Grammy Award for Song of the Year
Awarded forQuality song containing both lyrics and melody
CountryUnited States
Presented byNational Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences
First awarded1959
Currently held byDonald Glover, Ludwig Göransson & Jeffery Lamar Williams, "This is America" (2019)

The Grammy Award for Song of the Year is an honor presented at the Grammy Awards, a ceremony that was established in 1958 and originally called the Gramophone Awards.[1] The Song of the Year award is one of the four most prestigious categories at the awards (alongside Best New Artist, Record of the Year and Album of the Year) presented annually since the 1st Grammy Awards in 1959. According to the 54th Grammy Awards description guide, the award is presented:

to honor artistic achievement, technical proficiency and overall excellence in the recording industry, without regard to album sales or chart position.[2]

Song of the Year is related to but is conceptually different from Record of the Year or Album of the Year:

  • Song of the Year is awarded for a single or for one track from an album. This award goes to the songwriter who actually wrote the lyrics and/or melodies to the song. "Song" in this context means the song as composed, not its recording.
  • Record of the Year is also awarded for a single or individual track, but the recipient of this award is the performing artist, the producer, recording engineer and/or mixer for that song. In this sense, "record" means a particular recorded song, not its composition or an album of songs.
  • Album of the Year is awarded for a whole album, and the award is presented to the artist, producer, recording engineer, and mastering engineer for that album. In this context, "album" means a recorded collection of songs (a multi-track LP, CD, or download package), not the individual songs or their compositions.

History and description

The Song of the Year awards have been awarded since 1959.[3] It is one of the four most prestigious Grammy Awards. Despite both the Record of the Year award and Song of the Year being awarded for a single or for one track from an album, this award goes only to the composer(s) of the song whereas the Record of the Year award goes to the performer and production team of the song. According to the 54th Grammy Awards description guide, the award is given to the songwriter(s) of a song that "must contain melody and lyrics and must be either a new song or a song first achieving prominence during the eligibility year. Songs containing prominent samples or interpolations are not eligible".[4]

Since the late 1960s other songwriter's awards have been presented for genre-specific categories including Grammy Award for Best Country Song (since 1965), Grammy Award for Best R&B Song (since 1969), Grammy Award for Best Song Written for Visual Media (since 1988), Grammy Award for Best Rock Song (since 1992), and most recently Grammy Award for Best Rap Song (since 2004), Grammy Award for Best Gospel Song (from 2006 to 2014), Grammy Award for Best Contemporary Christian Music Song (from 2012 to 2014), Grammy Award for Best American Roots Song (since 2014), Grammy Award for Best Gospel Performance/Song (since 2015), and Grammy Award for Best Contemporary Christian Music Performance/Song (since 2015).

Thirty-one of the winning songs have also won the award for Record of the Year.

The category will expand to include eight nominees in 2019.[5]


In many cases, the songwriters were also the performers. (Domenico Modugno, Henry Mancini, John Lennon & Paul McCartney, Joe South, Paul Simon, Carole King, Barbra Streisand, Billy Joel, Michael McDonald, Christopher Cross, Sting, Michael Jackson & Lionel Richie, Bobby McFerrin, Eric Clapton, Bruce Springsteen, Seal, Shawn Colvin, Rob Thomas, U2, Alicia Keys, Luther Vandross, John Mayer, Dixie Chicks, Amy Winehouse, Coldplay, Beyoncé, Lady Antebellum, Adele, Fun, Lorde, Sam Smith, Ed Sheeran, Bruno Mars, and Childish Gambino).

Multiple winners in this category include Henry Mancini (1962 and 1964), Johnny Mercer (1962 and 1964), James Horner (1988 and 1999), Will Jennings (1993 and 1999), U2 (2001 and 2006), and Adele (2012 and 2017), winning two times each. However, songs written for Andy Williams, Barbra Streisand, Bette Midler, and Roberta Flack have received this award twice.

