THE POLAR MUSIC PRIZE MARKS 25 YEARS AND ANNOUNCES CHUCK BERRY AND PETER SELLARS AS THE 2014 LAUREATES; Award Ceremony on 26 August, Stockholm, in the presence of King Carl XVI of Sweden

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Award Ceremony on 26 August, Stockholm, in the presence of King Carl XVI of Sweden




New York:  It has been announced today that the 2014 Polar Music Prize, the world’s most prestigious music accolade, will be awarded to two Americans: Chuck Berry, rock ‘n’ roll legend, and Peter Sellars, the American opera and theatre director.  Both Laureates will be presented with their prizes by King Carl XVI of Sweden at a gala ceremony in Stockholm’s Concert Hall on 26 August.




The Polar Music Prize, the equivalent for music of the Nobel Prizes, was founded by Stig “Stikkan” Anderson, 25 years ago.  Anderson, who was the publisher, lyricist and manager of ABBA, named the prize after his legendary record label Polar Music and created it to ‘break down musical boundaries by bringing together people from all the different worlds of music.’  This year’s Laureates epitomize this aim: Chuck Berry is universally acknowledged as the pioneer of rock ‘n’ roll, releasing a string of classic songs such as ‘Maybellene’, ‘Roll Over Beethoven’, ‘Rock & Roll Music’ and ‘Johnny B Goode’.




Peter Sellars is an acclaimed American opera, theatre and festival director. He is seen as a visionary artist renowned for his innovative re-interpretations of classic works.  Sellars has directed more than 100 productions across the US and Europe.  One critic said of Sellars: “ there’s likely no-one so inspired or exuberantly creative as Sellars directing opera at the moment.”




The first Polar Music Prize Laureate was Sir Paul McCartney, who said on receiving the Prize: “The difference with this one for me is that I’ve presumably been chosen from everyone in the world. You can’t knock that, that’s a high honour. They could have chosen all sorts of other people, I can think of a few people who you could choose for a music honour like this. When it’s this big and this special, it’s a great honour.”




Since then the list of Laureates reads like a who’s who of modern and classical music, including many of the American music legends such as: Joni Mitchell, Dizzy Gillespie, Paul Simon, B. B. King, Renee Fleming, Bob Dylan, Burt Bacharach, Patti Smith, Bruce Springsteen, Ray Charles and Quincy Jones.




Musicians from all genres and from around the world, regard The Polar Music Prize as one of the highest accolades that can be bestowed on them in their career.  Patti Smith said, in an emotional acceptance speech: “Receiving the prestigious Polar Music Prize is both humbling and inspiring, for it fills me with pride, yet also with the desire to continue to prove my worth…I wish to offer a respectful salute to its founder Stig Anderson…I am very, very grateful to accept the Polar Music Prize in the spirit of which it was given, and I pledge that I will work harder and magnify the faith that you have shown in me.




The 2014 Laureates follow in the great tradition of the Prize.  Keith Richards, speaking about Chuck Berry in his autobiography, said:


“I could never overstress how important he was in my development. It still fascinates me how this guy could come up with so many songs and sling it so gracefully and elegantly”.  On Berry’s induction into the Hall of Fame, Keith Richards said: “ I lifted every lick he ever played – this is the gentleman, who started it all.”




The board of the Stig Anderson Music Award Foundation includes representatives from the Stig Anderson family, SKAP (The Swedish Society of Songwriters, Composers and Authors) and STIM (The Swedish Performing Rights Society). The task of scrutinizing nominations submitted and selecting the Laureates is undertaken by an Award Committee comprising of experienced members of the music industry, representatives from the Anderson family, musicians, and previous Laureates. Laureates each receive a specially designed trophy and cash prize of £100,00 (US$ 150,000)




Polar Music Talksalso takes place on the 25 August andis a day of conversations and interviews, with a focus on creativity and curiosity. The event aims to build bridges between culture, medicine, technology, business and music of all types.




Announcement video and photos are available for downloading from






Chuck Berry Citation:


The Polar Music Prize 2014 is awarded to Chuck Berry from St. Louis, USA. The parameters of rock music were set one day in May 1955, when Chuck Berry recorded his debut single “Maybellene”. Chuck Berry was the rock’n’roll pioneer who turned the electric guitar into the main instrument of rock music. Every riff and solo played by rock guitarists over the last 60 years contains DNA that can be traced right back to Chuck Berry. The Rolling Stones, The Beatles and a million other groups began to learn their craft by playing Chuck Berry songs. Chuck Berry is also a superb songwriter. In the course of three minutes he conjures up an image of the everyday life and dreams of a teenager, often with the focus on cars. Chuck Berry, born in 1926, was the first to drive up onto the highway and announce that we are born to run.




Peter Sellars Citation:

The Polar Music Prize 2014 is awarded to Peter Sellars from Pittsburgh, USA. The director Peter Sellars is a living definition of what the Polar Music Prize is all about: highlighting the music and presenting it in a new context. With his controversial productions of opera and theatre, Peter Sellars has depicted everything from war and famine to religion and globalisation. Sellars has set Mozart in the luxury of Trump Tower and in the drug trade of Spanish Harlem, turned Nixon’s visit to China into opera and set Kafka’s obsession with home cleanliness to music. Peter Sellars shows us that classical music is not about dusty sheet music and metronomic precision, but that classical music, with its violent power and complexity, has fundamentally always been and will continue to be a way of reflecting and depicting the world.

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