Feb. 13, 2012 at 9:54 AM ET
Grammy host LL Cool J's decision to open the 2012 awards with a prayer for Whitney Houston wasn't scripted -- but it wasn't entirely spontaneous either.
Speaking with press after the show, Recording Academy president Neil Portnow told The Hollywood Reporter that they gave their host the option to address the singer's recent death as he saw fit.
"He's a partner now," said Portnow. "We've been working with LL for the last four nominations specials. He's a member of the Academy and a musician, so he kind of gets everything from a very soulful heartfelt place."
It turns out the rapper and actor came to them with the idea. "He said, 'Well, what I would do if it was in my house would be, I'd say a prayer,'" explained Portnow. "And we thought, if that’s what you would do and that's the words that would come out of your mouth, no need to write that, just do it from your heart. And so he was prepared to do that. You saw he took his notes out, and we thought it was the right thing to do."
As for the tricky nature of celebrating the late singer on less than 24 hours' notice, Portnow said that they wanted to address Houston at the top of the broadcast and save the musical tribute for later in the hour.
"Obviously we had everything planned and by Saturday night we were locked and done and finished," he said. "We were able to be nimble and make changes.... Then it was the creative discussion -- like what do we want to do? And we all felt like we ought to address this right at the top because it was so fresh and so significant and so painful."