The punk legend joked that he agreed to accept after making sure he didn't have to do anything for it

By Rachel DeSantis
January 26, 2020 10:20 PM
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After all these years, Iggy Pop still has a lust for life.

The Godfather of Punk and former Stooges frontman, 72, will cement his legend status on Sunday when he takes home a Lifetime Achievement Award at the 62nd annual Grammys.

While often cited as a major influence for everyone from the Sex Pistols to the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Pop had previously never received Grammy recognition over the course of his half-century career — which explains why the rocker says he was “really surprised” by the Recording Academy’s call.

“I said, ‘I’m not talking to them!’ It’s been, what? 50 years? No Grammy!” the two-time nominee tells PEOPLE with a laugh. “But they said, ‘You won.’ And I said, ‘Well, is there anything I have to do? Is it contingent on anything?’ And they said, ‘No. It can never be changed.’ So I thought that was okay. That was nice.”

Be sure to check out PEOPLE’s full Grammy Awards coverage to get the latest news on music’s biggest night.

Iggy Pop

Pop’s received accolades before, and in 2010 was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame along with his Stooges bandmates. But winning approval from the Grammys? “[That’s] a tougher can of tuna to pry open,” he says.

“I suppose I kind of feel as if the Academy and I met halfway, something like that,” he muses. “It’s sort of like a problem has been eliminated, put it that way… These things have been happening in my career for the last 10 years or so.. At first it was almost grim. Like, ‘Okay, I got there, I got that. It doesn’t make Raw Power any better or any worse.’ But after a while I came to appreciate that every person has a point of view. It took me a long time to appreciate that a lot of people have points of view that are nothing like mine whatsoever, but I need to respect them. Whereas when I was 25, it was like, ‘Agree with me or death.’”

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When he officially receives his honor alongside music icons like Chicago, Roberta Flack, John Prine and Public Enemy, Pop (né James Osterberg Jr.) says he’s keeping an ear out for Aerosmith’s performance at the Sunday ceremony, as well as that of six-time nominee Billie Eilish.

“I try to lean toward the more obscure, and I knew she was already a bit of a sensation right off,” he says, “but I won’t hold it against somebody if they’re popular. I thought it was quirky and personal and a new way of approaching that role and she didn’t step her foot into the pit of performing a dated pop hook.”

Iggy Pop ca. 1979

Pop — who’s also been listening to artists like Swedish singer Girl in Red and rockers Deli Girls and Ibeyi — has hosted a weekly BBC Radio show for the last five years, something he says has been pivotal in helping him discover new artists like Eilish, Pan Amsterdam and Novella.

The “Lust for Life” singer says those discoveries have inspired him to continue recording new music, most recently in September with the release of his 18th studio album, Free.

Though once known for wild antics meant to bring the shock factor (think bare-chested stage dives, stabbing himself on stage and, uh, slathering himself in peanut butter), the rocker now says the greatest shock lies in the fact that he’s still getting out there in the first place.

Iggy Pop in 1979

“It’s shocking that some old dude like me would do what I do,” he says. “What happens a lot is there will be kids in the front, really young kids, and as soon as I walk out, a lot of them will start screaming — and they’re screaming not in hysteria, they’re screaming because I think they’ve seen footage of kids 50 years ago screaming and they want to do that. They’re participating now. So I don’t have to push in the same way.”

With a career spanning more than five decades and countless hits under his belt, Pop is still looking forward — even if his Grammys achievement has finally provided reason to stop and reflect.

Iggy Pop
| Credit: Peter Noble/Redferns

“I certainly never gave myself a moment to think, ‘This is never gonna happen for me,’” he says of his early years. “No. Hell no. I just kept chipping away at it, and it’s become satisfying. I’ve become satisfied about it.”

As for the legacy he’d like to one day leave behind?

“’If he can do it, I can do it,’” he says after a thoughtful pause. “That would be pretty much it. I would hope that it would encourage some little punk to have a whack.”

PeopleTV’s PEOPLE Now host Jeremy Parsons, PEOPLE Senior Editor Janine Rubenstein and Entertainment Weekly Senior News Editor Gerrad Hall are co-hosting a live red carpet pre-show ahead of the awards ceremony. Catch the full livestream above at 6 p.m. ET/3 p.m. PT or on PEOPLE’s Facebook and Twitter pages. You can also watch on the PeopleTV app, available on all of your favorite streaming devices.

Tune into the 62nd annual Grammy Awards at 8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT on CBS.