Grammys Shine Light On Ray

Even in death, Ray Charles was a force to be reckoned with at the 47th annual Grammy Awards tonight (Feb. 13) in Los Angeles. Charles won eight Grammys stemming from his final release, "Genius Loves C

Even in death, Ray Charles was a force to be reckoned with at the 47th annual Grammy Awards tonight (Feb. 13) in Los Angeles. Charles won eight Grammys stemming from his final release, "Genius Loves Company" (Concord/Hear Music), including album of the year and best pop album, while the Norah Jones duet "Here We Go Again" won record of the year and best pop collaboration with vocals.

"I didn't think I would win," Jones told Billboard backstage, adding that her latest Grammy go-round was less pressure-packed. "My first year at the Grammys, I was in a daze. This time it's been a little easier."

Alicia Keys earned four awards, including best R&B album for "The Diary of Alicia Keys" (J), best female R&B vocal performance for "If I Ain't Got You" and best R&B song for "You Don't Know My Name." Her duet with Usher, "My Boo," won best R&B performance by a duo or group with vocals.

Kanye West led the field with 10 nominations but took home only three, including best rap album for his Roc-A-Fella debut, "The College Dropout." He also delivered the most passionate speech of the night when he took the stage to accept the latter award.

Visibly emotional, he referred to a serious 2002 car accident, saying, "I found out at that moment nothing in life was promised except death. If you have the opportunity to play this game of life, you have to appreciate every moment."

West was praised from the stage by Maroon5 singer Adam Levine as the group accepted the award for best new artist, for which West had also been nominated.

"It was very shocking," Levine told Billboard. "I think everyone expected Kanye to win. I think I thanked him first. He deserves it as much as we do."

Green Day, nominated for six Grammys stemming from the Reprise concept album "American Idiot," won for best rock album. Singer/songwriter John Mayer won song of the year and best male pop vocal performance for "Daughters."

U2 won three awards for "Vertigo": best rock song, best short form music video and best rock performance by a duo or group with vocal. While accepting the latter trophy, drummer Larry Mullen Jr. acknowledged the problems plaguing on-sales for tickets to the band's upcoming world tour. "Due to circumstances beyond our control, a lot of our fans ended up queuing overnight and didn't get tickets," he said. "I'd like to take this opportunity on behalf of the band to apologize."

Several veteran artists either won the first Grammys of their storied careers or were honored for the first time in decades. Rod Stewart won his first for the J Records set "Stardust ... The Great American Songbook Vol. III" (best traditional pop vocal album), while Steve Earle took home best contemporary folk album for "The Revolution Starts...Now" (Artemis).

Brian Wilson was recognized for best rock instrumental performance for "Mrs. O'Leary's Cow" from "Brian Wilson Presents Smile" (Nonesuch), a Beach Boys album he initially shelved in 1967 but finally completed last year.

"I waited 42 years for this first Grammy and it was so worth the wait," Wilson told Billboard. "The Grammy represents a triumph and achievement in music that I feel I deserve. 'Smile' took 38 years to develop. There are a lot of sentimental reasons and I feel great relief to have finished it."

Britney Spears also won her first statue, as "Toxic" was named best dance recording.

Loretta Lynn won her first Grammy in 33 years for "Van Lear Rose" (Interscope), which was named country album of the year. "Hey, this is what this business is all about," said Lynn, who was accompanied by the album's producer, the White Stripes' Jack White. "The main thing about country music is that I love to sing it. And there's a lot of people out there who love to hear it."

Other pre-show winners included Bruce Springsteen for best solo rock vocal performance ("Code of Silence"), Wilco for best alternative music album ("A Ghost Is Born," Nonesuch), Prince for best traditional R&B vocal performance ("Musicology"), Jay-Z for best rap solo performance ("99 Problems") and Windham Hill founder Will Ackerman for best new age album ("Returning").

-- A Billboard staff report