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The Grammys got underway Sunday as The Recording Academy grappled with the task of paying tribute to one of their fallen greats, Whitney Houston, while at the same time honoring the best in music, from the irreverent to the poignant.

It was a delicate balance. The show started off with Bruce Springsteen, complete with a string section, performing his new song “We Take Care of Our Own,” a rousing song that references the troubles of the nation.

But soon after, a somber LL Cool J, the show’s host, appeared in black, and told the audience: “There is no way around this. We’ve had a death in our family.”

He then led the audience in prayer to “our fallen sister, Whitney Houston.

“Heavenly father, we thank you for sharing our sister Whitney with us,” he said, as celebrities like Lady Gaga and Miranda Lambert bowed their heads in prayer. “Though she is gone too soon, we remain truly blessed to have been touched by her beautiful spirit.”

He then introduced a clip of a glowing Houston singing one of her best-known songs, “ I Will Always Love You.” LL Cool said afterward: “Whitney, we will always love you.”