LOS ANGELES — The Grammys got under way on Sunday, with the Recording Academy trying to focus on music's biggest night after of the death of one of music's biggest names — Whitney Houston.
Houston died on the eve of the Grammys at the Beverly Hilton Hotel, where she was preparing to attend a pre-Grammy party. Her death cast a huge shadow over the event. As the pre-telecast awards ceremony began, co-host Dave Koz acknowledged the tragedy, noting the "great legacy of Miss Whitney Houston. She's in our hearts and our minds."
A tribute to Houston featuring Jennifer Hudson was to take place during the main ceremony later Sunday.
Before the death of one of pop music's most important figures, the Grammy buzz focused on whether Adele — 2011's top-selling artist and set to make her first public performance on the show since having vocal cord surgery — would be the queen of the Grammys. Although Kanye West leads all nominees with seven and Bruno Mars and the Foo Fighters tied Adele with six nominations, she was favored to sweep all of her categories.
But as show time neared, the focus remained on Houston's death.
Grammy show producer Ken Ehrlich was quick to announce Hudson's 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."
More Houston tributes from nominees and presenters are expected during the three-and-a-half hour Staples Center show, which was to feature the Foo Fighters, Mars, Nicki Minaj, Bruce Springsteen, Paul McCartney, Taylor Swift, Chris Brown and Riha0nna.
It will mark the first time Rihanna and Brown have appeared at the same awards show since his attack on her three years ago — also on the eve of the Grammys — forced both to drop out of the show and led to an assault conviction for Brown. It almost derailed his career, but 2011 marked a huge comeback, and he was rewarded with a Grammy performance slot on Sunday night's CBS broadcast.
Rihanna is also a nominee, up for album of the year. She is competing with Adele's "21," Mars' "Doo-Woops & Hooligans," the Foo Fighters "Wasting Light" and Lady Gaga's "Born This Way."
Before the telecast began, some of the early winners included Skrillex for best dance/electronic album, Tony Bennett for best traditional pop vocal album for his "Duets II," Corinne Bailey Rae for best R&B performance for "Is This Love" and "The Book Of Mormon" for best musical theater album.
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 but instead of that song, West's "All of the Lights" takes the remaining position in the song of the year category.
The ceremony also marks the first since a major overhaul of the categories last year, which led to them being trimmed from 109 to 78. The move upset some musicians, and a protest was planned outside of the Staples Center on Sunday.
Nekesa Mumbi Moody is the AP's Music Editor. Follow her at http://www.twitter.com/nekesamumbi