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Though it’s tempting to look back only as far as their most recent headline-grabbing stunts, the Grammys have been around for nearly 60 years. Before Kanye told Taylor Swift, “Imma let you finish” and J. Lo brought new meaning to the word “cleavage,” before Pink whipped out her Cirque du Soleil moves and Lady Gaga hatched from an egg, things were a little bit simpler. The pageantry dialed back and the garb subdued.
LIFE’s photographers captured Grammy-winning icons from Ray Charles—who remains among most decorated winners with 17 Grammys—to Rita Moreno, who won only one Grammy but became the first Latina to win an EGOT—one each of an Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony.
Some of these artists, like Louis Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald and Frank Sinatra, were at a disadvantage in the arms (full of Grammys) race, as the inaugural Grammy Awards didn’t take place until 1959, at which point they had all been recording for 15 years or more.
Luckily, music fans know that the gilded gramophone is little more than the icing on the cake. A Grammy can’t make a star any more than a butchered cow can make a dress (unless that dress is going to be worn by Lady Gaga).
Not that anyone’s complaining about taking one home.
Liz Ronk, who edited this gallery, is the Photo Editor for LIFE.com. Follow her on Twitter at @LizabethRonk.