Adele's distinctive voice was born again and Whitney Houston was mourned on Sunday in a Grammy Awards show packed with triumphant comebacks and fond farewells.
Katy Perry, sporting blue hair and metallic body armor, stormed back defiantly in her first big public performance after husband Russell Brand filed for divorce in December, and country singer Glen Campbell, 75, made what could be his last Grammy appearance after being diagnosed with early stage Alzheimer's disease.
Just 10 of the 78 Grammys were handed out during the 3-1/2-hour telecast from Los Angeles, clearing the way for some eclectic line-ups on stage that paired Rihanna with Coldplay, and rapper Lil Wayne with DJ David Guetta.
As expected, the music industry's biggest night belonged to British singer Adele, 23, who won all six of the Grammys she had been nominated for. "This is ridiculous," she said as the trophies piled up for her album "21" and hit singles "Rolling in the Deep" and "Someone Like You."
But the biggest applause came after Adele gave her first major public performance following throat surgery in November that millions of her fans worldwide feared might destroy her signature husky voice.
Starting out a cappella and framed by a single spotlight on the vast stage, Adele overcame initial nerves to belt out "Rolling In The Deep" and enjoy a standing ovation.
"I need to thank my doctors I suppose, who brought my voice back," she said, describing "21" as a record inspired by "a rubbish relationship" that had nevertheless led to "the most life-changing year."
Memories of Houston, who was found dead in as yet unexplained circumstances just 24 hours earlier in a Los Angeles hotel room, made for a nostalgia-filled night.
Grammy host LL Cool J started the evening with a prayer "for
our fallen sister Whitney Houston" but said the industry would remember her "the best way we know how, with a song."
Grammy and Oscar-winner Jennifer Hudson did the honors, singing Houston's biggest hit "I Will Always Love You" with just a slow piano and the "bitter sweet memories" of the song's lyrics.
Bonnie Raitt and Alicia Keys bade farewell to another lost star - "At Last" singer Etta James - with their version of "Sunday Kind of Love."
Chris Brown returned to Grammy's embrace, three years after his career nosedived when he beat up girlfriend Rihanna on the eve of the 2009 awards show.
Brown won best R&B album for "F.A.M.E" and performed twice on Sunday's show. "I thank the Grammys for letting me get on the stage and do my thing," he said.
Country star Taylor Swift turned the table on critics of her off-key Grammy performance two years ago by winning two awards for "Mean" - in which she lashed out at her haters - and delivering a flawless performance that changed the words of the chorus to "Some day, I'll be, singing this at the Grammys."
The Grammys took a walk down memory lane with a Beach Boys medley featuring a nervous looking Brian Wilson - the musical genius behind the 1960s California sound - and four other early members of the "Good Vibrations" band who plan a world tour in 2012.
Nicki Minaj lost the best new artist Grammy to indie rocker Bon Iver. But the rapper staked her claim to succeed the provocative Lady Gaga with a religious-themed performance of "Roman Holiday" that saw her levitating from the set of a church.
Elsewhere, some of the night's biggest thrills came from a small tent outside the main concert venue where Foo Fighters played a rousing version of "Walk," and Brown, Deadmau5, David Guetta and Lil Wayne gave Grammy viewers their first taste of dance electronica.