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RECORDING ACADEMY TO BREAK OUT SPECIAL MERIT AWARDS AS CONCERT

The presentation of Special Merit Awards has long been one of the highlights of Grammy week. The event has traditionally been held two days before the live telecast. That will change this year, when the Recording Academy moves the Special Merit ceremony out of Grammy week and turns it into a standalone "ceremony and concert" to occur later this spring.

The move is designed to give the Special Merit event its own space, and move it out of the inevitable shadow of the Grammy telecast. (The concert element will be a new and welcome addition to the event, which has heretofore consisted of video packages followed by acceptance speeches.)

Linda Ronstadt, Run-D.M.C. and the Jefferson Airplane are among this year's recipients of Special Merit Awards.

Here's a closer look at this year's honorees.

Lifetime Achievement Awards

Run-D.M.C. is the first rap artist to receive a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Recording Academy. (The late Gil Scott-Heron, who helped pave the way for rap, received one four years ago.) Run-D.M.C. was the first rap group to be nominated for a Grammy—back in 1986, two years before the Grammys even had rap categories. Their album Raising Hell was nominated for Best R&B Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal. The album contained their influential smash "Walk This Way," which featured Aerosmith's Steven Tyler and Joe Perry.

Linda Ronstadt. The versatile singer has been a Grammy perennial since she was first nominated for her 1970 hit "Long Long Time." Ronstadt, 69, has won 10 Grammys in a wide range of genres—pop, country, Mexican/American, Tropical Latin and even children's music. She was nominated for Album of the Year for Heart Like a Wheel and again for Trio, her 1987 collaboration with Dolly Parton and Emmylou Harris. Ronstadt was a finalist for Record of the Year for her 1977 cover of Roy Orbison's "Blue Bayou."

Jefferson Airplane. The veteran band never won a Grammy in regular competition, but the fact that it was nominated for Best New Artist in 1967, back when the Grammys were still grappling with rock (to put it mildly) was something of a victory in itself. Grace Slick was among the first women to front a rock band. Jefferson Airplane is the first female-fronted rock band to receive a Lifetime Achievement Award.

Earth, Wind & Fire. The R&B group was one of the pre-eminent bands of the 1970s. The group won six Grammys—four for their vocal hits and two for instrumental tracks. In 1979, EWF received nominations for both Record and Song of the Year for "After the Love Has Gone."

Herbie Hancock. The jazz legend received his first Grammy nomination in 1968 for his work on Miles Davis'Miles in the Sky. He received his first award for his 1983 instrumental, "Rockit." Hancock, 75, has won 14 Grammys, including the 2007 award for Album of the Year for River: The Joni Letters. Hancock, 75, won a 1986 Oscar for Best Original Score for 'Round Midnight. He received the Kennedy Center Honors in 2013.

Ruth Brown. The R&B pioneer received her first Grammy nomination for a version of "Yesterday" in 1969. She won a 1989 Grammy for Best Jazz Vocal, Female for Blues on Broadway. Brown won a Tony Award that same year for Best Lead Actress in a Musical for Black and Blue. Brown is the fourth female R&B solo artist to receive a Lifetime Achievement Award, following Aretha Franklin, Etta James and Diana Ross

Technical Grammy Awards

Dr. Harvey Fletcher. The late physicist is known as the father of stereophonic sound. His partnership with Leopold Stokowski and the Philadelphia Orchestra led to the release of more than 100 stereo recordings.

EMT (Elektro-mess-technik). The company, which was founded in Berlin in 1940, is best known for its 1957 release of the EMT 1240 Reverberation Unit—the first plate reverb.

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