Amy Winehouse may have been physically absent from the Grammy awards, but her presence was Strong as the famously troubled singer won four awards, including song of the year for her autobiographical hit
Kanye West, who had a leading eight nominations, also won four awards: best rap album for
, best solo performance for
, best rap song for
and best rap performance by a duo or group for his collaboration with Common on
West delivered an electric, glow-in-the-dark rendition of
, then segued into a stirring tribute to his mother, Donda West, who died unexpectedly last year at age 58. <b1>
"Last night I saw you in my dreams, and now I can't wait to go to sleep," West, dressed in all black, sang as he launched into
, a celebratory tune from his second album that has now turned into a somber ode. When West accepted the best rap album trophy, the orchestra was trying to play him off the stage when he began speaking about his mother.
"It would be in good taste to stop the music," West said - and the music stopped. One of the most anticipated moments was still to come - a satellite performance by Winehouse, who was sprung from a rehab centre to sing for the show from a London studio. Besides song of the year and best new artist, she also won best pop vocal album for
Back to Black
and best female pop vocals.
The Grammys, celebrating its 50th year, emphasised its history with its very first performance. Alicia Keys, glammed-up with a '50s style, sat at the piano and sang
Learnin' the Blues
along with a black-and-white video performance from the late legend Frank Sinatra. "Frank Sinatra looked good for 150, didn't he," Prince joked moments later before introducing Alicia Keys as the winner for best female R&B vocal for her smash
Later, the cast from Cirque Du Soleil's
Beatles' show and the cast of the Beatles-inspired movie "Across the Universe" paid tribute to the Fab Four as Ringo Starr, Yoko Ono and George Harrison's widow Olivia Harrison watched from the audience.
It was a hot-legs competition when Tina Turner teamed up with Beyonce on
. The senior citizen kept up with her younger counterpart, showcasing her famous dance moves while wearing a tight-fitting silver bustier and pantsuit. Carrie Underwood was an early performer with her revenge anthem,
Before He Cheats
, which earned two Grammys, including for best female country vocal performance.
Bruce Springsteen took three pre-show Grammys, including best rock song for
. Other early winners included the White Stripes, Justin Timberlake and Mary J. Blige with two each, the Foo Fighters, Herbie Hancock and even Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama for best spoken-word album.
Though the pre-telecast ceremony, where most of the Grammys' 110 categories are doled out, is usually low on star-wattage, there were several big names on hand to accept their trophies, including Underwood, the Foos and Brad Paisley.