Lauryn Hill, the 23-year-old soul diva who won the hearts of consumers and critics with her debut solo album, grabbed five Grammy awards Wednesday night, including the prizes for Album of The Year and Best New Artist. The awards for Record and Song of the Year, the two other closely watched categories, both went to “My Heart Will Go On,” the ubiquitous theme song to the blockbuster 1997 film “Titanic.” With her trophy haul, Hill broke Carole King’s 1971 record for most awards nabbed by a female artist in a single night. (King won four awards for her “Tapestry” album.) Michael Jackson holds the record for most wins with eight earned in 1983 for “Thriller.” “God is great, and He conquers all,” Hill said as she received her Album-of-the-Year prize, the last one presented during the three-hour televised ceremony. Hill, a New Jersey native and member of the hip-hop trio the Fugees, began the night with 10 nominations, the most of any performer this year. Her debut solo album, “The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill,” was one of the most acclaimed releases of 1998 and has sold more than 6 million copies worldwide.
The National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences’ 41st annual ceremony was held at L.A.’s Shrine Auditorium and was hosted by Rosie O’Donnell.
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In other news of the evening:
- Madonna, who had been largely ignored by Grammy voters during her 15-year career, won three awards, including Best Pop Album for “Ray of Light.” The stylish techno-influenced album was released exactly one year ago to much acclaim. “This is such a surprise,” Madonna said. “I am so honored.” The 40-year-old also opened the show, and wore a blazing red kabuki outfit.
- “My Heart Will Go On” also won the Female Pop Vocal for Celine Dion and as the Best Song Written for a Motion Picture or Television. James Horner and Will Jennings picked up the writing trophies. Dion thanked James Cameron, director of “Titanic,” for “letting this song be part of this magic moment — a beautiful movie.” Horner told the audience he initially considered the song just a movie theme. (The soundtrack was the top-selling album of 1998, with more than 9 million units sold.) “It spoke to a lot of people,” Horner later said backstage. “It obviously was very romantic in a wistful, timeless way.” He admitted he no longer listens to the song.
- Celine Dion reiterated her desire to retire at the end of her 1999 tour. “I’m looking forward to cooking my own meals, cleaning my own house, doing my own grocery-shopping, going for picnics and working on having children,” she said backstage. She also said she’s only seen “Titanic” twice, but she owns the tape and plans repeated viewings when she retires.
- Sheryl Crow, who was nominated for Producer of the Year, said it was a good year for that category, but when women are nominated they are greeted with “a lot of skepticism.” “I suffered it, I watched it with Alanis Morissette, and I watched it with Joan Osborne. Now it’s Lauryn Hill … that’s kind of the nature of the business.”
- The Texas-based female country trio the Dixie Chicks, photogenic newcomers to the scene, won two awards — Country Album and Country Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal. “We got to break Nashville’s rules and do what we wanted to do — they let us play our instruments,” said Natalie Maines when the group accepted the Country Album Award for “Wide Open Spaces.”
- Canada was well-represented. In addition to Celine Dion, Alanis Morissette was also very successful, taking her career haul to seven Grammys when her song “Uninvited” won two prizes, for Female Rock Vocal Performance and Rock Song. Fellow Canadian Shania Twain won the Female Country Vocal and Country Song Awards for her pop-flavored country hit “You’re Still the One.”
- It was also a good night for veterans: Among the first-time winners were Jimmy Page and Robert Plant, who were never honored for their work in Led Zeppelin. They won in the Hard Rock category for “Most High.” Patti Page, 71, with the first nomination in her 51-year career (which included the ’50s hit “How Much Is That Doggie in the Window?”), won the Traditional Pop Vocal category with her album “Live At Carnegie Hall — The 50th Anniversary Concert.”
- The Beastie Boys, who have also been ignored by Grammy voters in the past, went away with two prizes — for Alternative Music Performance (“Hello Nasty”) and Rap Performance by a Duo or Group (“Intergalactic”).
- “When I started out, I really didn’t have much estimation of these things,” said Elvis Costello, who shared his first-ever Grammy with veteran songwriter Burt Bacharach in the Pop-Collaboration-With-Vocals category. Bacharach had his first win since 1986, giving him Grammys in three different decades
- Among the surprise winners were young bluesman Keb’ Mo’, who beat such veterans as B.B. King, Etta James and Buddy Guy in the Contemporary-Blues-Album category for his “Slow Down” release.
- Grammy favorites also did well. Eric Clapton picked up his 13th career Grammy when “My Father’s Eyes” won for Male Pop Vocal. “Same Old Train” brought country veteran Emmylou Harris her eighth Grammy when she and a slew of Nashville greats shared the prize for Country Collaboration with Vocals.