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11 Grammy recipients that prove you don’t need to carry a tune to win big.

Turns out, you don't have to be all that musical to snag a Grammy.

There are a few Grammy Award categories that have given hope to us non-musically inclined folks for decades...

...you know, the categories where you don't need a musical bone in your body to win — like Best Spoken Word Album. Because of these categories, a handful of notable winners have snatched up music's most coveted award throughout the years without having to sing a single note.

In honor of the 58th annual Grammy Awards on Feb. 15, 2016, here are 11 people you may be surprised to learn have Grammys under their belts (plus one very surprising nominee).


1. Jimmy Carter (2007)

Photo by Larry Busacca/Getty Images for NARAS.

That's right — he wasn't just our 39th president; the 91-year-old is a Grammy winner, too. Carter won the Spoken Word category in 2007 for his book "Our Endangered Values." And hey, look at that — he just won the same award this year for his most recent literary endeavor, "A Full Life: Reflections at Ninety." (He had some stiff competition in Amy Poehler but took the gold gramophone trophy home anyway. Sorry, Amy.)

You go, Mr. President.

2. Magic Johnson (1993)

Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images.

Johnson worked his magic at the Grammys in 1993, when he won Best Spoken Word or Nonmusical Album for "What Can You Do to Avoid AIDS." Johnson, who's HIV-positive, has long been an advocate on the issue, raising millions of dollars for research and prevention through his foundation.

What a class act on and off the hardwood.

3. Hillary Clinton (1997)

Photo by Jon Levy/AFP/Getty Images.

Years ago, when Hillary Clinton wasn't filling her days campaigning to be our next president, she won a Grammy. It was in 1997, for her book "It Takes a Village" in the category (yep, you guessed it) Best Spoken Word Album.

Get it, girl.

4. Elmo (1999, 2000, 2002)

Photo by Neilson Barnard/Getty Images.

Elmo! I can think of no one (and that includes puppets) more deserving of a golden megaphone than everybody's favorite furry red friend. Get this: He's won a Grammy three times (in 1999, 2000, and 2002), all for Best Musical Album for Children. Ah, Sesame Street ... good times.

5. Martin Luther King Jr. (1971)

Photo by AFP/Getty Images.

Back in 1971, at the 13th annual Grammy Awards, the late Martin Luther King Jr. won Best Spoken Word Recording for his book "Why I Oppose the Vietnam War," about three years after he was assassinated.

Other awards the civil rights leader received? The Presidential Medal of Freedom, the Congressional Gold Medal, and the Nobel Peace Prize. (No wonder he's one of the most widely admired people of the 20th century.)

6. Bill Clinton (2004, 2008)

Photo by Mehdi Taamallah/AFP/Getty Images.

Hey, Carter isn't the only American president (or Clinton, for that matter) who's snagged a Grammy. Bill Clinton has won two. In 2004, he won Best Spoken Word Album for Children for narrating "Wolf Tracks and Peter and the Wolf" (something he has in common with numbers 7 and 8 on this list), as well as in 2008, when he won Best Spoken Word Album for his autobiography, "My Life."

7. Sophia Loren (2004)

Photo by AFP/Getty Images.

Famed Italian actor Sophia Loren may be known for her acting chops (she won an Academy Award in 1961 for her role in "Two Women"), but her speaking voice isn't too shabby, either. She shared a Grammy win with President Clinton for "Wolf Tracks and Peter and the Wolf," along with the next dude on this list who is none other than...

8. Mikhail Gorbachev (2004)

Odd Andersen/AFP/Getty Images

Gorbachev is probably better known as the last leader of the Soviet Union (and also being the guy President Reagan told to tear down a wall). But hey, winning a Grammy is a pretty big deal, no matter where you land in the history books or what country you've overseen.

9. Jon Stewart (2005)

Photo by Timothy A. Clary/AFP/Getty Images.

Jon Stewart is a lot of things: funny guy, champion for 9/11 first responders, animal sanctuary overseer, and Grammy winner, to name a few. He got that last title back in 2005, when "The Daily Show" won Best Comedy Album for "America (The Book): A Citizen's Guide to Democracy Inaction." (I miss seeing your face on my TV every night, Jon.)

10. Barack Obama (2006, 2008)

Photo by Michael Sohn/AFP/Getty Images.

OK, maybe presidents winning a Grammy is more common than you'd think. Like Bill Clinton, Barack Obama has taken home two gramophones, both Best Spoken Word Albums, for "Dreams From My Father" and "The Audacity of Hope."

