Grammy voters slept through the birth of rock'n'roll, the British Invasion of the 60s and the punk revolution of the 70s. They begrudgingly and/or belatedly bestowed the music industry's most prestigious prizes on Elvis Presley, the Beatles, Bob Dylan and the Rolling Stones. Meanwhile, hugely influential rock veterans ranging from AC/DC to Neil Young have yet to win anything.

Music fans love to hate the Grammys, and this year they are joined by ordinary people appalled by the four nominations handed to Eminem, the 28-year-old rapper.

The Grammys will be handed out at a star-studded televised ceremony at the Staples Centre in Los Angeles tonight.

The Eminem nominations represent the boldest attempt yet by Grammy organisers to tap into music's cutting-edge.

His album The Marshall Mathers LP is the first hard-core rap release to be nominated for the closely watched album of the year race.

Pop music may occasionally herald the decline of western civilisation, but not at the Grammys.

Since the first awards show in May 1959, the Grammys have often seemed out of tune: not a single rock'n'roll record was nominated at the inaugural ceremony.

Record of the year winners during the politically turbulent 60s included such easy-listening works as The Days of Wine and Roses by Henry Mancini, A Taste of Honey by Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass and Up, Up and Away by the Fifth Dimension.

The Beatles received only four Grammys during the 1960s, the Rolling Stones had to wait until 1995, while guitarist Jimi Hendrix won his sole Grammy last year, almost 30 years after his death.

Jethro Tull, the veteran British folk-rock band fronted by eccentric flutist Ian Anderson, won the inaugural hard rock/metal Grammy in 1989, beating AC/DC, Jane's Addiction, Metallica and Iggy Pop. Trade paper Daily Variety reported "a few scattered boos" when the winner was announced. Milli Vanilli, who were later unmasked as fakers who never sang on their discs, also won big-time.

The embarrassments kept on coming, culminating in 1995 when the Three Tenors and eventual winner Tony Bennett picked up album of the year nominations. Amid industry protests and threats of a boycott, Grammy organisers set up a top-secret committee to choose the nominees from the top 20 contenders for each of the four key awards - album, record and song of the year, and best new artist.

Cutting-edge acts like Alanis Morissette and Lauryn Hill, and deserving veterans like Bob Dylan and Carlos Santana went on to dominate subsequent shows. Ratings soared, while winners and performers jumped up the sales charts.

Critics still snipe but even Eminem, who sniped at the Grammies in his nominated song, found the chance to perform at them (on the same bill as targets of his venom such as Christina Aguilera and 'N Sync), irresistible.


Nominees and winners of the 43rd annual Grammy Awards