The 10 Best Stories From the Grammys 60th Anniversary TV Special: Ed Sheeran, Bruno Mars & More
This year, the Grammy Awards celebrate 60 years of bringing together the most famous names in every genre for music's biggest night. To commemorate the special anniversary ahead of the Jan. 28 show -- and before the highly anticipated nominations are revealed Nov. 28 -- an all-star lineup of musicians paid tribute to the Grammys by recalling some of their favorite and, for some, even life-changing, moments.
Friday night's (Nov. 24) two-hour special, Grammy’s Greatest Stories: A 60th Anniversary Special, featured the likes of Justin Timberlake, Sting, Ed Sheeran, Beyonce, Paul McCartney and Alicia Keys, with John Legend and Carrie Underwood featured as hosts. From iconic collaborations and reunions to unforgettable tributes, here are the best stories from the special.
Bruno Mars on his Prince tribute from the 2017 Grammys
"That was probably the most nervous I’ve ever been because Prince obviously means a lot to me, and I know how much he means to the world and especially the music community, who just so happens to be in that room that night. I tried backing out of it, I tried many times. I called Ken [Erlich, Grammy Awards producer], I said, 'Ken, this is almost career suicide, one could argue, because I don't need to be doing this.'
I think what changed the game for everybody was when we decided we're gonna do 'Let's Go Crazy.' We're gonna commit to just one song and just do our best, again to lift the spirits up in the room and show the power of what one Prince song can do, let alone his incredible catalog. So we started rehearsing on it and every time it got a little better and a little better, and next thing you know, you're on that stage, and you're doing it. That's the beauty of the Grammys, is that they allowed that to happen for the greater good. Not to say, 'Hey, we want you to play a hit, we want you to showcase something that no one's ever seen before,' and that's what they allowed me to do."
Ed Sheeran on performing with Beyonce and Gary Clark, Jr. for the Stevie Wonder tribute in 2015
"I don’t think I’ll top that in terms of cool stuff that I’ve done in my life. It was really weird because I had played 'Master Blaster' on a TV show called Late with Jools Holland in England, so when I got asked to do it, I was like, 'Well I'll do 'Master Blaster' because it took me ages to learn that guitar riff and I want to do it again.' They were like 'Cool, cool, good with 'Master Blaster,'' and then I remember getting a call and they were like, 'You can't do 'Master Blaster' anymore, Beyonce wants to do it.' And I was like, 'Fair enough, she is Beyonce.' And then I got called a day later like, 'Would you like to do it with Beyonce?' and I was like, 'Well, yes, of course I would!'
It's one of those things that for the rest of my life, even if I never have a hit single or hit album, or anyone buys my tickets again, when i’m older and have kids, I can be like, 'Look at this cool shit I did when i was 23.' I really like it."
Christina Aguilera on performing "Beautiful" in 2004
"Ken suggested I get down on my knees and sing the song in sort of a kneeling position on the floor, and I was, I guess, a little questionable because I was like, 'Oh man, am I still going to be able to sing and hit the notes? Am I gonna be able to do it?' It just turned out really great and really special and added to the vulnerability I was trying to pull off in the performance.
I recently just met this family who, the mother told me that while she was in the hospital and her son was being born, the nurses had told her that her son didn't look like other babies and to brace herself for what he looked like, and she couldn't look at him whenever he was first born. Then my Grammy performance came on whenever I sang 'Beautiful' and it moved her to the point where she was able to look at her baby for the first time. That story, that's why we make music and that's why we put together performances and create them to be special to encourage things like that to happen -- and that's the magic of the Grammys."
Justin Timberlake on performing "Let's Stay Together" with Reverend Al Green and Keith Urban in 2009
"It was day of the show, dress rehearsal for a song that T.I. and I had written together called 'Dead and Gone' that was nominated that year. We had just finished our soundcheck at the dress rehearsals. So we're going live in five hours and I come back to my dressing room and the producer of the show was in my dressing room -- I was not used to seeing Ken in my dressing room at that point, because he has a lot to do that day. I said, 'What's up?' and Ken said, 'We have a problem. There's not one but two of our performances that aren't going to make it tonight, and we gotta figure out something.' To use a sports analogy, I felt a little bit like Peyton Manning at the line of scrimmage and we had to call an audible. So, we immediately pulled out the list of presenters because we all knew that there were going to be some fantastic performers there that night, but they were already performing. One of my biggest idols was on the list to present, and that is the Reverend Al Green. I remembered that, funny enough, at a gala for the Memphis chapter, which the Reverend and I both reside from, we had both done a version of 'Let's Stay Together,' which we had also done for a television special. I also looked down the list, and I don't know if Keith Urban was also performing with someone else, but we all know that Keith is a great songwriter, a great singer, but also a fantastic guitarist. We kept looking down the list of presenters and we saw Boyz II Men, who are unabashed idols of *NSYNC. Now you have the two of us, and Boyz II Men and Keith Urban, that's just something that doesn't normally happen.
