A Grammy Awards night that was predicted to be an Adele love fest also turned out to be a celebration of Whitney Houston's life and music.
Singer Jennifer Hudson paid tribute to Houston, who died Saturday, with an emotional and powerful rendition of her signature hit, I Will Always Love You.
Grammy host LL Cool J set the tone early in the telecast after an opening number by Bruce Springsteen. The Grammys were always one of Houston's "greatest joys," he said. "Whitney, we will honor you the best way we know how — with song."
The crowd gave a standing ovation to a re-airing of the singer's 1994 Grammy performance of I Will Always Love You.
Artists mentioned Houston, a six-time Grammy winner, throughout the show. Alicia Keys made note of her before a tribute, with Bonnie Raitt, to Etta James, who also recently passed away.
And during her performance of We Found Love, Rihanna asked the crowd to "make some noise for Whitney."
Backstage with reporters, Raitt said she was "still in shock" about Houston's death.
"They have been running her videos," she said. "I didn't forget, but when you see it all in a row, it's stunning, her vocal range."
Melanie Fiona, who shared two Grammys in R&B categories, was the first winner to mention Houston during the pre-Grammys telecast.
"If it weren't for Whitney Houston, I wouldn't be up here. I love you," Fiona said before tearing up.
Assembling Hudson's last-minute tribute to Houston was "very hard," said Grammy president Neil Portnow.
"When you have no time, you have to be pragmatic and practical. But in this situation, it was important to be respectful and appropriate, as well," Portnow said.
Songwriter Diane Warren said she was saddened by Houston's death, but her spirits picked up on the red carpet when she heard two nearby female singers performing I Will Always Love You.
"Listen. Those guys wouldn't have existed without Whitney," she said before clapping for them.
It was apparent that Houston's death affected those outside the music industry, too. Comedian Steve Martin, whose bluegrass band Steep Canyon Rangers was up for an award, recalled being a fan of her early days.
"I just loved her music. I think I damaged my hearing, listening to her so loud," Martin said.
"So it is a sad day. But I'm glad that if there's a time for her to go, what a moment when all the artists who respected her are here tonight."