Christopher Cross is the first artist to receive the Grammy Award for Song of the Year as well as for Record of the Year, Album of the Year, and Best New Artist in one ceremony. Adele is the first female artist to receive the award for Song of the Year, Record of the Year, Best New Artist, and Album of the Year, nonconsecutively. Only five artists have won the Song of the Year and Best New Artist awards the same year: Christopher Cross (1981), Alicia Keys (2002), Amy Winehouse (2008), Fun (2013), and Sam Smith (2015); Marvin Hamlisch is only composer to win the Song of the Year and Best New Artist awards the same year in 1975.

The song "Volare", winner in 1959 by Domenico Modugno and performed in Italian, is the only foreign-language song to win this award, although the 1967 winner "Michelle" by The Beatles has a critical part of its lyrics in French.

The song "Theme of Exodus", winner in 1961 by Ernest Gold is the only instrumental song to ever receive this award.[6]

As of 2019, no songwriter has won Song of the Year twice in a row.


Members of the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences nominate their choices for song of the year. A list of the top twenty records is given to the Nominations Review Committee, a specially selected group of anonymous members, who then select the top five records to gain a nomination in the category in a special ballot.[7] The rest of the members then vote a winner from the five nominees.[8] In 2018, it was announced the number of nominated tracks will be increased to eight [9]


