LOS ANGELES -Robert Plant and Alison Krauss' unorthodox musical partnership yielded rich rewards on Grammy night, as the pair won a leading five Grammys, including album of the year for the haunting Raising Sand.
But the biggest shock of the night came well before the telecast began, when police announced that they were investigating teen heartthrob and double Grammy nominee Chris Brown for an alleged felony assault on his girlfriend, pop star Rihanna.
Brown and Rihanna, each nominated and slated to perform, separately dropped out of the Grammys at the last minute. The Los Angeles Times, citing sources close to the investigation, reported that Rihanna suffered visible injuries after an argument early yesterday and identified Brown as her attacker. Brown arrived for questioning at an L.A. police station last night, according to the Times. He was later charged on suspicion of making felony criminal threats, according to the Times.
Jennifer Hudson was at the Grammys, however, and provided the night's most emotional moments onstage. The Oscar winner took her first Grammy award - for best R&B; album - for her self-titled debut.
Hudson, 27, made no direct reference to the October killings of her mother, brother and nephew that kept her in seclusion until just this month. But while fighting back tears, she made it clear that her family was foremost on her mind.
"I first would like to thank God, who has brought me through. I would like to thank my family in heaven and those who are with me today."
Hudson later performed "You Pulled Me Through," a dramatic song about overcoming deep despair, with the lyrics: "When I was drowning, when I was so confused, you, you pulled me through." As she sang the last note, she looked directly into the camera and dissolved into tears once again.
There were no tears as Krauss and Plant accepted their awards for their emotion-rich CD, Raising Sand. The pairing of the former Led Zeppelin rocker and Krauss, a bluegrass queen, may have seemed downright weird on paper, but the T Bone Burnett-produced album was universally acclaimed.
Plant said "Please Read the Letter" was "an old song that me and Jimmy Page wrote together post-Led Zeppelin, and it's been given that Nashville touch, and it feels pretty good."
The Grammy telecast was filled with eye-popping and eyebrow-raising performances, from Radiohead's collaboration with a college marching band to a televised black-and-white throwback performance from Jay-Z, T.I., Lil Wayne, Kanye West and a very pregnant M.I.A.
But the absences of Brown and Rihanna put a huge hole in the Grammy telecast. Rihanna was supposed to sing "Live Your Life/Disturbia" as the second performance of the night; Brown was later to sing "Forever." Each was nominated in the pop collaboration with vocals category, Brown for "No Air" with American Idol champion Jordin Sparks; and Rihanna for "If I Never See Your Face Again" with Maroon 5.
Brown was also nominated for male R&B; vocal performance for "Take You Down."
Neither won a Grammy, and the Recording Academy found replacements for their performance slots in Justin Timberlake, Al Green, Boyz II Men and Keith Urban as they all sang Green's classic hit, "Let's Stay Together." No mention was made on the broadcast about the switch.
According to the police report, released 90 minutes before the show began yesterday, Brown and Rihanna were in a vehicle in the ritzy neighborhood of Hancock Park when they began to argue about 12:30 a.m. yesterday. Brown stopped the car and both got out, whereupon the argument escalated, the report said.
By the time police arrived, Brown had left the scene, the report said.
With all the drama going on onstage and behind the scenes, the awards seemed almost like an afterthought - but the show went on. Coldplay and Lil Wayne each won three Grammys apiece - Coldplay's win included song of the year for "Viva La Vida."
"We've never had so many Grammys in our life," said lead singer Chris Martin, perhaps so excited he got confused (they had already won four over the years). "We feel so grateful to be here. I'm going to tear up."
British singer Adele was also teary, as she beat the Jonas Brothers, Lady Antebellum, Jazmine Sullivan and fellow Brit singer Duffy to nab best new artist.
"Thank you so much. I'm going to cry. I want to thank my manager, my mom, she's in London. And Duffy, I love you. I think you're amazing. Jonas Brothers, I love you as well," she said, saying the last part with a devilish look, eliciting laughter.
It was Adele's second award; she earlier won for best female pop vocal.
Lil Wayne was the nominations leader with eight, and won best rap album for Tha Carter III, rap solo performance for "A Milli," rap song for "Lollipop" and rap performance for a duo/group for "Swagga Like Us," an all-star song featuring Jay-Z, T.I. and Kanye West.
The Los Angeles Times and the Associated Press contributed to this article.
For a complete list of winners, go to baltimoresun.com/entertainment
Album of the Year:: Raising Sand, Robert Plant & Alison Krauss
Record of the Year: : "Please Read the Letter," Robert Plant & Alison Krauss
Song of the Year: : "Viva La Vida," Coldplay
Best New Artist: :: Adele
Best Pop Vocal Album: : Rockferry, Duffy
Best Rock Album: : Viva La Vida, Or Death and All His Friends, Coldplay
Best R&B; Album: : Jennifer Hudson, Jennifer Hudson
Best Rap Album: : Tha Carter III, Lil Wayne
Best Urban/Alternative Performance: : "Be OK," Chrisette Michele featuring will.i.am