The last person to sweep the Grammys before Billie Eilish was…
Christopher Cross’ Grammy record is sailing away… in the arms of Billie Eilish.
On Sunday night, Eilish, 18, became just the second artist ever to sweep the four general field categories at the Grammy Awards, winning Best New Artist, Song of the Year, Record of the Year, and Album of the Year. Yacht rock icon Cross was the first, and previously only, artist to do so, at the 1981 ceremony, for his eponymous debut album.
Eilish took the 62nd annual Grammys by storm with her debut album, When We Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?, which won Album of the Year. Her hit single “Bad Guy” won Record of the Year and Song of the Year, and Eilish was crowned Best New Artist. Throughout the night she triumphed over the likes of Lizzo, Ariana Grande, Taylor Swift, Lana Del Rey, and more.
Cross won his quartet of awards on the strength of Christopher Cross and the popular single “Sailing.” In the Record of the Year category, Cross beat out “The Rose,” by Bette Midler; “Lady,” by Kenny Rogers; “Theme from New York, New York,” by Frank Sinatra; and “Woman in Love,” by Barbra Streisand. Some believe the single’s nautical title lent the genre later dubbed yacht rock its etymological origins.
In keeping with Eilish’s humble and anxious nature, she gave brief speeches, praising her fellow nominees and insisting others deserved recognition instead. By the time it was down to the final two awards of the night, she gave succint remarks, saying, “I’m not going to waste your time, I’m really not,” before closing out the last category with a simple thank you.
It turns out Cross took much the same approach. When accepting the Record of the Year prize from presenters Diana Ross and Kris Kristoferson, he said simply, “It’s definitely a dream come true. I can’t say enough, thank you all very much. Thank you.”
Cross exploded onto the scene in 1979 with Christopher Cross, with several tracks, including “Ride Like the Wind,” “Sailing,” “Never Be the Same”, and “Say You’ll Be Mine” becoming top-20 Billboard hits. “Sailing” topped the Hot 100 chart, and VH1 later named it the most “softsational soft rock” song of all time.
1981 was a banner year for Cross. Not only did he sweep the Grammys, but he also won an Oscar for Best Original Song, for “Arthur’s Theme (Best That You Can Do),” from Arthur, alongside co-composers Burt Bacharach, Carole Bayer Sager, and Peter Allen.
Cross never quite topped his early 1980s popularity and the immediate success of his first album, but he continues to write and release new music. His last album was 2017’s Take Me As I Am, released through his own label, Christopher Cross Records.
Younger generations will perhaps remember him best from his 1999 performance of “Sailing” alongside NSYNC (who covered the song on their 1997 album) at the short-lived Blockbuster Entertainment Awards. Sail away on the yacht rock glory below.