Concord Jazz)
Best Inspirational Performance:
With My Song I Will Praise Him, Debby Boone
Best Ethnic or Traditional Recording:
Rare Blues, Dr. Isaiah Ross, Maxwell Street Jimmy, Big Joe Williams, Son House, Rev. Robin Wilkins, Little Brother Montgomery and Sunnyland Slim (Takoma)
Best Instrumental Arrangement:
Dinorah, Dinorah – Quincy Jones and Jerry Hey, arrangers
Best Arrangement Accompanying Vocalist(s):
Sailing – Michael Omatian and Christopher Cross, arrangers
Best Arrangement for Voices:
Birdland – Janis Siegel, arranger
Best Instrumental Composition:
The Empire Strikes Back, John Williams, composer
Best Cast Show Album:
Evita?Premier American Recording, Andrew Lloyd Webber, composer; Tim Rice, Iyricist (MCA)
Best Album of Original Score Written for a Motion Picture or a Television Special:
The Empire Strikes Back, John Williams, composer (RSO)
Best Classical Album:
Berg, Lulu (Complete Version), Pierre Boulez conducting Orchestre de l’Opera de Paris; solos: Stratas, Minton, Mazura and Blankenheim (Deutsche Grammophon)
Best Classical Orchestral Recording:
Bruckner, Symphony No. 6 in A Major, Sir Georg Solti conducting Chicago Symphony Orchestra (London)
Best Chamber Music Performance:
Music for Two Violins (Moszkowski, Suite for Two Violins; Shostakovich, Duets; Prokofiev, Sonata for Two Violins), Itzhak Perlman and Pinchas Zukerman
Best Classical Performance, Instrumental Soloist(s) (With Orchestra) (tie):
Berg, Concerto for Violin and Orchestra; Stravinsky, Concerto in D Major for Violin and Orchestra, Itzhak Perlman; Seiji Ozawa conducting Boston Symphony Orchestra
Brahms, Concerto in A Minor for Violin and Cello (Double Concerto), Itzhak Perlman and Mstislav Rostropovich; Bernard Haitink conducting Concertgebouw Orchestra
Best Classical Performance Instrumental Soloist(s) (Without Orchestra):
The Spanish Album, Itzhak Perlman
Best Opera Recording:
Berg, Lulu (Complete Version), Pierre Boulez conducting Orchestre de l’Opera de Paris; solos: Stratas, Minton, Mazura and Blankenheim
Best Choral Performance, Classical (Other Than Opera):
Mozart, Requiem, Carlo Maria Giulini, conductor and Norbert Balatsch, chorus master, Philharmonia Chorus and Orchestra (Deutsche Grammophon)
Best Classical Vocal Soloist Performance:
Prima Donna, Volume 5 Great Soprano Arias From Handel to Britten, Leontyne Price; Henry Lewis conducting Philharmonia Orchestra
Best Comedy Recording:
No Respect, Rodney Dangerfield (Casablanca)
Best Spoken Word, Documentary or Drama Recording:
Gertrude Stein, Gertrude Stein, Gertrude Stein, Pat Carroll (Caedmon)
Best Recording for Children:
In Harmony/A Sesame Street Record, Doobie Brothers, James Taylor, Carly Simon, Bette Midler, Muppets, Al Jarreau, Linda Ronstadt, Wendy Waldman, Libby Titus and Dr. John, Livingston Taylor, George Benson and Pauline Wilson, Lucy Simon, Kate Taylor and the Simon/Taylor Family (Sesame Street/Warner Bros.)
Best Album Package:
Against the Wind, Roy Kohara, art director (Capitol)
Best Album Notes:
Trilogy: Past, Present and Future, David McClintick, annotator (Reprise/Warner Bros.)
Best Historical Reissue Album:
Segovia?The EMI Recordings 1927 – 39 (Angel)
Producer of the Year (Non-Classical):
Phil Ramone
Classical Producer of the Year:
Robert Woods