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20 People You Won’t Believe Have Grammys

Politicians, actors, athletes and Baha Men who have surprisingly won on Music’s Biggest Night

Barack Obama

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Though some people were shocked at all the love the Grammys were giving Meghan Trainor in 2015, her Record of the Year nom was practically Thriller-level obvious compared to the Grammys’ history in giving the occasional (and occasionally well-deserved!) left-field awards to politicians, actors, athletes and Baha Men. Here’s a list 20 people that you won’t believe have awards while Snoop Dogg and Morrissey’s shelves go trophyless.

Tia Carrere

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Tia Carrere

Sure, she will always be Wayne's World's Cassandra Wong to us. And sure, she was fired from Celebrity Apprentice for not being able to make a better viral mop video than Lou Ferrigno. (Oh, like you could have.) But you know how many Grammys Donald Trump has? [Quickly checks Wikipedia; sighs relievedly.] None! Carrere took home Best Hawaiian Music Album in 2009 and again in 2011.

Everett Dirksen

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Sen. Everett Dirksen

Nothing excites Grammy voters quite like Senators talking. The single "Gallant Men," with the Illinois Republican (1951 to 1969) intoning platitudes over a martial drumbeat, was a minor Top 40 hit in 1967, and it probably sounded not entirely out of place next to the Moody Blues' "Nights in White Satin." Its corresponding LP won Best Spoken Word Album in 1968.

Barack Obama

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Barack Obama

Had the POTUS gig not worked out, Obama might have settled into an alternate career as a perennial Grammy winner — sort of the Alison Krauss of the U.S. Senate — taking home the trophy for Best Spoken Word Album in 2006 (Dreams of My Father) and 2008 (The Audacity of Hope). But it sure was a lousy decision to let Bill Ayers accept the award for him in '06.

Starland Vocal Band

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Starland Vocal Band

Milli Vanilli and A Taste of Honey are the go-to punchlines when it comes time to mock this most mockable of awards, but let's give it up (heh, heh) for the coed eunuchs behind "Afternoon Delight" — the "Let's Get It On" of Windex commercials and Best New Artist winner in 1977. It's almost enough to make you wish the dudes behind "Play That Funky Music" won instead.

Sam Kinison

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Sam Kinison

Death is the best P.R. campaign, and so, in 1995, NARAS posthumously bestowed on this mercurial lump of high-wattage controversy the Best Comedy Album award — an honor which, for four of the previous five years, had gone to the square classical parodies of P.D.Q. Bach. Though you can't rule out the resonance that Kinison's "Rap Sucks" bit possibly had among some Grammy voters.

Magic Johnson

Magic Johnson of the Los Angeles Lakers stands on the court during a game at the Great Western Forum in Inglewood, California in 1986.

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Earvin “Magic” Johnson

Since his retirement from basketball, Magic Johnson has done many things, not all of them well or for easily discernible reasons, but his role in AIDS education and advocacy cannot be praised highly enough. Almost surely the only failed talk-show host/pre-paid Master Card sponsor/movie theater owner/NBA TV commentator/Starbucks franchisee on this list. His What You Can Do to Avoid AIDS took home Best Spoken Word Album in 1993.

Todd McFarlane

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Todd McFarlane

You youngsters may not believe this, but in the late Nineties an extensive knowledge of comics arcana was not necessarily a social asset. Like Korn gave a fuck — they were nerdy when nerdy wasn't cool. They enlisted Canadian artist and Spawn-creator Todd McFarlane to help out their "Freak on a Leash" clip, which won Best Short Form Music Video in 2000.

Betty White

Betty White speaks onstage during The 41st Annual People's Choice Awards in Los Angeles, California on January 7th, 2015.

Michael Tran/FilmMagic

Betty White

Just 'cause the dweebier nooks of the Internet have somewhat patronizingly adopted the nonagenarian White as their pet old person doesn't mean she didn't deserve recognition for a valuable historical document — her narration of her book, If You Ask Me (And of Course You Won't), which won 2012's Best Spoken Word Album. Centuries from now, the humanoid cockroaches who inherit our planet will learn from this recording what it was really like to work on Hot in Cleveland — if Betty's not still alive to tell them in person.

Robert Guillaume

Robert Guillaume in 1977.

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Robert Guillaume

Yes, he's best known as TV's Benson, America's favorite butler/lieutenant governor, but anyone who saw that very special Christmas episode when Governor Gatling's staff gathered around the piano and Guillaume turned in a stentorian rendition of "Oh Holy Night" knows he can sing. Turns out he can tell a tale for tots too, as Rafiki the mandrill, which helped him score a Best Spoken Word Album for Children award in 1995 for The Lion King Read-Along.

Joaquin Phoenix

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Joaquin Phoenix

Enigmatic actor Phoenix and Grammy magnet T-Bone Burnett assembled the 2006 winner for Best Soundtrack Album, the music to the Johnny Cash biopic Walk the Line. It consisted largely of the actor singing the Man in Black's songs — kind of a middlebrow Kidz Bop.

Robert Rauschenberg

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Robert Rauschenberg

Album covers can be works of art, but can a work of art be an album cover? Dunno, but even if the strongest competition hadn't been an illustrated jukebox on a Foreigner comp, this proto-pop visionary's design for Talking Heads' Speaking in Tongues — three differently colored transparent discs spun to create different collages — would've been too cool for the slobbiest philistine to resist.

Zach Braff

Zach Braff accepts the award for Best Compilation Soundtrack Album for a Motion Picture, Television or other Visual media during the Pre-Telecast Show at the 47th Annual Grammy Awards in Los Angeles, California on February 13th, 2005.

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Zach Braff

Braff has been annoying us all for so long now that it's hard to think back to when you first encountered him and remember just how instantly annoying he was. Still, the Braff-produced Garden State soundtrack (the 2005 winner for Best Compilation Soundtrack) remains a genuine historical document, a snapshot of the moment indie-rock became "indie," the folksy chamber-pop soundtrack to innumerable life-changing iPhone commercials.

Mikael Gorbachev Bill Clinton Sophia Loren

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Mikael Gorbachev, Bill Clinton and Sophia Loren

The Grammys love Prokofiev's children's tale Peter and the Wolf (Patrick Stewart won an award in for his narration in 1996). But you haven't really heard the composition that taught you what a bassoon sounds like until you've heard it told by two great world leaders — oh, and Bill Clinton too. Their 2004 version trounced Harry Potter and took home an award for Best Spoken Word Album for Children. The upcoming Putin/Bush/Angie Dickinson version is an early frontrunner for 2016.

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