There was no escaping the reality of their sudden and tragic loss, but by Sunday afternoon the music industry's brightest stars and biggest hitters were putting on their brave faces for the Grammy red carpet.
The show was to begin at 8 ET and be broadcast on CBS.
As the pre-telecast awards ceremony began, host Dave Koz acknowledged the tragedy, noting the “great legacy of Miss Whitney Houston. She’s in our hearts and our minds.” Taylor Swift (below) was among the early winners.
Grammy show producer Ken Ehrlich, who with his crew scrambled Saturday night and Sunday to include a memorial in the show, acknowledge the difficulty in creating a fitting tribute.
“It’s too fresh in everyone’s memory to do more at this time,” he said late Saturday, “but we would be remiss if we didn’t recognize Whitney’s remarkable contribution to music fans in general, and in particular her close ties with the Grammy telecast and her Grammy wins and nominations over the years.”
Before Houston's death, the pre-Grammys buzz had focused on Adele, the year's top selling artist who is nominated in six categories and expected to win most of them. She'll also be making her first public singing appearance since undergoing vocal cord surgery.
Bruno Mars and the Foo Fighters also had six nominations, but Kanye West led everyone with seven.
Adele’s “Rolling in the Deep” is nominated for record and song of the year. Both categories also include Bon Iver’s “Holocene,” Mumford & Sons' “The Cave,” and Mars’ ”Grenade.” Katy Perry’s “Firework” is up for record of the year and West’s “All of the Lights” takes the remaining position in the song of the year category.
Houston is likely to be on the minds of other presenters, nominees and performers, including the Foo Fighters, Mars, Nicki Minaj, Bruce Springsteen, Paul McCartney, Taylor Swift, Chris Brown and Rihanna.
Sunday night will be the first time Rihanna and Brown have appeared on the same stage since Brown's attack on her three years ago, on the eve of the Grammys, which resulted in their both missing the show,
On Saturday, Recording Academy CEO Neil Portnow said “a light has been dimmed in our music community today, and we extend our deepest condolences to her family, friends, fans and all who have been touched by her beautiful voice."
Music producer Clive Davis' Saturday night party, a must-attend for every star in the music industry, was set to honor Richard Branson. Instead on the red carpet music stars were asked about the shocking death of Whitney, 48, just hours earlier on the fourth floor of that same hotel.
Davis, who discovered Houston and became a mentor to her, was said to be “devastated." But in opening remarks at the party, he issued a call to celebrate her life.
"Whitney was a beautiful person and a talent beyond compare," Davis said. "She graced this stage with her regal presence and gave so many memorable performances here over the years. Simply put, Whitney would have wanted the music to go on and her family asked that we carry on."
Performances and tributes from artists such as Sean Combs, Tony Bennett, The Kinks, Wiz Khalifa and R&B singer Alicia Keys turned the mood into celebration of her life.
Bennett kicked off the evening with a subdued performance of "How Do You Keep The Music Playing," and gave a speech that recalled the tragic deaths of Michael Jackson and Amy Winehouse who, like Houston, had suffered from drug abuse during their lives.
"She always, she always hit you with that beautiful smile, she always hit you with that incredible energy, she gave you that hug, that grandma hug that just shook your body," Combs told the Daily Telegraph.