Artists often pay homage to those that inspired them. Just last week, Beyonce paid tribute to the late Michael Jackson’s 1992 halftime performance at Super Bowl XXVII with the similar military-inspired black and gold outfit she wore during her own memorable Super Bowl 50 show.
At this year’s Grammy Awards, the tributes were a-plenty, both with attire and tunes. Follow us below as we take a look at the memorable tributes to some of pop music’s biggest icons that were lost this year, as well as a star-packed tribute to Lionel Richie.
It began before the ceremony even commenced, as Lady Gaga walked on the red carpet in a full David Bowie inspired getup, consisting of a bold blue pants suit and colourful eye makeup. Later in the show, Gaga wowed the audience with a beautiful tribute to the icon, singing a medley of hits like Ground Control to Major Tom, Changes, Fashion, Fame, and Let’s Dance. She did a brilliant job of emulating his vocals, mannerisms, and eccentric outfits, as though she were somehow possessed by his ever-living spirit. Fast forward to the 0:16 point for the full performance above.
Maurice White of Earth, Wind, and Fire
Among the many great musicians we lost this year was Maurice White of Earth Wind and Fire. Stevie Wonder and Pentatonix joined forces to pay tribute to the singer with an interesting take on the band’s hit That’s the Way of the World. Full of both soul and beatboxing, it was a unique melding of two great genres. Later in the broadcast, the remaining members of the group, which received a Lifetime Achievement Award earlier this year, came on stage to present the Album of the Year award to Taylor Swift for 1989.+
Glenn Frey, The Eagles
The Eagles and Jackson Browne paid tribute to Glenn Frey, singer and co-founder of the former band who sadly passed away earlier this year at the age of 67. They sang Take It Easy, fitting given that it was The Eagles’ debut hit back in 1972 and was also written with Browne himself, who was Frey’s former roommate. Rolling Stone says the band’s manager Irving Azoff discussed the song choice with Frey’s family, and decided upon it because it was “simple and elegant,” and a nice, uptempo hit versus a more sombre number.
In a sort of unofficial tribute, R&B star Miguel did an emotional, albeit short, performance of a few lines from Michael Jackson’s She’s Out of My Life. Images of the late King of Pop appeared on screen behind as he sang, as though MJ was lipsyncing along. While it was actually a tribute to celebrate the show’s musical director Greg Phillinganes, who played on Jackson’s first recording of that song, it was hard not to remember just how great Jackson was. The late singer and performer won his first Grammy for the tune nearly 35 years ago, commemorated in a new documentary from Spike Lee.
Paying tribute to the late King of Blues B.B. King was country and bluegrass musician Chris Stapleton and guitarist Gary Clark Jr. Together, they delivered soulful vocals with accompanying guitar in a rendition of The Thrill is Gone that was enough to give you goosebumps. As if that weren’t enough, halfway through, blues icon Bonnie Raitt joined them on stage to bring even more chills.
Lemmy Kilmister, Motorhead
“Many of us play rock & roll, but a rare few among us are rock & roll,” described Dave Grohl. “Lemmy Kilmister was rock & roll.” The Foo Fighters’ frontman introduced a tribute to the late Motorhead lead singer with a debut performance from The Hollywood Vampires. Who are they? Alice Cooper, Joe Perry (Aerosmith), Duff McKagan and Matt Sorum (Guns N Roses), and actor Johnny Depp. The band played Ace of Spades and As Bad as I Am, including a not-too-shabby guitar solo from Depp. It was heavy metal overload, and a fitting tribute to the late rocker.
While obviously still very much alive, Lionel Richie got his own tribute this year for his many accomplishments as well. The pop icon bopped and sang along from his seat in the audience to the celebration of his music. The tribute included a mashup of some of his biggest hits, performed by a diverse group of singers, including John Legend, Demi Lovato, Meghan Trainor, and even country star Luke Bryan. Joining them was actor and model Tyrese Gibson, who put his singing chops on full display with a lively performance of The Commodores’ Brick House. Richie joined them on stage at the end to sing All Night Long and show that, at 66 years of age, he’s still got it.
Finally, the In Memoriam segment (which begins around the 2 minute mark after a rebuke on ad-based streaming) paid tribute to all of those who passed away above, plus plenty more influential artists we lost this year like Ben E. King, Scott Weiland, Natalie Cole, Lesley Gore, Percy Sledge, and Celine Dion’s late husband, producer and talent manager Rene Angelil, among others. 2016 has been a rough year for music losses, and proves, more than ever, that we need to foster great talent to encourage such lasting careers like the ones enjoyed by many of those we have lost.
All in all, it was great to see new artists pay tribute to those who paved the way, and inspired their hits, styles, and personas. Until next year!