We were trying to get in contact with the Reverend, who was staying at some undisclosed location downtown, luckily close to the Staples Center. All I remember was that every half hour, it would be like 'Did you get a hold of the Reverend?' and people saying 'We're working on it.' It's about 1:30 and we're walking to the stage, and we still have no Reverend Al Green. So about 1:45 -- I'll never forget this moment for the rest of my life -- the Reverend comes walking in from the house. And I don't remember if he was wearing like, a fantastic mink coat -- let's just say that that's Reverend Al Green's superhero cape. He walks on stage, and he's the most jovial guy you've ever met, he says, 'Justin, I'm so sorry, I can't believe... they called me, I was in the tub!'
I picture that he's taking this fantastic bubble bath in a tub at the Biltmore Hotel in Los Angeles downtown and he gets the phone call and someone walks in and they say, 'Reverend, the Grammys need you.' And he jumps up -- covered in bubbles because this is primetime television -- he rushes to the closet, which is like Superman's phone booth, and all of the sudden there's like spinning and dust flies in the air and then he walks out and he's in a perfect white suit and a mink coat, and he's ready. We ran it one time. For me, it was one of the greatest moments I've ever had at the Grammys, and historical for the show."
Alicia Keys on her debut Grammys performance in 2002
"It was my breakout year, my first album, 'Fallin,' everything was just like a crazy tornado, and I didn’t even know what was happening, all I knew was that I was just trying to keep my head on straight enough to make it from one things to the next because the level of the whirlwind was so fast and so intense.
It literally fell like someone took me out of my life and placed me inside this television that I had been watching my entire life. And there I was -- and suddenly it was like Celine Dion was like, 'Hi Alicia!' and Bono was like, 'Alicia!' And I was like, 'What is happening to my life? Who are you and what am I doing here -- I know you're here, because you're supposed to be here. But what am I doing here?'"
Jennifer Hudson and LL Cool J's Whitney Houston tributes in 2013
Louis J. Horvitz, Grammy director 2010-present: "I was in the middle of rehearsing Adele and one of the cameramen came on the PL and said that he just heard that Whitney Houston had died. We were all kind of shocked and stunned and didn't know if it was true or not, but I can tell you right then and there my heart started racing and I started hyperventilating."
Jennifer Hudson: "Minutes later is when I got the call to sing in honor of her memory. I would do anything for Whitney, and anything to honor her memory -- I just hope i can get through it."
David Wild, Grammy Awards writer: "The remarkable thing is LL Cool J was hosting for the first time. He'd already rehearsed his monologue, and he'd already gone home because he was not feeling well. When we sent LL a new monologue an hour or so later, he called and he said, 'I love this, I think this is right, but there's one thing missing -- I think we need to say a prayer.'"
LL Cool J: "I sent Ken an idea of what I thought the prayer should be like. When I arrived to dress rehearsal on Sunday, the prayer was in the script."
Hudson: "We rehearsed the song one time, and the second time around, Ken came over and he said, 'Look, we'll do this once more. I don't want you to perform this, I want you to sing this for Whitney.'"
U2 on winning two Grammys for The Joshua Tree in 1988
Best rock performance by a duo or group with vocal:
The Edge: "It's a measure of how we really weren’t expecting to win that our bass player, Adam, decided to go to the bathroom like a minute or two before the announcement."
Larry Mullen Jr: "It was one of those great Adam moments -- and there were quite a few of them during that time, so it wasn’t a big surprise that Adam was late -- but what I do remember was Edge seeing Adam going the wrong way and having to call him to the stage."
