Top Black Moments: American Music Awards

The First Time  


Dick Clark created the American Music Awards as a response to the Grammys, which are chosen by the industry; the AMAs are determined by the music-buying public. The first show aired in 1974 and featured awards in three categories: pop/rock, soul/R&B and country. The first favorite soul/R&B male, female and group were Stevie Wonder, Roberta Flack and the Temptations, respectively.

Soul Man  

Stevie Wonder won favorite soul/R&B male artist four of the first five times the award was presented between 1974 and 1978. Barry White won the award in 1976. Wonder received the Award of Merit in 1982.

Need A Cue  


During the 1976 ceremony, the Queen of Soul Aretha Franklin tried to present the best country group award but couldn't read the cue card because someone was blocking it. After several attempts, a frustrated Franklin finally told "the gentleman in the green suit" to lower his head, just as Dick Clark came on from backstage to give her a hand.

Disco Inferno  


In 1979, disco was added as a category for the first and only time. The winners were Isaac Hayes (favorite disco male), Donna Summer (favorite disco female) and the Village People (favorite disco group). Favorite disco album, Live and More, and song, "Last Dance," were won by Summer.

Thriller Night  


Michael Jackson — who is the artist with the most AMAs (26) — won a chunk of them at the 1984 show, including favorite pop/rock male; favorite soul/R&B male; favorite pop/rock and soul/R&B album (Thriller); favorite pop/rock and soul/R&B video ("Beat It"); as well as the Award of Merit. His total haul for the night was eight awards.  

Rap Arrives  

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In 1989, the award show added rap/hip-hop as a category. DJ Jazzy Jeff & the Fresh Prince were named favorite rap/hip-hop artist, beating out Run-D.M.C. and Salt-N-Pepa, while the duo's album, He's the DJ, I'm the Rapper, beat Public Enemy's It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back and Run-D.M.C.'s Tougher Than Leather for favorite rap/hip-hop album.

His Prerogative  

Ron Galella, Ltd./WireImage

Bobby Brown turns in an epic, high-energy performance of his hits “My Prerogative” and “Every Little Step” at the 1990 show. But Brown’s appearance at a later AMA show wouldn’t end on such a high note. An arrest warrant was issued for Brown in 2003 after he missed a court date in order to attend the show.

Dancing Queen  

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Beyoncé gave one of the most memorable performances of her hit "Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)" during the 2008 AMAs. Eagle-eyed Glee fans will notice that Heather Morris, who plays cheerleader Brittany S. Pierce on the hit series, is one of Bey's backup dancers.

N.Y. Takes L.A.  

Jeff Kravitz/AMA2009/FilmMagic

By the time Jay-Z and Alicia Keys performed "Empire State of Mind" at the 2009 show, the song had already become an overplayed anthem after being co-opted by the New York Yankees during the World Series. Still, Jay, sporting a white tuxedo, managed to inject an element of style into the performance and win over the Los Angeles crowd, too.

Rated-R RiRi  

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Rihanna took the stage in a white bondage outfit for a performance at the 2009 AMAs several months after her breakup with Chris Brown. RiRi also sported a fake tattoo promoting her Rated R album, which would go platinum.

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