An asterisk (*) indicates this recording also won Record of the Year.
Year[I] Winner(s) Nationality Work Performing artist(s)[II] Nominees Ref.
1959 Domenico Modugno  Italy "Volare" * Domenico Modugno
1960 Jimmy Driftwood  United States "The Battle of New Orleans" Johnny Horton
1961 Ernest Gold  United States
"Theme of Exodus" Instrumental
(Various Artists)
1962 Henry Mancini
Johnny Mercer
 United States "Moon River" * Henry Mancini [13]
1963 Leslie Bricusse
Anthony Newley
 United Kingdom "What Kind of Fool Am I?" Sammy Davis Jr. [14]
1964 Henry Mancini
Johnny Mercer
 United States "Days of Wine and Roses" * Henry Mancini
1965 Jerry Herman  United States "Hello, Dolly!" Louis Armstrong [16]
1966 Paul Francis Webster
Johnny Mandel
 United States "The Shadow of Your Smile" Tony Bennett
1967 John Lennon
Paul McCartney
 United Kingdom "Michelle" The Beatles
1968 Jimmy Webb  United States "Up, Up, and Away" * The 5th Dimension [17]
1969 Bobby Russell  United States "Little Green Apples" O. C. Smith [18]
1970 Joe South  United States "Games People Play" Joe South [19]
1971 Paul Simon  United States "Bridge over Troubled Water" * Simon & Garfunkel [20]
1972 Carole King  United States "You've Got a Friend" James Taylor & Carole King [21]
1973 Ewan MacColl  United Kingdom "The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face" * Roberta Flack [22]
1974 Norman Gimbel
Charles Fox
 United States "Killing Me Softly with His Song" * Roberta Flack [23]
1975 Alan and Marilyn Bergman
Marvin Hamlisch
 United States "The Way We Were" Barbra Streisand
1976 Stephen Sondheim  United States "Send in the Clowns" Judy Collins [24]
1977 Bruce Johnston  United States "I Write the Songs" Barry Manilow [25]
1978 Barbra Streisand
Paul Williams /
Joe Brooks (Tie)
 United States "Evergreen (Love Theme from A Star Is Born)" /
"You Light Up My Life" (Tie)
Barbra Streisand /
Debby Boone
1979 Billy Joel  United States "Just the Way You Are" * Billy Joel [27]
1980 Kenny Loggins
Michael McDonald
 United States "What a Fool Believes" * The Doobie Brothers [28]
1981 Christopher Cross  United States "Sailing" * Christopher Cross [29]
1982 Donna Weiss
Jackie DeShannon
 United States "Bette Davis Eyes" * Kim Carnes [30]
1983 Johnny Christopher
Mark James
Wayne Carson
 United States "Always on My Mind" Willie Nelson [31]
1984 Sting  United Kingdom "Every Breath You Take" The Police
1985 Graham Lyle
Terry Britten
 United Kingdom
"What's Love Got to Do with It" * Tina Turner [32]
1986 Michael Jackson
Lionel Richie
 United States "We Are the World" * USA for Africa [33]
1987 Burt Bacharach
Carole Bayer Sager
 United States "That's What Friends Are For" Dionne Warwick & Friends (Elton John, Gladys Knight & Stevie Wonder) [34]
1988 James Horner
Barry Mann
Cynthia Weil
 United States "Somewhere Out There" Linda Ronstadt & James Ingram [35]
1989 Bobby McFerrin  United States "Don't Worry, Be Happy" * Bobby McFerrin [36]
1990 Larry Henley
Jeff Silbar
 United States "Wind Beneath My Wings" * Bette Midler [37]
1991 Julie Gold  United States "From a Distance" Bette Midler [38]
1992 Irving Gordon  United States "Unforgettable" * Natalie Cole with Nat King Cole [39]
1993 Eric Clapton
Will Jennings
 United Kingdom
 United States
"Tears in Heaven" * Eric Clapton [40]
1994 Alan Menken
Tim Rice
 United States
 United Kingdom
"A Whole New World" Peabo Bryson & Regina Belle [41]
1995 Bruce Springsteen  United States "Streets of Philadelphia" Bruce Springsteen [42]
1996 Seal  United Kingdom "Kiss from a Rose" * Seal [43]
1997 Gordon Kennedy
Wayne Kirkpatrick
Tommy Sims
 United States "Change the World" * Eric Clapton [44]
1998 Shawn Colvin
John Leventhal
 United States "Sunny Came Home" * Shawn Colvin [45]
1999 James Horner
Will Jennings
 United States "My Heart Will Go On" * Celine Dion [46]
2000 Itaal Shur
Rob Thomas
 United States "Smooth" * Santana featuring Rob Thomas [47]
2001 Adam Clayton
David Evans
Larry Mullen Jr.
Paul Hewson
 Ireland "Beautiful Day" * U2 [48]
2002 Alicia Keys  United States "Fallin'" Alicia Keys [49]
2003 Jesse Harris  United States "Don't Know Why" * Norah Jones [50]
2004 Richard Marx
Luther Vandross
 United States "Dance with My Father" Luther Vandross
2005 John Mayer  United States "Daughters" John Mayer [52]
2006 Adam Clayton
David Evans
Larry Mullen Jr.
Paul Hewson
 Ireland "Sometimes You Can't Make It on Your Own" U2 [53]
2007 Emily Robison
Martie Maguire
Natalie Maines
Dan Wilson
 United States "Not Ready to Make Nice" * Dixie Chicks [54]
2008 Amy Winehouse  United Kingdom "Rehab" * Amy Winehouse [55]
2009 Guy Berryman
Jonny Buckland
Will Champion
Chris Martin
 United Kingdom "Viva la Vida" Coldplay
2010 Thaddis Harrell
Beyoncé Knowles
Terius Nash
Christopher Stewart
 United States "Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)" Beyoncé [57]
2011 Dave Haywood
Josh Kear
Charles Kelley
Hillary Scott
 United States "Need You Now" * Lady Antebellum [58]
2012 Adele Adkins
Paul Epworth
 United Kingdom "Rolling in the Deep" * Adele [59]
2013 Nate Ruess
Jack Antonoff
Jeff Bhasker
Andrew Dost
 United States "We Are Young" Fun featuring Janelle Monáe [60]
2014 Joel Little
Ella Yelich-O'Connor
 New Zealand "Royals" Lorde [61]
2015 James Napier
William Phillips
Sam Smith
 United Kingdom "Stay with Me" (Darkchild version) * Sam Smith [62]
2016 Ed Sheeran
Amy Wadge
 United Kingdom "Thinking Out Loud" Ed Sheeran [63]
2017 Adele Adkins
Greg Kurstin
 United Kingdom
 United States
"Hello" * Adele
2018 Christopher Brody Brown
James Fauntleroy
Philip Lawrence
Bruno Mars
Ray Charles McCullough II
Jeremy Reeves
Ray Romulus
Jonathan Yip
 United States "That's What I Like" Bruno Mars [65]
2019 Donald Glover
Ludwig Göransson
Jeffery Lamar Williams
 United States
"This Is America" * Childish Gambino