The Grammys Left So Many Great Artists Out of Its 'In Memoriam' Tribute

David Berman, Bushwick Bill, and several other legendary musicians didn't get so much as a mention from the Recording Academy.
Drew Schwartz
Brooklyn, US
David Berman and Bushwick Bill
Photo of David Berman by Shawn Ehlers / Getty Images; photo of Bushwick Bill by Scott Dudelson / Getty Images

Every year, the Grammys puts together an "In Memoriam" reel as a tribute to musicians, songwriters, and other industry figures who've died—and every year, the Recording Academy winds up failing to mention a few major, unmissable artists. In 2019, they were silent on the death of XXXTentacion; the year before that, they omitted The Fall's Mark E. Smith. It's the same story this time around: Somehow, the Academy left a plethora of people who died out of its broadcast.


David Berman, the singer-songwriter at the helm of Silver Jews and Purple Mountains who died in August at 52 years old, didn't get so much as a mention on Sunday night. Neither did Bushwick Bill, the legendary rapper who rose to fame as a member of Geto Boys, and who died in June, also at age 52.

It doesn't stop there. Along with a few other cringe-inducing oversights—like, notably, misspelling both Ric Ocasek and Camilo Sesto's names—the Academy omitted a number of folks whose work made a lasting impact on our culture. It's too late to go back and fix the Grammys' broadcast now—but at the very least, we can memorialize some of the people the Recording Academy failed to here.

Robert Hunter
Hunter was a lyricist for the Grateful Dead, who wrote the words to some of the band's most iconic songs, "Ripple" and "Truckin'" being just two of those. He was also a recording artist in his own right, releasing a dozen albums between 1974 and 1993. He died in September, at 78.

Norma Tanega
Tanega only made one hit song—"Walkin' My Cat Named Dog," released in 1966—but she continued her career as a musician writing songs for Dusty Springfield, including “No Stranger Am I” and “The Colour of Your Eyes." She died earlier this month, at the age of 80.

Mark Hollis
Hollis was the frontman of Talk Talk, an English band that made its name playing pop in the early 80s before pivoting to more ambitious, experimental music, and helping to lay the foundation of what we now call post-rock. Hollis died in February, at 64.


Scott Walker
Walker, a singer-songwriter, came to prominence in the 60s with his group The Walker Brothers before striking out on his own and forging a career as a solo artist. His work—experimental, often massive in scope, bizarre and beautiful—was a big influence on David Bowie and Radiohead. He died in March, at 76.

Neal Casal
Casal was a gifted guitarist, who played alongside Willie Nelson, Shooter Jennings, Phil Lesh, Lucinda Williams, and more, both on stage and in the studio. He also played with Ryan Adams, in his backing band the Cardinals. He died in August, at 50.

Ken Nordine
Nordine pioneered an art form he termed "word jazz"—a stream-of-consciousness process of improvising poetry and cooly speaking it into a microphone over lively, intricate jazz music. He collaborated with Fred Astaire back in the 50s, secured a long-running show on NPR, and scored Grammy nominations for two of his records. He died in February, at 98.

Keith Flint
Flint was the lead singer (alongside Maxim Reality) of The Prodigy, the British dance band that popularized the genre in the U.K. and the U.S. back in the 90s and whose massive tracks "Firestarter," "Breathe," and "Smack My Bitch Up" built the bridge between rock and electronica. Their punk-techno record The Fat of the Land hit No. 1 in Britain and in the States in 1997. He died in March, at 49.

Ranking Roger
Roger was a vocalist for The Beat—or, as they're known in the US, The English Beat—which made music that blurred and blended together genres like ska, punk, Latin, and pop, and helped make the ska revival of the 1980s happen. After the band broke up, he went on to form General Public. He died in March, at 56. Correction (1/27): An earlier version of this post mistakenly claimed that Juice WRLD was left out of the "In Memoriam" segment of the Grammys. He was featured. We regret the error.

Sign up for our newsletter to get the best of VICE delivered to your inbox daily.

Follow Drew Schwartz on Twitter.