Grandmaster Flash Named Polar Music Prize Laureate, Awarded $100,000

Grandmaster Flash, classical violinist AnneSophie Mutter, and the Playing for Change music charity have been named the 2019 laureates for Sweden’s Polar Music Prize, one of the world’s most prestigious music awards. Along with the honor, each Laureate receives prize money of one million Swedish Kronor (approx. $110,000).

The Awards will be presented at a gala ceremony and banquet at Stockholm’s Grand Hôtel by King Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden on June 11 and will be broadcast live on Swedish national television.

Grandmaster Flash (legal name: Joseph Saddler), said: “It is such an honor, because a lot of times in our culture, what we do as DJs gets overlooked. So for these people to say, let’s give this to someone who doesn’t necessarily use a microphone as their gift…for me to be picked out of so many people, I am so, so deeply honored.”

Mutter said:”It is a huge honor to be in this illustrious group of musicians who have received the Polar Music Prize. I can’t wait to come to Stockholm and meet the other recipients.”

Whitney Kroenke, co-founder of the Playing for Change Foundation, said: “This is incredibly humbling and mind-blowing – we are ecstatic. We started the project so that musicians that would not otherwise be seen or heard, would have the chance to express themselves and be recognized.”

Flash — pictured above with LL Cool J (left) and producer/Chic cofounder Nile Rodgers — is one of the undisputed pioneers of hip-hop, emerging from the Bronx in the 1970s and creating, with the group the Furious Five (particularly rappers Melle Mel and Cowboy), some of the most influential songs of early hip-hop. While their early releases — such as the 1980 breakthrough “The Adventures of Grandmaster Flash on the Wheels of Steel,” had a party vibe, the group quickly pivoted to address the social issues reflected in the early ‘70s records by Marvin Gaye and the Temptations, emerging in 1982 with “The Message,” arguably the first socially conscious hip-hop record. Other songs like the anti-drug “White Lines” followed, and while the group split not long after, Flash has continued to boggle minds with his turntable skills in the decades since: His Twitter profile boasts, with no exaggeration, “The first DJ to make the turntable a musical instrument.”

Four-time Grammy Award-winner has been active for more than 40 years and has played the world premieres of 26 works, and has had many pieces composed for her. The Playing For Change Foundation was founded in 2007 and has grown to 15 music programs around the world, with 2,000 young people attending its classes every week.

Marie Ledin, managing director of the Polar Music Prize, said: “We are delighted to honour three Laureates this year, only the second time we’ve done so in our 28 -year history. In Grandmaster Flash, Anne-Sophie Mutter and Playing For Change, we have three spectacular Laureates; we are all looking forward to welcoming them to Stockholm and paying tribute to their work and talent at the award ceremony on 11 June.”

The Polar Music Prize Award Committee is an independent 11-member Award Committee which selects the Laureates. The committee receives nominations from the public as well as from the International Music Council, the


Popular on Variety

More Music

  • Amy Sherman-Palladino, Daniel Palladino, Robin Urdang.

    The Emmys Allowed Music Supervisors In, But Tension With the TV Academy Remains

    It’s been a long road to Television Academy acceptance for music supervisors. In 2015, after years of lobbying, music supervisors gained entry to the music branch. In 2017, they got their own category at the Emmys, but weren’t allowed to vote in any other music competition. This year, music supervisors can vote in all seven [...]

  • Shazam

    Apple Music Launches 'Shazam Discovery' Chart, Focused on New Artists

    Apple Music today launched the “Shazam Discovery Top 50,” a weekly, global ranking of 50 artists that it describes as “on the move and trending” — in other words, new and emerging artists. While the company wouldn’t say much specifically about how the chart is tabulated, it uses “Shazam’s proprietary algorithms [to offer] a unique predictive view [...]

  • Taylor Swift

    Taylor Swift's 'Lover' Has Sold Nearly a Million Copies Before Release (EXCLUSIVE)

    Taylor Swift has not given up on the full-length album as an indicator of success as well as art form, and judging from pre-release sales for “Lover,” which comes out Friday, her belief in the ongoing viability of the format is not in vain. “The anticipation of this album is extraordinary, with pre-sales quickly approaching [...]

  • The Chainsmokers Production Company

    Chainsmokers’ Catalog Acquired by Fast-Growing Hipgnosis Songs

    The Chainsmokers’ writer and publishing rights have been acquired by the fast-growing Hipgnosis Songs and its investment adviser, The Family (Music) Limited, for an undisclosed amount, the company announced today. The company has acquired 100% of the Chainsmokers’ interest in 32 of the duo’s songs, including ASCAP (American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers) income in [...]

  • Disney Music Group Launches 'For Score'

    Disney Music Group Launches Composer Podcast Series

    Disney Music Group, in association with Treefort Media, will debut “For Scores,” a new podcast series featuring interviews with film and television composers from Disney, Marvel, Pixar, Lucasfilm and 20th Century Fox. Set to launch this week, the podcast is hosted by Variety contributor Jon Burlingame and “will give voice to award-winning visionary composers, exploring [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content