Whitney Houston to Madonna: 15 Memorable Grammy Performances

12:39 PM 2/6/2017

by Meena Jang and Kara Haar

Jennifer Hudson’s tribute to Whitney Houston and Paul McCartney's reunion with Ringo Starr are just two of many performances that left a lasting impression.

Matt Sayles/Invision/AP

When it comes to Grammy performances, you can expect nothing short of grand scale: Macklemore and Ryan Lewis' performance in 2014 doubled as a wedding ceremony, while Pink's 2010 stage show mirrored that of a Cirque du Soleil production. 

Revisit some of the most memorable performances from years past below (and check out this year's nominees here).

  • Michael Jackson, "The Way You Make Me Feel/Man in the Mirror"

    1988

    The King of Pop put on a legendary show at the 1988 ceremony, beginning with "The Way You Make Me Feel" and ending with an uplifting performance of "Man in the Mirror" accompanied by a gospel choir.

  • Eric Clapton, "Tears in Heaven"

    1993

    When Clapton's 4-year-old son tragically died in 1991, the singer recorded "Tears in Heaven" as a tribute. At the 1993 Grammy Awards, Clapton put on a moving performance of the emotional song and took home three Grammys that night for song of the year, record of the year and male pop vocal performance.

  • Whitney Houston, “I Will Always Love You”

    1994

    Whitney Houston showed off her pipes at the 1994 Grammys with her hit “I Will Always Love You,” from the soundtrack of The Bodyguard, in which she starred opposite Kevin Costner.

  • Eminem and Elton John, "Stan"

    2001

    Eminem was embroiled in controversy surrounding his third album, The Marshall Mathers LP, prior to the 2001 Grammy Awards. The Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation had deemed the record's lyrics hateful and homophobic and organized a protest against the rapper outside of Staples Center on the night of the show. Eminem faced the criticism head-on with his performance of "Stan," during which he was joined onstage by openly gay singer Elton John.

  • Christina Aguilera, Mya, Pink, Lil' Kim, Missy Elliott and Patti Labelle, "Lady Marmalade"

    2002

    The four female artists took to the stage to perform their collaborative Moulin Rouge single "Lady Marmalade" with the help of two special guests. Missy Elliott made a brief appearance during the set to introduce Patti Labelle, who brought the audience to their feet with her powerhouse vocals.

  • Gorillaz and Madonna, "Feel Good Inc./Hung Up"

    2006

    Virtual band Gorillaz maintained their faceless image at the 2006 awards show, where they appeared as holograms to perform "Feel Good Inc." At the end of the song, a hologram of Madonna joined the band onstage only to be replaced by the real Madonna, who closed the number with her hit song "Hung Up."

  • Jennifer Hudson, “You Pulled Me Through”

    2008

    Just four months after the murder of her mother, brother, and nephew, Jennifer Hudson gave her first performance since the tragic incident at the 2008 Grammys. During the end of “You Pulled Me Through,” the singer got emotional while singing the last lyrics.

  • Beyonce and Tina Turner, "Proud Mary"

    2008

    Queen B and the original diva, Tina Turner, performed a duet rendition of Turner's "Proud Mary" at the 2008 awards ceremony. Beyoncé kicked off the set with a rendition of her hit "Déjà vu," all the while paying tribute to female music icons such as Aretha Franklin, Chaka Khan and Diana Ross, and was later joined by Turner.

  • Jay-Z, Kanye West, TI, Lil’ Wayne and M.I.A, “Swagga Like Us”

    2009

    “The Rap Pack” comprised of Jay-Z, Kanye West, T.I. and Lil’ Wayne performed “Swagga Like Us” at the 2009 Grammys. A very pregnant M.I.A. — who was actually due that day — joined the group onstage.

    Swagga Like Us (09 LIVE GRAMMYS PERFORMANCE) T.I. Kanye West Jay Z Lil Wayne - YouTube from Saad87 on Vimeo.

  • Pink, "Glitter in the Air"

    2010

    Pink wowed the audience at the 2010 Grammy Awards when she performed her hit "Glitter in the Air" suspended in mid-air. The singer turned her stage show into a trapeze act, singing even while spinning upside down.

  • Jennifer Hudson, "I Will Always Love You"

    2012

    The music industry grieved the death of Whitney Houston when she died on the eve of the 54th annual awards show. In a tribute to the legend — and 18 years after Houston performed the song at the show — Jennifer Hudson put on an emotional performance of "I Will Always Love You" that was met with a standing ovation.

  • Adele, “Rolling In the Deep”

    2012

    Adele returned to the stage at the 2012 Grammys after being forced to cancel her 2011 concerts due to vocal issues. The singer proved she did not lose any of her vocal talent while she was on hiatus. That night, she took home a Grammy for each category in which she was nominated for a total of six.

  • Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, "Same Love"

    2014

    In recognition of the LGBT community, Macklemore & Ryan Lewis performed their hit "Same Love" at the 2014 Grammys and used the stage as a public wedding ceremony (officiated by Queen Latifah) for 33 gay couples. Madonna also made an appearance toward the end of the set to perform "Open Your Heart" in front of a crowd of teary newlyweds.

  • Paul McCartney, "Queenie Eye"

    2014

    Half of The Beatles reunited at the 2014 Grammys when McCartney performed his solo track "Queenie Eye" with Ringo Starr behind the drums. Yoko Ono, John Lennon's widow, was even spotted in the audience dancing along.

  • Kendrick Lamar, “The Blacker the Berry” and “Alright”

    2016

    Kendrick Lamar gave a political-tinged performance, referencing Trayvon Martin’s death at the 2016 Grammys. He was was handcuffed, chained and dressed in a prisoner outfit as he rapped. Tribal dancers danced around a bonfire, and the words “Compton” appeared behind him. He ended with a freestyle.

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