Photo Credit: Kevin Winter/Getty Images
Although Jennifer Hudson was responsible for the official tribute to Houston -- singing "I Will Always Love You" -- many performers and presenters mentioned the pop diva, whose death at age 48 shocked the world on the eve of the music industry's biggest night.
After Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band kicked off the show with a raucous rendition of their new single "We Take Care of Our Own," host LL Cool J welcomed everyone at the Staples Center by acknowledging the loss of one of their own and saying a prayer wishing Houston's family comfort.
Bonnie Raitt and Alicia Keys took the stage together to pay tribute to the late Etta James. They performed a piano and guitar rendition of "Sunday Kind of Love" before presenting the first Grammy of the night -- best pop solo performance -- to Adele for her emotional single "Someone Like You."
"My life changed when I wrote this song, and I felt it before anyone even heard it. I just felt it," Adele said in her first acceptance speech. "Seeing as it's a vocal performance I need to thank my doctors I suppose who brought my voice back."
The 23-year-old singer, who had vocal chord surgery in November, earned a standing ovation after her comeback performance of "Rolling in the Deep" and graced the stage again and again for her six wins. Adele swept record of the year and song of the year (presented to songwriters) for "Rolling in the Deep," as well as album of the year for 21. In the pre-telecast awards, Adele had also picked up awards for best pop vocal album for 21 and short-form video for "Rolling In the Deep."
"It's been the most life-changing year," Adele said accepting album of the year.
One of the awards show's most surprising wins was the coveted best new artist award, which went to indie folk rockers Bon Iver.
"It's really hard to accept this award, when there's so much talent out here on this stage and so much talent that's not here tonight," said the group's frontman Justin Vernon. "It's also hard to accept, because when I started to make songs I did it for the inherent reward of making songs, so I'm a little bit uncomfortable up here. But with that discomfort comes a lot of gratitude."
To introduce Paul McCartney, the producers recruited none other than 22-time Grammy winner Stevie Wonder, who played strains from "Love Me Do" on his harmonica before welcoming his "Ebony and Ivory" partner to the stage.
"I'm one of the world's biggest fans of our next performer. I think he's incredibly fabulous yesterday and today... or put another way, today and 'Yesterday-ay'" he said, singing the last note.
The night's other notable performances included the return of Chris Brown, who sang "Turn Up the Music" and "Beautiful People" while performing elaborate choreography. Grammy veterans Foo Fighters performed "Walk" for the fans outside the Staples Center. Both artists went on to win Grammys.
The Civil Wars were able to "open" for their friend Taylor Swift by singing 60 seconds of their hit single "Barton Hollow" before a banjo-playing Swift took aim at her critics with her single "Mean." After a difficult start to 2012, Katy Perry was back to herself, performing for the first time since her split from Russell Brand.
The big reunion of the evening belonged to The Beach Boys, featuring Maroon 5 singing "Surfer Girl" and Foster the People covering "Wouldn't It Be Nice" before the California bandmates got together to sing "Good Vibrations."
Country stars The Band Perry and Blake Shelton paid tribute to Lifetime Achievement Award recipient Glenn Campbell singing a medley of his hits before Campbell, who still sounds impressively in top-notch form, performed his signature single, "Rhinestone Cowboy."
McCartney closed out the night at the piano, singing the poignant Beatles lullaby "Golden Slumbers." Joining him for the "Carry the Weight" half of the Abbey Road medley were Springsteen, Dave Grohl, and Joe Walsh.
See below for a partial list of Grammy winners, or head to the official Grammys site for the full list!
Album of the Year: 21, Adele
Record of the Year: "Rolling In The Deep," Adele
Best New Artist: Bon Iver
Best Country Album: Own The Night, Lady Antebellum
Song of the Year: "Rolling In The Deep," Adele Adkins & Paul Epworth, songwriters (Adele)
Best R&B Album: F.A.M.E., Chris Brown
Best Rock Performance: "Walk," Foo Fighters
Best Rap Performance: "Otis," Jay-Z and Kayne West
Best Pop Solo Performance: "Someone Like You,: Adele
Best Pop Duo/Group Performance: "Body and Soul," Tony Bennett and Amy Winehouse
Best Pop Instrumental Album: The Road from Memphis, Booker T. Jones
Best Pop Vocal Album: 21, Adele
Best Dance Recording: "Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites," Skrillex
Best Dance/Electronica Album: Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites, Skrillex
Best Traditional Pop Vocal Album: Duets II, Tony Bennett & Various Artists
Best Hard Rock/Metal Performance: "White Limo," Foo Fighters
Best Rock Song: "Walk," Foo Fighters
Best Rock Album: Wasting Light, Foo Fighters
Best Alternative Music Album: Bon Iver, Bon Iver
Best R&B Performance: "Is This Love," Corinne Bailey Rae
Best Traditional R&B Performance: "Fool For You," Cee Lo Green & Melanie Fiona
Best R&B Song: "Fool For You," Cee Lo Green, Melanie Hallim, Jack Splash
Best Rap/Sung Collaboration: "All Of The Lights," Kanye West, Rihanna, Kid Cudi & Fergie
Best Rap Song: "All Of the Lights," Jeff Bhasker, Stacy Ferguson, Malik Jones, Warren Trotter & Kanye West
Best Rap Album: My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, Kanye West
Best Country Solo Performance: "Mean," Taylor Swift
Best Country Duo/Group Performance: "Barton Hollow," The Civil Wars
Best Country Song: "Mean," Taylor Swift