Robert Plant and Alison Krauss were the big winners at the 51st annual Grammy Awards Sunday night. They won album of the year for Raising Sand; record of the year for their performance of the song "Please Read the Letter"; and three other honors. The duo upset rapper Lil Wayne and British rock band Coldplay; those artists had the best-selling albums of 2008. Lil Wayne took home three Grammys, including best rap album, and Coldplay also won three awards, including song of the year.
The pairing of former Led Zeppelin singer Plant with bluegrass fiddler and singer Krauss turned out to be a surprise hit with critics and fans last year. The demure Krauss only spoke once during the Grammy telecast, when she and Plant accepted the album of the year award.
"It's been a wonderful time, and especially [with] Robert, there's never a dull moment," Krauss said.
"I'd like to say I'm bewildered," Plant added. "In the old days, we would have called this selling out. But I think it's a good way to spend a Sunday."
It was an emotional Sunday for singer Jennifer Hudson. Less than four months ago, her mother, brother and nephew were murdered. The former American Idol contestant and Oscar winner fought back tears as she picked up her first Grammy — for best R&B album.
"I first would like to thank God, who has brought me through. I would like to thank my family in heaven and those who are here today."
It was Hudson's second public performance since the tragedy. She sang a week earlier at the Super Bowl.
The Grammy ceremony was, for the most part, relentlessly upbeat. Members of Coldplay bounded onstage wearing blue, purple, green and red jackets to accept the song of the year award.
But the song, "Viva La Vida," is the subject of a copyright infringement lawsuit: In December, guitarist Joe Satriani filed suit in federal court alleging the band ripped off his 2004 instrumental, "If I Could Fly." The suit generated a lot of coverage in the press and online, but Satriani may have a tough time proving his case. Some online music lovers have pointed out similarities between his tune and a 2002 release by the Argentine group Enanitos Verdes.
Like the charges of musical plagiarism, the biggest news of the night went unmentioned during the telecast. Just as the ceremony was getting under way, the popular 19-year-old R&B singer Chris Brown was turning himself in to Los Angeles police for allegedly assaulting a woman early Sunday morning. Brown was scheduled to perform, as was his girlfriend, Rihanna, and both were nominated for Grammys. Neither won and both canceled — at the last minute. That led to a lot of speculation that Rihanna was the woman Brown assaulted. Los Angeles police declined to name the woman.
Meanwhile Grammy organizers scrambled madly to fill their slots. The head of the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, Neil Portnow, said the Grammys have never faced a situation like this.
"Everybody has certain problems at times in their lives, things that you wish maybe didn't happen, maybe you're not proud of," Portnow said. "I'm not a judgmental kind of an individual. I'm sorry they weren't there for their moments on the stage. I think that's the thing that is most unfortunate to me at the moment."
Los Angeles police say Brown was booked on suspicion of making a felony criminal threat and released after posting $50,000 bail.