When Grammy Awards producers learned of singer Whitney Houston’s death less than 24 hours before the live telecast, they scrapped parts of the script, added performances and puzzled over how best to honor the Grammy-winning singer who died unexpectedly at age 48.
Host LL Cool J said that addressing the Grammy audience at the Staples Center after Houston’s death was “definitely the most challenging moment I’ve faced in my career,” reports AP.
LL Cool J decided to open with a prayer, and producers agreed, though none could recall another network TV event that began as such.
This and other last-minute changes made to the 54th annual Grammy Awards are chronicled in a new documentary, “A Death in the Family: The Show Must Go On,” which premiered Monday at the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences.
The documentary be seen on the Grammy.com website and at the Grammy Museum in Los Angeles.
After Houston died, the challenge was to “do something that was respectful to Whitney,” said Ken Ehrlich, executive producer of the Grammys for the past 32 years. “That set a tone that also didn’t lose the fact that there were thousands of people who were coming to this event because they had done something remarkable this year on their own, and they needed to be treated with respect as well.”
The documentary includes interviews with LL Cool J and Jennifer Hudson, who performed a heartfelt tribute to Houston. It also includes rehearsal footage and interviews from other performers.
February’s Grammy Awards drew nearly 40 million viewers and was second largest audience ever. The biggest Grammy audience — more than 43 million viewers — came in 1984, when Michael Jackson won a record eight awards for “Thriller.”