- The Washington Times - Monday, February 9, 2009

LOS ANGELES (AP) — A tearful Jennifer Hudson won her first Grammy, thanking her family “in heaven and those who are with me today” to kick off an evening already stoked with drama when police said they were investigating double nominee Chris Brown for an alleged assault on an unidentified woman.

Brown and long-time girlfriend Rihanna, each nominated and slated to perform, separately dropped out of the Grammys at the last minute and their whereabouts were not immediately known Sunday night. The victim of Brown’s alleged assault wasn’t identified, and it wasn’t immediately clear whether Rihanna’s absence was related to Brown’s.

Hudson, 27, made no direct reference to the killings of her mother, brother and nephew that kept her in seclusion until just this month. But while fighting back tears, she made it clear that her family was foremost on her mind.

“I first would like to thank God who has brought me through,” said Hudson, also an Oscar winner, as she accepted her award Whitney Houston. “I would like to thank my family in heaven and those who are with me today.”

Hudson later performed “You Pulled Me Through,” a typically strong vocal performance that ended in tears.

While Hudson’s emotion was front and center, drama unfolded behind the scenes when police said just 90 minutes before the show began that they were investigating the 19-year old Brown. His performance was subsequently removed from the show, though it was unclear if he bowed out or was dropped.

Then, minutes before U2 opened the telecast by zipping through its new single, the Recording Academy said Rihanna had scratched her performance as well.

The developments put a huge hole in the Grammy telecast, but the Recording Academy found able replacements in Justin Timberlake, Al Green, Boyz II Men and Keith Urban as they all sang Green’s classic hit, “Let’s Stay Together.” No mention was made on the broadcast about the switch.

During a pre-telecast ceremony at which the Recording Academy doled out the bulk of its 110 trophies, Lil Wayne won three Grammys, Robert Plant and Alison Krauss won a pair and Carrie Underwood, Coldplay and Radiohead snagged one apiece.

Lil Wayne was the nominations leader with eight, and won best rap solo performance for “A Milli,” rap song for “Lollipop” and rap/sung collaboration for “Swagga Like Us,” an all-star song featuring Jay-Z, T.I. and Kanye West.

But the prolific rapper won’t be going home with eight trophies; he was competing against himself in two categories that he won and lost another. He still has a chance to win the evening’s top prize, album of the year, for his best-selling disc “Tha Carter III.”

Plant and Krauss, also nominated for album of the year for their collaboration “Raising Sand,” were also early winners, taking home an award for country collaborations with vocals and contemporary folk/Americana album. They later won a third trophy during the telecast for pop collaboration with vocals.

Unlike most top names nominated in the pre-telecast, Underwood showed up to accept her Grammy for female country performance.

“There’s no way this could ever on this planet get old,” said Underwood as she accepted her trophy.

Coldplay, up for seven Grammys, won best pop performance by a duo or group with vocals for “Viva La Vida,” while Radiohead won best alternative music album for “In Rainbows.”

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