11. Zach Braff (2005)

Photo by Clayton Chase/Getty Images for LG Music Lodge.

Famed New Jerseyan Zach Braff is widely known for two things: being a scrub and directing, writing, and starring in 2004's "Garden State," for which he won a Grammy for Best Compilation Soundtrack Album. (Say what you want about the indie flick — its soundtrack made an impression on a lot of folks.)

So there you have it — 11 surprising Grammy winners.

Has your jaw dropped yet? No? Maybe this next one will do the trick...

The Chicago Bears — yes, as in the pro football team out of Illinois — were nominated for a Grammy for "Best Rhythm and Blues Performance by a Duo or Group" back in 1985 for recording "The Super Bowl Shuffle."

This is not a drill. (The poor fellas lost out to Prince ... so let's be honest, they never really stood a chance.)

Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images.

Images courtesy of Letters of Love
True

When Grace Berbig was 7 years old, her mom was diagnosed with leukemia, a cancer of the body’s blood-forming tissues. Being so young, Grace didn’t know what cancer was or why her mother was suddenly living in the hospital. But she did know this: that while her mom was in the hospital, she would always be assured that her family was thinking of her, supporting her and loving her every step of her journey.

Nearly every day, Grace and her two younger sisters would hand-make cards and fill them with drawings and messages of love, which their mother would hang all over the walls of her hospital room. These cherished letters brought immeasurable peace and joy to their mom during her sickness. Sadly, when Grace was just 10 years old, her mother lost her battle with cancer.“

Image courtesy of Letters of Love

Losing my mom put the world in a completely different perspective for me,” Grace says. “I realized that you never know when someone could leave you, so you have to love the people you love with your whole heart, every day.”

Grace’s father was instrumental in helping in the healing process of his daughters. “I distinctly remember my dad constantly reminding my two little sisters, Bella and Sophie, and I that happiness is a choice, and it was now our job to turn this heartbreaking event in our life into something positive.”

When she got to high school, Grace became involved in the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society and a handful of other organizations. But she never felt like she was doing enough.

“I wanted to create an opportunity for people to help beyond donating money, and one that anyone could be a part of, no matter their financial status.”

In October 2018, Grace started Letters of Love, a club at her high school in Long Lake, Minnesota, to emotionally support children battling cancer and other serious illnesses through letter-writing and craft-making.


Image courtesy of Letters of Love

Much to her surprise, more than 100 students showed up for the first club meeting. From then on, Letters of Love grew so fast that during her senior year in high school, Grace had to start a GoFundMe to help cover the cost of card-making materials.

Speaking about her nonprofit today, Grace says, “I can’t find enough words to explain how blessed I feel to have this organization. Beyond the amount of kids and families we are able to support, it allows me to feel so much closer and more connected to my mom.”

Since its inception, Letters of Love has grown to more than 25 clubs with more than 1,000 members providing emotional support to more than 60,000 patients in children’s hospitals around the world. And in the process it has become a full-time job for Grace.

“I do everything from training volunteers and club ambassadors, paying bills, designing merchandise, preparing financial predictions and overviews, applying for grants, to going through each and every card ensuring they are appropriate to send out to hospitals.”

Image courtesy of Letters of Love

In addition to running Letters of Love, Grace and her small team must also contend with the emotions inherent in their line of work.

“There have been many, many tears cried,” she says. “Working to support children who are battling cancer and other serious and sometimes chronic illnesses can absolutely be extremely difficult mentally. I feel so blessed to be an organization that focuses solely on bringing joy to these children, though. We do everything we can to simply put a smile on their face, and ensure they know that they are so loved, so strong, and so supported by people all around the world.”

Image courtesy of Letters of Love

Letters of Love has been particularly instrumental in offering emotional support to children who have been unable to see friends and family due to COVID-19. A video campaign in the summer of 2021 even saw members of the NFL’s Minnesota Vikings and the NHL’s Minnesota Wild offer short videos of hope and encouragement to affected children.

Grace is currently taking a gap year before she starts college so she can focus on growing Letters of Love as well as to work on various related projects, including the publication of a children’s book.

“The goal of the book is to teach children the immense impact that small acts of kindness can have, how to treat their peers who may be diagnosed with disabilities or illness, and how they are never too young to change the world,” she says.

Since she was 10, Grace has kept memories of her mother close to her, as a source of love and inspiration in her life and in the work she does with Letters of Love.

