Grammy Award for Best Hard Rock/Metal Performance Vocal or Instrumental

Grammy Award for Best Hard Rock/Metal Performance Vocal or Instrumental
Awarded forQuality works in the hard rock/metal music genre
CountryUnited States

The Grammy Award for Best Hard Rock/Metal Performance Vocal or Instrumental was an award presented at the 31st Grammy Awards in 1989 to honor quality hard rock/metal works (albums or songs). The Grammy Awards, an annual ceremony that was established in 1958 and originally called the Gramophone Awards,[1] are presented by the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences of the United States to "honor artistic achievement, technical proficiency and overall excellence in the recording industry, without regard to album sales or chart position."[2]

The Academy recognized hard rock music artists for the first time in 1989 with the category Best Hard Rock/Metal Performance Vocal or Instrumental, combining two of the most popular music genres of the 1980s.[3] Metallica, who were expected to win the inaugural award for their album ...And Justice for All, lost to Jethro Tull whose album Crest of a Knave won, also beating out Jane's Addiction, Iggy Pop, as well as AC/DC. The presenters Lita Ford and Alice Cooper slightly confused, somewhat dejected way in which Cooper announced Jethro Tull's victory, as Ford quickly self-stifled her laughter, the boos from the crowd, and the even more confusion after reaction by Ian Anderson (who wasn't present to accept the trophy, which he thought his band had earned as a sort of lifetime-achievement commemoration).[4] This choice led to widespread criticism of the Academy, as journalists suggested that Jethro Tull's music did not belong in either the hard rock or heavy metal genres.[5][6] In response, the Academy separated the genres creating the categories Best Hard Rock Performance and Best Metal Performance. This incident is often considered an example of the Grammy Awards being out of touch with popular sentiment, and was named the biggest upset in Grammy history by Entertainment Weekly.

In 2012, the combined Hard Rock/Metal category returned following a major overhaul of Grammy Award categories. The separate Best Hard Rock Performance and Best Metal Performance categories were merged into the slightly renamed Best Hard Rock/Metal Performance category. However, in June 2013, it was announced that the combined category was being discontinued in favor of reinstating Best Metal Performance. Beginning in 2014, quality hard rock performances were recognized under the category Best Rock Performance.[7]


In 1988, the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences added a Hard Rock/Metal Performance category for the 31st Grammy Awards.[8] Nominated works for the award included Blow Up Your Video by AC/DC, "Cold Metal" by Iggy Pop (from the album Instinct), Nothing's Shocking by Jane's Addiction, Crest of a Knave by Jethro Tull, and ...And Justice for All by Metallica.[9] Jethro Tull's lead singer Ian Anderson was surprised by the band's nomination, as both Anderson and music critics did not consider the group's music to be part of the heavy metal music genre.[10][11][12]

A group of musicians playing various instruments on a stage, including a flute, guitars, piano and drum set. Additional instruments, orchestra members and audio equipment can be seen on stage and in the background.
Members of the award-winning band Jethro Tull, performing in Germany in 2007

Metallica's performance at the ceremony, held in February 1989 at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles, marked the first time a heavy metal group had performed during the Grammy Awards.[13] Metallica was expected to win the award, and members of Jethro Tull were told by their record label Chrysalis Records not to bother attending the ceremony because they "weren't likely to win."[10] However, Jethro Tull won the award (recipients included members Ian Anderson, Martin Barre, and Dave Pegg),[14] and when presenters Alice Cooper and Lita Ford announced the result, booing could be heard from the crowd.[10][15] Anderson, who assumed that the band was being recognized for their twenty-year history, as opposed to a single album, later stated that he was "lucky" not to have attended the ceremony, as "there's no way I could have accepted it under those circumstances."[10]