Adam Clayton: "In those days there was several types of mischief available. And, because it was the first time we'd been at the Grammys, we’d smuggled in some bottles of beer and stuff because we were Irish so were wanting to have a couple of Guinnesses — I’m afraid I'd misjudged the amount of Guinneses I’d consumed."
Album of the year:
Bono: "This happens, this moment between musicians, and I was caught on the stairs with Michael Jackson and he was waiting to get off. He probably should’ve won album of the year, he's Michael Jackson -- nobody was expecting U2 to win it. Prince could’ve won it that year.
I just had that moment with [Jackson]. We never really spoke, and it’s that moment where I’m trying to pretend I’m not really elated that our band won, and he’s trying to pretend he's not feeling shitty about not winning. It’s a funny thing between artists, just a moment. That's it, we have a crush on each other. Across genres, if somebody does something that you're intoxicated with -- a song, a thing, a sound -- this is a moment when you might be next to them, and you just walk a little different."
Stevie Wonder on his greatest Grammy moments
"Receiving my first Grammy and having my mother there, and me giving my first Grammy to my mother was incredible. It still touches my heart. I remember i played back the recording of it, the video, so that i could hear her voice again. It’s still emotional for me, and it will always be.
When you do tributes to artists that you've listened to that we've lost, it's like losing a family member, but it brings you right to that place in your heart when you see it on the Grammys.
I'm very thankful to received those many Grammys. But I’m still hungry, I still have a goal -- and my goal is to write best song of the year. I'd love to do that, I want to get that."
Paul McCartney, Dave Grohl, Joe Walsh and Bruce Springsteen on the Abbey Road medley in 2012
McCartney: "I thought, I got an idea of what we should finish with, it's a Wings song called '1985.' It's rocking, it's nice, it's a little bit different. So I was suggesting that to Ken, and he sort of went, 'Yeah, okay,' I could tell he wasn't sold on it. I thought, 'What does he know?' So we kept on with that, and then I told the guys in the band, I said, 'We’ll be finishing with '1985,' I think it's a good idea.' They go 'Yeah,' and I said, 'And it’s the end of the show.' And they go, 'Oh, it's the end of the show? I don't know, maybe we should do 'In the End.' So I went back to Ken and said, 'You know, Ken, I think it might be better if we changed it to the medley from Abbey Road, and he went 'Yes!' because that's what he'd been thinking of all along, that's what he wanted.
We certainly realized that we had some great guitarists on the bill at the Grammys that year -- we had Joe Walsh, and we had Dave Grohl -- so I went around to them and I said, 'Hey, here's this idea, what do you think?'"
Grohl: "To be asked by Paul McCartney to come up and jam was a life-affirming moment for me. I wouldn’t be a musician if it weren't for the Beatles."
Walsh: "I didn’t know that there was going to be a Grammy performance, and I’m glad, because if I’d had time more time to think or worry, it would’ve affected the performance."
Ken Erlich: "We're rehearsing with Paul the day before the show, and he's already put Joe Walsh and Dave Grohl in the number, and I hear him say to Rusty, his guitar player, 'You know what would be amazing? If Bruce Springsteen joined this little group.' And I stepped aside, I had my cell phone, and I called Bruce's manager, Jon Landau."
Springsteen: "[Jon] says, '[Paul's] got a guitar part for you to play.' So [Jon] says, 'What should I say?' And I said, 'Well, Paul McCartney was one of the Beatles, is that correct? He says, 'Yes,' and I say, 'Well then you say yes!'"
McCartney: "It was a moment to remember for us. We normally do it with three guitars which was how it was on the Beatles record, but it just really was cool being six guitars spread across the stage. I think everyone enjoyed it, it was really special."
Grohl: "I also have a picture of that in my closet, so when I get dressed in the morning I stare at this picture of us on that stage and that finale."
Sting on The Police performing "If I Ever Lose My Faith In You" in 1994
"Just before I went on, there was a table at the side of the stage with all of the envelopes. So I’m thinking, 'Okay, I’m about to go on' -- I’m nominated for album of the year or record of the year, one of those -- I'm thinking, 'It’s distracting to have that ahead of you. I want to perform well, so why don’t I take a peek.' I did, I opened it -- Whitney Houston was going to win. So I thought, 'Great, now I can concentrate on my job, which is actually to perform.'"