Image courtesy of Grace Berbig

“When I lost my mom, I felt like a section of my heart went with her, so ever since, I have been filling that piece with love and compassion towards others. Her smile and joy were infectious, and I try to mirror that in myself and touch people’s hearts as she did.”

For more information visit Letters of Love.

Please donate to Grace’s GoFundMe and help Letters of Love to expand, publish a children’s book and continue to reach more children in hospitals around the world.

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Images courtesy of AFutureSuperhero and Friends and Balance Dance Project
True

The day was scorching hot, but the weather wasn’t going to stop a Star Wars Stormtrooper from handing out school supplies to a long line of eager children. “You guys don’t have anything illegal back there - any droids or anything?” the Stormtrooper asks, making sure he was safe from enemies before handing over a colorful backpack to a smiling boy.

The man inside the costume is Yuri Williams, founder of AFutureSuperhero And Friends, a Los Angeles nonprofit that uplifts and inspires marginalized people with small acts of kindness.

Yuri’s organization is one of four inaugural grant winners from the Upworthy Kindness Fund, a joint initiative between Upworthy and GoFundMe that celebrates kindness and everyday actions inspired by the best of humanity. This year, the Upworthy Kindness Fund is giving $100,000 to grassroots changemakers across the world.

To apply, campaign organizers simply tell Upworthy how their kindness project is making a difference. Between now and the end of 2021, each accepted individual or organization will receive $500 towards an existing GoFundMe and a shout-out on Upworthy.

Meet the first four winners:

1: Balance Dance Project: This studio aims to bring accessible dance to all in the Sacramento, CA area. Lead fundraiser Miranda Macias says many dancers spend hours a day at Balance practicing contemporary, lyrical, hip-hop, and ballet. Balance started a GoFundMe to raise money to cover tuition for dancers from low-income communities, buy dance team uniforms, and update its facility. The $500 contribution from the Kindness Fund nudged Balance closer to its $5,000 goal.

2: Citizens of the World Mar Vista Robotics Team: In Los Angeles, middle school teacher James Pike is introducing his students to the field of robotics via a Lego-building team dedicated to solving real-world problems.

James started a GoFundMe to crowdfund supplies for his students’ team ahead of the First Lego League, a school-against-school matchup that includes robotics competitions. The team, James explained, needed help to cover half the cost of the pricey $4,000 robotics kit. Thanks to help from the Upworthy Kindness Fund and the generosity of the Citizens of the World Middle School community, the team exceeded its initial fundraising goal.

Citizens of the World Mar Vista Robotics Team video update youtu.be

3: Black Fluidity Tattoo Club: Kiara Mills and Tann Parker want to fix a big problem in the tattoo industry: there are too few Black tattoo artists. To tackle the issue, the duo founded the Black Fluidity Tattoo Club to inspire and support Black tattooers. While the Brooklyn organization is open to any Black person, Kiara and Tann specifically want to encourage dark-skinned artists to train in an affirming space among people with similar identities.

To make room for newcomers, the club recently moved into a larger studio with a third station for apprentices or guest artists. Unlike a traditional fundraiser that supports the organization exclusively, Black Fluidity Tattoo Club will distribute proceeds from GoFundMe directly to emerging Black tattoo artists who are starting their own businesses. The small grants, supported in part with a $500 contribution from the Upworthy Kindness Fund, will go towards artists’ equipment, supplies, furnishings, and other start-up costs.

4: AFutureSuperhero And Friends’ “Hope For The Holidays”: Founder Yuri Williams is fundraising for a holiday trip to spread cheer to people in need across all fifty states.

Along with collaborator Rodney Smith Jr., Yuri will be handing out gifts to children, adults, and animals dressed as a Star Wars’ Stormtrooper, Spiderman, Deadpool, and other movie or comic book characters. Starting this month, the crew will be visiting children with disabilities or serious illnesses, bringing leashes and toys to animal shelters for people taking home a new pet, and spreading blessings to unhoused people—all while in superhero costume. This will be the third time Yuri and his nonprofit have taken this journey.

AFutureSuperhero started a GoFundMe in July to cover the cost of gifts as well as travel expenses like hotels and rental cars. To help the nonprofit reach its $15,000 goal, the Upworthy Kindness Fund contributed $500 towards this good cause.

Think you qualify for the fund? Tell us how you’re bringing kindness to your community. Grants will be awarded on a rolling basis from now through the end of 2021. For questions and more information, please check out our FAQ's and the Kindness Toolkit for resources on how to start your own kindness fundraiser.

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1. Fair Trade Woven Dark Gray Alpaca Blend Scarf

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