Magoosh English Class: The Music Award Goes to…The Grammys!

Welcome to the next lesson in our free English class series about Music in America. Time to get in front of the mirror and rehearse your acceptance speech! In this lesson, we’re going to explore the history of the top music award ceremony in America: The Grammy Awards.


  • Explore some of the history of The Grammy Awards
  • Learn basic English terms used around musical topics
  • Explore a common tense used when speaking about history

Difficulty Level:

C1 Learners


Approximately 15 minutes

The Grammy Awards: Presenting the Best in Music

Click below to listen to a recording of this passage.

Every year, the music academy awards the best and most talented individuals in the world of music at a ceremony called The Grammy Awards. The ceremony is put on by The Recording Academy and honors musicians in over 80 different categories in over 25 different fields and genres of music. The Grammy Awards show is televised globally and draws millions of viewers.

This show is called “the Grammys” because the trophy winners receive a golden gramophone. Until 1990, the trophies were made of a soft metal that was easily damaged. Now, the trophy makers use their own alloy to mold a trophy that can withstand a slip or fall.

In 1959, the first Grammy Awards Ceremony was held simultaneously in New York City and Beverly Hills. In fact, the show was originally called The Gramophone Awards, but the name shortened over time (the same thing happened with the Oscars, or the Academy Awards).

It grew in popularity, and in 1971, the Grammys were broadcast live for the first time. Until then, networks would only show parts of the ceremony throughout the year.

The Grammys have certainly racked up their share of interesting moments and streaks over the last 60 years. Three U.S. Presidents have won Grammys for their spoken word albums

Conductor George Solti holds the record for most Grammys won at 31 awards. Michael Jackson and Carlos Santana hold the record at eight for the most Grammys won in a single ceremony. The oldest person to ever win a Grammy was blues pianist Pinetop Perkins at 97 years old!

The Grammy Awards are a big event that draws viewers young and old from all over the world. If you want to see the hottest acts from the American music scene, be sure to watch The Grammys this year!

Here’s a video clip giving a quick rundown on the history of the Grammys.

Word Focus

  1. Put on – (phrasal verb) To organize and perform or exhibit. The City Playhouse put on their annual Christmas Show again this year.
  2. Televised – (verb) – To put on television. The Super Bowl is televised all over the world each year.
  3. Simultaneously – (adverb) – Two events happening at the same time. The ballet dancers jumped in the air simultaneously many times during their routine.
  4. Gramophone – (noun) – An old term for a record player. My grandfather said they called it a gramophone when he was a kid.
  5. Alloy – (noun) – A metal made by mixing two or more metallic elements. The scientists were able to create a stronger alloy for the ship to protect it against the atmosphere.
  6. Racked up – (phrasal verb) – To collect. John’s car insurance premiums increased significantly after he racked up three traffic violations in one year.
  7. Skyrocket – (verb) – To increase very rapidly. Microsoft stocks skyrocketed today after an announcement of a new operating system.

Grammar Center

Review this sentence from the passage:

Three U.S. Presidents have won Grammys for their spoken word albums.

This sentence utilizes the present perfect verb tense. We use this tense to show actions that took place at an unspecified time before now.

Always remember that the exact time isn’t important when using this tense. That can be confusing to some ESL learners.

The tense has many uses, but one of the most common is when talking about accomplishments. That’s how the writer used it in this context, but you’ll also hear it when people speak about things like experiences and changes over time.

Quiz Time!

  1. Based on the passage above, what word best describes how the author feels about The Grammy Awards?A. IndifferentB. ConsiderateC. ApatheticD. Interested
  2. An individual can win a Grammy for a Spoken Word Album.A. FalseB. True
  3. Based on your understanding of the phrasal verb racked up, which of the following sentences is correct?A. I went outside and racked up a bouquet of flowers for my girlfriend.B. They said she really racked up when she crashed her car last week.C. My son’s license was suspended after he racked up five moving violations in three months.D. I racked up a set of deer antlers on the back of my truck.
  4. What do I mean if I said, “I’m going to put on a play this summer.”?A. I’m going to lie to a large number of people this summer.B. I’m going to play outside with my friends this summer.C. I’m going to organize and perform a production this summer.D. I’m going to create sculptures with ice this summer.
  5. Read this sentence:This has caused some to see the awards show as a ceremony for only mainstream artists.What verb tense is used in this sentence from the passage?A. Simple pastB. Simple presentC. Past Perfect

    D. Present Perfect

Show Correct Answers:
  1. D
  2. B
  3. C
  4. C
  5. D
Jake Pool

Jake Pool

Jake Pool worked in the restaurant industry for over a decade and left to pursue his career as a writer and ESL teacher. In his time at Magoosh, he's worked with hundreds of students and has created content that's informed—and hopefully inspired!—ESL students all across the globe. Jake records audio for his articles to help students with pronunciation and comprehension as he also works as a voice-over artist who has been featured in commercials and on audiobooks. You can read his posts on the Magoosh blog and see his other work on his portfolio page at You can follow him on LinkedIn!
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