Sadly, this list never gets shorter. And you never know when it's about to get longer.
All of the names change, but a tribute to prominent players in the music world who died sometime over the last 12 months remains a mainstay of the Grammy Awards, an annual moment to take stock of who we've lost, remember those you may have forgotten (or didn't know were gone), and get a taste of just how many people it takes—from the writers and musicians to engineers and label owners—to take a song from an idea in someone's head to a stage or a recording that you get to listen to anytime you want.
And the world lost a lot of artists due to wildly variant causes since the last Grammys ceremony, from veteran stars such as New Orleans bluesman Dr. John, The Cars frontman Ric Ocasek (not "Rick" Ocasek, whoops), rocker Eddie Money, Rush drummer Neil Peart and actress Doris Day (her Oscar-winning rendition of "Que Sera Sera" from The Man Who Knew Too Much went to No. 2 on the Billboard chart), to younger lives snuffed out way too soon, such as Nipsey Hussle and Juice Wrld.
Roxette frontwoman Marie Fredriksson, Cream drummer Ginger Baker, conductor and composer André Previn, guitarist Dick Dale, Peter Tork and Leon Redbone, and Tony winners Diahann Carroll and Broadway director Hal Prince were also among the luminaries included.
It was unclear at first how the Grammys would handle the unarguably shocking death of NBA superstar Kobe Bryant this morning, just hours before showtime. The iconic athlete, who spent his entire 20-year career with the Los Angeles Lakers, was killed in a helicopter crash along with his 13-year-old daughter Gianna and seven other people, including a junior college baseball coach, his wife and their daughter, who played on a club basketball team with Gianna.
A moment of silence was observed during the non-televised portion of the ceremony, when they hand out the majority of the awards, but honoring his memory remained the night's most prevalent them.
Bryant had music ties, having once pursued a side gig as a rapper and starting a short-lived music label years ago, but really he was being honored because he was a legend to fans near and far, and seemingly every celebrity either was his friend, had a memorable experience meeting him or admired him from afar.
"An athlete like him, he's a creative genius, he's one of us," Diplo told Ryan Seacrest on E! Live From the Red Carpet as he made his way into Staples Center, where Bryant's No. 8 and No. 24 jerseys have been hanging since both of his numbers were retired by the Lakers in 2017.
The artists in attendance adapted on the spot to the new reality, with Lizzo dedicating her show-opening performance to Kobe; host Alicia Keys tenderly but stoically acknowledging the tragedy in the room and urging everyone watching to embrace the healing power of music, especially on this night; and numerous other performers and presenters referencing the heartbreak they were all experiencing as a reminder to be present, because it can all go away in a second.
There was also a special performance of "Higher" for Nipsey Hussle, who was shot to death on March 31, 2019, at the age of 33, outside the clothing store he owned in South L.A.
Hussle was honored posthumously with the Grammy for Best Rap Performance for "Racks in the Middle," featuring Roddy Ricch & Hit-Boy and then DJ Khaled won Best Rap/Sung Performance for "Higher," which featured Nipsey and John Legend. The team of writers who collaborated on the Nipsey track "A Lot" were also nominated for Best Rap Song.
The in memoriam segment, this year presented without live musical accompaniment, ended on Dr. John, after which the Preservation Hall Jazz Band closed it out in jaunty, life-celebratin' New Orleans fashion.