Robert Plant and Alison Krauss' unorthodox musical partnership yielded rich rewards on Grammy night, as the pair won a leading four Grammys, including record of the year for the haunting "Please Read The Letter."
But the biggest shock of the night came well before the telecast began, when police announced that they were investigating teen heartthrob and double Grammy nominee Chris Brown for an alleged felony assault on an unidentified woman.
Brown and longtime girlfriend Rihanna, also nominated, were both slated to perform in different slots of the show, but separately dropped out at the last minute and their whereabouts were not known. The victim of Brown's alleged assault wasn't identified, and it wasn't immediately clear whether Rihanna's absence was related to Brown's.
Jennifer Hudson was there, however, and provided the night's most emotional moments onstage. The Oscar winner took her first Grammy award - for best R&B album - for her self-titled debut. Hudson, 27, made no direct reference to the October killings of her mother, brother and nephew that kept her in seclusion until just this month. But while fighting back tears, she made it clear that her family was foremost on her mind.
"I first would like to thank God who has brought me through. I would like to thank my family in heaven and those who are with me today.
Hudson later performed "You Pulled Me Through," a dramatic song about overcoming deep despair, with the lyrics: "When I was drowning, when I was so confused, you, you pulled me through." As she sang the last note, she looked directly into the camera and dissolved into tears once again.
There were no tears as Krauss and Plant accepted their awards for their emotion-rich CD, "Raising Sand." The pairing of the former Led Zeppelin rocker and Krauss, a bluegrass queen, may have seemed downright weird on paper, but the T Bone Burnett-produced album was universally acclaimed.
Plant said "Please Read The Letter" was "an old song that me and Jimmy Page wrote together post Led Zeppelin, and it's been given that Nashville touch, and it feels pretty good." The Grammy telecast was filled with eye-popping and eyebrow-raising performances, from Radiohead's collaboration with a college marching band to a televised black-and-white throwback performance from Jay-Z, TI, Lil Wayne, Kanye West and a very pregnant MIA
But the absences of Brown and Rihanna put a huge hole in the Grammy telecast. Rihanna was supposed to sing "Live Your Life/Disturbia" as the second performance of the night, Brown was later to sing "Forever." Each was nominated in the pop collaboration with vocals category, Brown for "No Air" with "American Idol" champion Jordin Sparks; and Rihanna for "If I Never See Your Face Again" with Maroon 5.
Brown was also nominated for male R&B vocal performance for "Take You Down."
Neither won a Grammy on Sunday, and the Recording Academy found able replacements for their performance slots in Justin Timberlake, Al Green, Boyz II Men and Keith Urban as they all sang Green's classic hit, "Let's Stay Together." No mention was made on the broadcast about the switch.
According to the police report, released 90 minutes before the show began on Sunday, Brown and a woman were in a vehicle in the ritzy neighborhood of Hancock Park when they began to argue around 12:30 am on Sunday. Brown stopped the car and both got out, whereupon the argument escalated, the report said.
The woman, who had visible injuries when police arrived, identified Brown as her attacker, but he had left the scene, the report said.
With all the drama going on onstage and behind the scenes, the awards seemed almost like an afterthought _ but the show went on. Coldplay and Lil Wayne each won three Grammys apiece _ Coldplay's win included song of the year for "Viva La Vida." "We've never had so many Grammys in our life," said lead singer Chris Martin, perhaps so excited he got confused (they had already won four over the years). "We feel so grateful to be here. I'm going to tear up."
British singer Adele was also teary, as she beat the Jonas Brothers, Lady Antebellum, Jazmine Sullivan and fellow Brit singer Duffy to nab best new artist. It was her second award of the evening.
"Thank you so much. I'm going to cry. I want to thank my manager, my mom, she's in London. And Duffy I love you. I think you're amazing. Jonas Brothers, I love you as well," she said, saying the last part with a devilish look, eliciting laughter. It was Adele's second award; she earlier won for best female pop vocal.
Lil Wayne was the nominations leader with eight, and won best rap solo performance for "A Milli," rap song for "Lollipop" and rap/sung collaboration for "Swagga Like Us," an all-star song featuring Jay-Z, TI and Kanye West.
But the prolific rapper won't be going home with eight trophies; he was competing against himself in two categories that he won and lost another. He still has a chance to win the evening's top prize, album of the year, for his best-selling disc "Tha Carter III." Plant and Krauss, also nominated for album of the year for their collaboration "Raising Sand," took home an award for country collaborations with vocals and contemporary folk/Americana album. They later won a third for pop collaboration with vocals.