Just 4 duos have received the honor, which leaves dozens of pairs hoping to one day get the call.
Over the weekend, Sam & Dave became just the fourth duo to receive a lifetime achievement award from the Recording Academy. The R&B pair followed The Everly Brothers, who received the honor in 1997, Simon & Garfunkel (2003) and the classic country twosome The Louvin Brothers (2015).
Sam & Dave — Sam Moore and the late Dave Prater — received the honor at the annual Grammy Salute to Music Legends, held at the Dolby Theater in Hollywood on Saturday. The event was taped for airing this fall on PBS as part of their Great Performances series.
That still leaves dozens of duos hoping to one day be honored by the Academy for their lifetime of work. (The choices are made by a select committee and ratified by the Academy’s board of trustees.)
Who will be the next duo to get that call? Here are some leading possibilities.
Karen and Richard were the first duo to win a Grammy for best new artist (1970). They are, to this day, the only duo to receive album of the year noms two years running. They were nominated for Close to You (1970) and the hit-laden Carpenters (1971). They landed three wins from seven noms. Richard also received five noms for his arrangements. Carpenters would become the third sibling duo, after the Everly and Loubin brothers, to receive the lifetime achievement award.
Steely Dan started out as a band, but after 1974, it was basically a twosome consisting of Donald Fagen and Walter Becker. Steely Dan is the only duo in Grammy history to land three album of the year noms. They scored with Aja (1977), Gaucho (1981) and Two against Nature (2000). The latter was the second album by an ongoing duo to win for album of the year. (Simon & Garfunkel’s Bridge over Troubled Water was the first.) Steely Dan tallied three wins and nine noms. They were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2001.
OutKast was nominated for record of the year for “Ms. Jackson” (2001) and “Hey Ya!” (2003). They are one of only two duos to receive two record of the year noms. (The other is Simon & Garfunkel.) Speakerboxxx/The Love Below (2003) was the third album by an ongoing duo to win for album of the year. OutKast consists of André “André 3000” Benjamin and Antwan “Big Boi” Patton. Six wins, 16 noms.
The French EDM duo’s Random Access Memories (2013) was the fourth album by an ongoing duo to win for album of the year. Their smash “Get Lucky” took record of the year that year, making this the first time a duo had swept both awards since Simon & Garfunkel did it in 1970. Daft Punk consists of Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo and Thomas Bangalter. Six wins, 12 noms.
The Righteous Brothers and Daryl Hall & John Oates
These blue-eyed-soul duos are both prime contenders. The Righteous Brothers (Bill Medley and Bobby Hatfield) had six top 10 hits on the Hot 100, including one of the greatest hits of all time, “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’.” Hall & Oates amassed 16 top 10 hits on that chart, more than any other duo. Yet neither duo ever won a Grammy. The Righteous Brothers had two noms. Hall & Oates had five (plus one more for Hall for song of the year for writing “Everytime You Go Away”). Medley finally won a Grammy for a 1987 duet with Jennifer Warnes, “(I’ve Had) the Time of My Life.” The Righteous Brothers and Hall & Oates were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2003 and 2014, respectively.
Brooks & Dunn
Kix Brooks and Ronnie Dunn are the most commercially successful duo in country music history. They won Grammys in the country duo/group category for “Hard Workin’ Man” (1993) and “My Maria” (1996). Two wins, 15 noms.
Ashford & Simpson
Nickolas Ashford and Valerie Simpson were given a trustees award this year, which recognizes their work as writers and producers for other artists. That doesn’t necessarily kill their chances of ever getting a lifetime achievement award, which would honor their work as performers, but it probably makes it less likely.
Ike & Tina Turner and Lester Flatt & Earl Scruggs
These disparate duos probably won’t be honored. The academy has already singled out Tina Turner (2018) and Earl Scruggs (2008) for individual honors. Ike & Tina were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1991.
Sonny & Cher, Eurythmics and The White Stripes
These duos may one day be honored, but it’s more likely that the academy would single out their star members Cher, Annie Lennox and Jack White, respectively, for individual honors. Each had notable successes long after the duos called it quits. Grammy trivia: Sonny & Cher were the first duo to receive a Grammy nom for best new artist, but Cher didn’t win a Grammy until “Believe” (1999).
Wham! and Peter & Gordon
These short-lived duos have very little chance of being honored, but their star members are serious contenders. George Michael may well get a lifetime achievement award one day. Peter Asher deserves a trustees award for his remarkable second career as a producer and manager of such stars as James Taylor and Linda Ronstadt.
The Black Keys
Dan Auerbach and Patrick Carney have won four Grammys, from 10 noms. El Camino was an album of the year nominee (2012). Its opening track, “Lonely Boy,” was a record of the year nominee that same year.
It’s too early to assess such current duos as Sugarland (one win, four noms), the Chainsmokers (one win, four noms), Twenty One Pilots (one win, three noms), Dan + Shay (one win, one nom), Brothers Osborne (no wins, five noms), Chloe x Halle (no wins, two noms) and Florida Georgia Line (no wins, one nom), but they’re on the right track.
Other duos, not already mentioned, that were once nominated for album or record of the year or best new artist include Loggins & Messina, Captain & Tennille, the Brecker Brothers, the Brothers Johnson, Blues Brothers, Timbuk3, Indigo Girls, Kris Kross, Gnarls Barkley, MGMT, The Ting Tings, Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, Grey and Milli Vanilli (though Rob & Fab’s award was famously rescinded).
Other duos of note include Richard and Linda Thompson, Suicide, The Civil Wars, Wilburn Brothers, Pet Shop Boys, Tears for Fears, Jan & Dean, Marilyn McCoo & Billy Davis Jr., Roxette, Peaches & Herb, Montgomery Gentry, Bellamy Brothers, The Kendalls, Big & Rich, Thompson Square, the Proclaimers, Rob Base and DJ E-Z Rock and A Great Big World.