13 Iconic Grammy Performances, From Adele to Barbra Streisand (Video)

A look back at standout moments, from Adele’s incredible live comeback in 2012 to the first rap verse ever performed on the Grammy stage and beyond

Last Updated: July 10, 2014 @ 7:10 PM

Every year there are a number of standout performances at the Grammy Awards, and this year should be no different, but which ones will be remembered for years to come?

Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr’s reunion sounds promising, while veteran rock acts Nine Inch Nails, Queens of the Stone Age and Dave Grohl are teaming up for a grand finale. To get ready for music’s big night, we revisited past shows.

Also read: Grammy Awards Nominees: 10 Biggest Snubs and Surprises – From Bruno Mars to Lady Gaga

Starting with the most recent, here are 13 of the greatest Grammy performances from years gone by.

Adele, “Rolling in the Deep” (2012):
The 2009 Grammy Award-winner for Best New Artist dropped a stirring comeback performance after being forced to cancel concerts in late 2011 to treat a vocal-cord hemorrhage. To make her return to the stage even sweeter, the singer won all six Grammy Awards she was nominated for.

Pink, “Glitter in the Air” (2010):
These days, the true test of a pop star seems to (sadly) be singing live while stripping down. Pink did one better at the 52nd annual Grammy Awards when she stripped her white robe to reveal a skin-tight bodysuit, and then proceeded to back up her sex appeal with an exquisite live vocal performance — while spinning gracefully through the air Cirque du Soleil-style, in just a sheet hanging high above the stage. Are you taking notes, Miley Cyrus?

Chris Martin and Jay-Z, “Lost!” (2009):
Jay-Z surprised Grammy audiences by rapping to the beat of a piano while the Coldplay frontman was playing a stripped-down version of a song featured on his band’s fourth album, “Viva la Vida or Death and All His Friends.”

Melissa Etheridge and Joss Stone, “Piece of My Heart” (2005):
Two-time Grammy winner Etheridge stepped proudly on stage with a bald head, her first public performance since undergoing treatment for breast cancer, to join Best New Artist nominee Joss Stone in a tribute to Janis Joplin, who first covered the Erma Franklin song in 1968. Stone certainly carries her own while singing “Cry Baby” solo beforehand, but the real magic begins when the two women join forces.

Dave Grohl, Bruce Springsteen, Elvis Costello, Steven Van Zandt, “London Calling” (2003):
What better way to honor The Clash frontman Joe Strummer after his sudden death in 2002 than having The Boss take the stage with three other rock ‘n’ roll icons to perform one of the punk rock band’s most memorable songs?

Christina Aguilera, Pink, Mya, and Lil’ Kim – “Lady Marmalade” (2002):
Nicole Kidman and Ewan McGregor were the stars of Baz Luhrmann’s 2001 blockbuster “Moulin Rouge,” but let’s be honest, it’s the hit single that these ladies recorded for the soundtrack that we all remember most. And the four singers got a chance to take the lead, and capitalized on it, when they treated the audience to a 21st century cabaret. The surprise appearances from Missy Elliot and Patti LaBelle made the performance particularly fun for any music lover.

Eminem, Elton John, “Stan” (2oo1):
When Eminem was under fire from gay rights activists, like GLAAD, for homophobic lyrics on his 2000 album “The Marshall Mathers LP,” the rapper responded with perhaps the most powerful statement possible when he performed a duet with one of the most famous openly gay rock stars on the planet.

Bob Dylan, “Love Sick” (1998):
Before Dylan won Album of the Year for his 1997 record, “Time Out of Mind,” the legendary folk singer rocked his way through a performance of “Love Sick,” and didn’t miss a beat when a shirtless man with “Soy Bomb” painted on his chest began spastically dancing right next to him. Dylan ripped into one of the best guitar solos the Grammys have ever hosted as the pest was being led off stage.

Aretha Franklin, “Nessun Dorma” (1998):
Medical reasons forced Luciano Pavarotti to cancel his planned performance of the aria from the final act of Giacomo Puccini’s opera “Turandot” last minute, but Franklin stepped in — “literally at a moment’s notice,” presenter Sting explained — and nailed every note.

Eric Clapton, “Tears In Heaven” (1993):
Not only did Clapton deliver a flawless rendition of his emotional hit single about the death of his four-year-old son, Conor, but he did it without dropping a single tear. The 17-time Grammy Award winner deserves at least a Golden Globe just for keeping it together on stage.

Kool Moe Dee drops the first rap the Grammy stage has ever seen or heard (1989):
Although the genre driven by rhymes and beats had been making toes tap since the 1970s, the Recording Academy didn’t recognize rap until the 31st annual Grammy Awards, and it was up to rapper Kool Moe Dee to announce its arrival, and more importantly, that “rap is here to stay.”

Michael Jackson, “The Way You Make Me Feel” and “Man in the Mirror,” (1988):
Five years after “Thriller” dominated the charts, Jackson returned in 1987 with “Bad,” an album that spawned seven hit singles. He wowed audiences when he performed two of them for more than 10 minutes with very little theatrical elements to distract listeners from his powerful voice and stage presence that won him the title “King of Pop.”

Neil Diamond and Barbra Streisand, “You Don’t Bring Me Flowers” (1980):
These two music icons brought the Grammy audience to their feet after finishing this duet, which the Recording Academy considers to be the second most memorable of all time.


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