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Billie Eilish won all 4 major Grammys. Do you recall the Austin act who did it first?

Peter Blackstock
pblackstock@statesman.com
Christopher Cross became the first artist ever to sweep all four major Grammy categories in 1981. [Suzanne Cordeiro for Statesman]

When Billie Eilish took home Grammys for Record of the Year, Song of the Year, Album of the Year and Best New Artist on Sunday in Los Angeles, she was only the third artist to accomplish that feat. Do you remember the night an Austin artist became the first to do so?

It was Feb. 25, 1981, and that artist was Christopher Cross, whose self-titled debut LP won Album of the Year while its smash hit “Sailing” took Song of the Year and Record of the Year honors. It’s not entirely uncommon for artists to win all three of those categories, but it’s rare when such a winner is also a Best New Artist nominee. Cross won that one, too.

Cross, born Christopher Geppert in San Antonio, moved to Austin in the 1970s and was 28 when "Christopher Cross“ was released in December 1979. Albums released that late in the year are eligible for the following year’s Grammy Awards, which put Cross album up against the likes of Pink Floyd’s ”The Wall“ and Billy Joel’s ”Glass Houses“ (as well as albums by Barbra Streisand and Frank Sinatra).

As with Eilish, Cross took home a total of five Grammys that night, as “Sailing” also won the award for Best Instrumental Arrangement (Instruments and Vocals). Cross’’ debut album eventually sold more than 5 million copies in the United States.

Since then, only one other artist has swept the four major categories — also an artist with strong Texas ties, as it happens. Norah Jones, who grew up in the Dallas area and attended the University of North Texas before moving to New York City in 1999, did it in 2003, for her 2002 debut album “Come Away With Me” and its hit song “Don’t Know Why.”

Cross eventually left Austin for Los Angeles, but a few years ago he moved back. He’s released two albums since then on his own label, as well as performing occasionally around town with the pop-jazz outfit Freedonia.

RELATED: Austin360 review of Freedonia’s 2019 album “Firefly”