Grammy Awards host Alicia Keys kicked off Sunday’s ceremony on a somber note against the backdrop of Lakers legend Kobe Bryant’s death earlier in the day.
“We’re all feeling crazy sadness right now,” Keys said after taking the stage slowly and deliberately after Lizzo’s triumphant opening medley. “We never imagined in a million years we’d have to start the show like this.”
Bryant died earlier Sunday in a Calabasas helicopter crash that also killed his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, and seven others. With the Staples Center closed to the public for the Grammys, Angelenos gathered outside to build a memorial for the Lakers legend on his home turf.
“We’re literally standing here, heartbroken, in the house that Kobe Bryant built,” Keys said. “Right now, Kobe and his daughter Gianna and all of those that have been tragically lost today are in our spirit, and our hearts and our prayers.” Keys then launched into an intimate musical tribute to the basketball icon, joined onstage by Boyz II Men, before the spotlight shifted to his two illuminated jerseys, on display in the arena.
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Sunday’s Grammys were dominated by three L.A. artists — Billie Eilish, Tyler, the Creator and Nipsey Hussle — and its greatest athlete, Kobe Bryant.
“I know that music is the most healing thing in the world,” Keys said, “so let us get some healing going on right now.”
Keys’ remarks also came at a time of turmoil for the Recording Academy, which has been engulfed in controversy in the week leading up to Sunday’s event after dismissing its first-ever female president and chief executive, Deborah Dugan, just 10 days before the event.
Here’s the full transcript of Keys’ opening monologue:
“Here we are together on music’s biggest night, celebrating the artists that do it best. But to be honest with you, we’re all feeling crazy sadness right now because earlier today, Los Angeles, America and the whole wide world lost a hero. And we’re literally standing here, heartbroken, in the house that Kobe Bryant built. Right now, Kobe and his daughter Gianna and all of those that have been tragically lost today are in our spirit, and our hearts and our prayers.
“They’re in this building. And I would like to ask everybody to take a moment and just hold them inside of you. Hold them inside of you, and share our strength and our support with their families. We never imagined in a million years we’d have to start the show like this — never, never, never, never, never, never. So we wanted to do something that could describe, a tiny bit, how we all feel right now.
“Thank you so much. Thank you. And I know that we’re going to do what we’re here to do. I know that we’re going to all join together and do what we do in happy times and challenging times. We’re going to sing together. We’re going to laugh together. We’re going to dance together. We’re going to cry together. We’re going to bring it all together. We’re going to love together.
“And we’re going to make sure that we are celebrating the most powerful energy with the most beautiful thing in the world — the one thing that has the power to bring all of us together. I know that music is the most healing thing in the world, so let us get some healing going on right now, with two beautiful people who want to share their love with all of us: my friends Blake Shelton and Gwen Stefani.”
Times entertainment news editor James Reed and editorial assistant Kailyn Brown contributed to this report.