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Buckwheat Zydeco Jr. led Black Catholics at 2024 Grammys

Several nods led to just one win across all categories, with a characteristically full slate of nominations for co-religionists from Louisiana.

Molly Tuttle, left, presents Buckwheat Zydeco Jr. the Grammy Award for Best Regional Roots Music Album for "New Beginnings" on Feb. 4, 2024, in Los Angeles. (Chris Pizzello/Invision/Associated Press)

The stars were out on music’s biggest night, with the 66th annual Grammy Awards taking place Sunday in Los Angeles at Arena. Black Catholics were among the top nominees and performers.

Jon Batiste was up for Album of the Year for the second time in three years, having won the award in 2022. He was nominated for his concept album “World Music Radio,” which featured guest appearances from a bevy of artists spanning several genres, and a host of major songwriters and producers. (Batiste also co-wrote and co-produced each track.)

Batiste received five other nods, including for Song of the Year and Record of the Year, but he’ll have to wait until the Oscars for a potential win in 2024. At the Grammys, he was one of three artists with six or more nominations to not take home a trophy.

Batiste did perform live at the ceremony, however, following up his 2022 feature with a tribute to musicians who have passed away since the last Grammys broadcast. His portion honored Clarence Avant, known as the “Godfather of Black music,” who passed away in August.

Living legends were also honored during the weekend of celebrations, including the Catholic-raised songstress Gladys Knight, who received a Lifetime Achievement Award on Saturday alongside Donna Summer, N.W.A., and the Clark Sisters.

“It’s still right here,” Knight said of her memories of singing in church in her early years in Detroit, before skyrocketing to fame as a child star and later as the leader of the Pips and as a bestselling solo artist.

As in previous years, the Best Regional Roots Music Album category was chock-full of Creole Catholic culture bearers, including second-generation stars Buckwheat Zydeco Jr., Dwayne Dopsie, and Chief Joseph Boudreaux Jr. They joined other Louisiana nominees across all categories for a special themed event on Saturday at the Grammy Museum.

On Sunday, Zydeco Jr.—with his father’s Legendary Ils Sont Partis Band—scored just the 33rd tie in Grammys history with the LP “New Beginnings”—the band’s first record since the death of Buckwheat Zydeco Sr. in 2016. They drew even with the Lost Bayou Ramblers and Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra, who collaborated on the Cajun album “Live: Orpheum Theater Nola.”

Another Black Catholic artist, the famed Afro-Latin drummer Sheila E., also took part in the festivities with her performance during the premiere ceremony on Sunday afternoon. She co-performed “Let's Go Crazy” by Prince, with whom she collaborated throughout the 1980s. 

Other current and former Black Catholics featured during the Grammys this year included nominees Aaron Diehl, up for Best Classical Compendium with a reimagining of Mary Lou Williams’ “Zodiac Suite”; Sean “Diddy” Combs for Best Progressive R&B Album with “The Love Album: Off the Grid”; and Bettye Lavette for Best Contemporary Blues Album with “Lavette.”

Nate Tinner-Williams is co-founder and editor of Black Catholic Messenger.

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