Music

After Usher, Who Should Be the BET Awards’ Next Lifetime Achievement Award Recipient?

Usher got his flowers at the 2024 BET Awards on Sunday, June 30, receiving their lifetime achievement award. The award has been presented in all but one year since the show started in 2001. (There was no recipient in 2020, the year the COVID-19 pandemic nearly brought awards shows to a standstill.)

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Whitney Houston was the inaugural BET lifetime achievement award winner in 2001. She was just 37 at the time, rather young for an award of this nature, but, as it turned out, it’s a good thing she got it when she did. She died unexpectedly in 2012.

Eight winners of the BET lifetime achievement award have also received Kennedy Center Honors, arguably the top “lifetime achievement award” given to entertainers. Those double winners are Earth, Wind & Fire, James Brown, Gladys Knight, Diana Ross, Al Green, Lionel Richie, Smokey Robinson and Queen Latifah.

Most, but not all, of the BET lifetime achievement awards have also won Grammy Awards in competition. The BET honored six acts who, for whatever reason, have yet to win a competitive Grammy. They are Diana Ross, The O’Jays, Maze featuring Frankie Beverly, Charlie Wilson, New Edition and Busta Rhymes.

The BET’s 2006 lifetime achievement award went to actor Samuel L. Jackson. That was the year Prince died, and the show had five separate segments honoring the music legend. A lifetime achievement award to another music star would have easily been overshadowed by all the love shown to Prince, so the show pivoted and honored an actor instead. (Prince had received BET’s lifetime achievement award in 2010.)

Other BET lifetime achievement award honorees, not already mentioned in this story, are The Isley Brothers, Chaka Khan, Patti La Belle, Anita Baker, Mary J. Blige and Sean “Diddy” Combs.

Looking at that roster of past honorees, you may wonder “who’s left to receive this award in future”? Quite a few people, as it turns out. Here’s a list of 25 leading candidates for lifetime achievement awards at the BET Awards. All are still living. (The BET has yet to present a lifetime achievement award posthumously.) All have been active for 20 years or more.

The list includes legends whose careers date back to the late 1950s or early 1960s, such as Jerry Butler, Dionne Warwick and Stevie Wonder, as well as a few stars who broke through in the early 2000s – Alicia Keys, T.I. and Kanye West/Ye.

Of these 25 leading candidates for lifetime achievement awards at the BET Awards, who would you most like to see get the honor?

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