If you didn’t catch the 61st Grammy’s last night, then you missed out on a night that largely played tribute to the lates and greats of Motown. Former First Lady Michelle Obama made a surprise appearance, standing on stage with likes of Lady Gaga, Jada Pinkett Smith, Jennifer Lopez, and host Alicia Keys, while she professed the profound effects the genre had on her upbringing. “From the Motown records I wore out on the South Side to the ‘Who Run the World’ songs that fueled me through this last decade, music has always helped me tell my story,” says Obama. “Music helps us share ourselves, our dignity and sorrows, our hopes, our joys. Music shows us that all of it matters.” Her speech earned a standing ovation at the very moment she mentioned Motown.
The televised music award ceremony continued with a performance by Diana Ross, in celebration of The Supremes’ lead singer’s 75th birthday. Her grandson, Raif-Henok Emmanuel Kendrick, introduced Ross, who donned a consuming red tulle ballgown while belting out hit songs such as “Reach Out and Touch.” Motown founder, Berry Gordy Jr., was in attendance for the performance, singing along with the crowd.
Later, Jennifer Lopez honored Motown’s legacy by performing a number of songs, including Marvin Gaye’s “Dancing in the Street,” the Marvelettes’ “Please Mr. Postman,” Luther Vandross’ “The Best Things in Life Are Free” and “Do You Love Me” by The Contours. Detroit-native Smokey Robinson joined in on J Lo’s performance of “My Girl,” with Alicia Keys later helping the duo sing The Temptations’ “Papa Was a Rolling Stone.” A breathy take on Aretha Franklin’s “Respect” was also performed by St. Vincent and Dua Lipa before the duo launched into Lipa’s “One Kiss.”
The night concluded with a tribute to the Queen of Soul. Yolanda Adams, Fantasia Barrino, and Andra Day harmonized for Aretha’s “You Make Me Feel,” a preview of another Motown special to come. Tomorrow, Feb. 12, CBS, the Recording Academy, and AEG Ehrlich Ventures will present Motown 60: A Grammy Celebration. The live concert honoring the label’s 60th anniversary, will air on CBS on April 21.
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