Grammy Awards Open with Prayer for 'Fallen Sister' Whitney Houston

Grammy Awards Open with Prayer for 'Fallen Sister' Whitney Houston

It’s common to hear singers thank God after winning a Grammy Award.

At tonight’s 54th Grammy Awards telecast, host LL Cool J. opened the show with a prayer for Whitney Houston.

“How do we speak to this time, to this day … there is no way around this. We’ve had a death in our family. For me, the only thing that feels right is to begin with a prayer,” the rapper/actor told the crowd. Heads were bowed in the theater as he said a short but poignant prayer, followed by a clip of Houston singing, “I Will Always Love.”

“Whitney, we will always love you,” Cool J said.

It was the first of many tribute moments planned in the wake of Houston’s shocking death yesterday.

Later in the show, Jennifer Hudson, the actress and “American Idol” finalist, was to perform a tribute to the 48-year-old Houston. That her death came so soon before the CBS broadcast meant “a full-blown tribute” wasn’t possible, said Grammy show producer Ken Ehrlich.

With just hours to prepare a fitting tribute, the Grammys had to act quickly.

“Musicians, by nature, improvise,” said Neil Portnow, president of the Recording Academy, on the red carpet before the show. Portnow said the tribute was the result of hours of frantic phone calls in the aftermath of Houston’s death.

The vibe of the awards was altered from merely a flashy awards party. Houston had been expected to perform at the pre-awards gala Saturday night thrown by music impresario Clive Davis.

“Whenever there’s tragedy, family pulls together–and this is my family,” said producer Jimmy Jam. “There’s going to a little bit of everything tonight, and that’s how the emotions should be.”

“I’m glad we’re all together to grieve together,” said Bonnie Raitt.

Veteran rocker Bruce Springsteen kicked off the evening with a live rendition of his new single, “We Take Care of Our Own,” and after the first commercial break Alicia Keys and Bonnie Raitt sang a duet of “I Want a Sunday Kind of Love” to honor the late Etta James.