RENEE MONTAGNE, host:
The winners of the 48th annual Grammy awards were announced last night here in Los Angeles. The big winner was an old favorite, U2.
STEVE INSKEEP, host:
The Irish rock band won five Grammys, upsetting two artists who'd been favored to win big: pop star, Mariah Carey and the rapper, Kanye West. NPR's Mandalit del Barco was backstage.
MANDALIT DEL BARCO reporting:
This year, R&B and rap dominated the charts, but it was rock that ruled the Grammys. U2, the 30 year old band with 16 Grammys under its belt before last night, won in all five categories for which it was nominated, including Album of the Year and Song of the Year for Sometimes You Can't Make It On Your Own.
(Soundbite of "Sometimes You Can't Make It On Your Own")
DEL BARCO: In accepting the award for Song of the Year, lead singer Bono, acknowledged the odd title for the album from which it comes: How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb.
BONO (Lead Singer, U2): Actually, I was talking about my father, Bob. He was the atomic bomb in question and when he died, set off a kind of chain reaction in me and I've been shoutin' about him and givin' off about him and complainin' about him and screamin' about him for the last few years and maybe--maybe tonight is the time to stop. It's really a great, great moment for me, personally. I want to thank my father Bob for giving me the voice and a bit of attitude to use it.
(Soundbite of applause)
DEL BARCO: Another band with attitude, Green Day, came away with a Record of the Year award for Boulevard of Broken Dreams. In presenting one of the awards to U2, Green Day's Billie Joe paid tribute to the father of them all, guitarist and inventor Les Paul. He won two Grammys this year for Best Rock Instrumental Performance and Best Pop Instrumental Performance.
(Soundbite of electric guitar)
DEL BARCO: But Billie Joe pointed out the 90-year-old legend couldn't be on hand to accept his awards. Paul was hospitalized last week after X-rays found fluid in his lungs.
Mr. BILLIE JOE ARMSTRONG (Lead Singer, Green Day): There's a man getting better in a hospital tonight who gave a lot of people in this room a career. His name is Les Paul. He's the founder of the electric guitar.
(Soundbite of applause, cheers and whistles)
Mr. ARMSTRONG: And we all want everybody to know that we're thinkin' of him.
DEL BARCO: Both Green Day and U2 beat out several artists who had been favored to win the top awards, including Mariah Carey. This year the pop diva overcame a sagging career with her hit album, The Emancipation of Mimi. It won her three R&B awards during the afternoon ceremony but none were telecast. Instead, the blonde hair at center stage belonged to newcomer, Kelly Clarkson. During the first of her two acceptance speeches, Clarkson, who was once an American Idol winner, was both tearful and giddy.
Ms. KELLY CLARKSON (Recording Artist): Thank you to the fans. Thank you for everyone that worked on my record (crying).
(Soundbite of cheers)
DEL BARCO: A number of the evening's surprises was the low award total for rapper, Kanye West. He was considered a shoe-in for top honors for his album Late Registration.
(Soundbite of "Gold Digger")
DEL BARCO: But West won only three Grammys in the rap category. Before the Record and Album of the Year winners were announced, he performed with Jamie Foxx, introducing himself this way:
Mr. KANYE WEST (Recording Artist): I been here two years in a row. If I don't win it's gonna be a problem. We don't want no problems, do we?
(Soundbite of applause and cheers)
(Soundbite of drums)
(Soundbite of "I Got a Woman")
DEL BARCO: Foxx and West stormed the stage with dueling marching bands. This year the Grammy telecast was long on flashy performances and short on noteworthy acceptance speeches. Madonna kicked off the show, accompanied by the animated virtual band, Gorillaz. Paul McCartney performed for the first time at the Grammys and Bruce Springsteen offered the evening's only political commentary. He ended the rendition of his Grammy winning song, Devils and Dust with a message about the truth in Iraq.
(Soundbite of "Devils and Dust")
Mr. BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN: Bring 'em home.
(Soundbite of applause and cheers)
DEL BARCO: Also, almost alone on stage was Best New Artist winner, John Legend. He sat at the piano to perform the song 'Ordinary People' from his Grammy winning album, 'Get Lifted.'
(Soundbite of "Ordinary People")
DEL BARCO: In accepting one of the three awards, Legend said his song didn't sound like anything else on R&B radio.
Mr. JOHN LEGEND (Recording Artist): This is only song I wrote after I got signed to Sony, so we had the whole album done and I just happened to go in the studio with Wil to write for the Black Eyed Peas and we just came up with this song, you know, and I thought I was gonna write a hook for them, but I was like, well, you gotta let me keep this one (laughs). So, I kept it and I'm glad I kept it (laughs).
(Soundbite of applause)
DEL BARCO: The evening's most dramatic moment belonged to Sly Stone who hadn't performed before a live audience since 1987, but last night the reclusive 61-year-old funk pioneer stole the show, making a surprise appearance with the reunited Family Stone. During the finale, to an all-star musical tribute to some of his hits, he walked onstage wearing a shimmering silver jacket, wrap-around shades and a tall, blonde Mohawk and he sat behind a keyboard.
(Soundbite of music)
DEL BARCO: Music is the price you pay, he sang, but Stone had obviously paid a higher price for years of reported cocaine abuse. He seemed hunched over and sauntered off stage before the song ended. Backstage, guitarist Freddie Stone said his brother had changed.
Mr. FREDDIE STONE STEWART (Guitarist, Sly and the Family Stone): He's a thinker and he's different and he is very much concerned about what's going on on the planet right now.
DEL BARCO: And Freddie Stone also said his brother is still writing music.
Mr. STEWART: We correspond and he plays stuff over the phone for me. Freddie, man, Freddie, listen to this. You gotta hear this, man(laughs), you know, and he's jazzed.
DEL BARCO: The other band members say this might not be the last audiences see or hear from Sly, and that just might make for an interesting Grammy show next year.
Mandalit del Barco, NPR News, Los Angeles.