On Sunday, NBA Lakers MVP Kobe Bryant died in a helicopter crash in the hills of Calabasas, CA, along with seven others, including his 13-year-old daughter Gianna, according to the L.A. Times. Bryant was 41-years-old. The Staples Center, where Bryant played with the Lakers, was closed that day for the Grammys, so fans and other mourners gathered outside to pay tribute to their memories of Bryant. Inside, musicians were also paying tribute, with Lizzo shouting, “This one’s for Kobe,” before beginning the opening performance.
Alicia Keys gave a heartfelt speech about the fact that no one getting ready for the Grammys that morning was anticipating starting the ceremony on such a tragic note. She also noted the Staple Center was the “house that Kobe built.”
“We are literally standing here heartbroken in the house that Kobe Bryant built.”@aliciakeys pays tribute to start this year’s #Grammys #RIPMamba pic.twitter.com/OxGm7206FY
— Complex Music (@ComplexMusic) January 27, 2020
Then she was joined by the actual band, Boyz II Men. In an unexpected performance, Keys began to sing Boyz II Men’s hit song, “It’s So Hard To Say Goodbye To Yesterday.”
“We love you Kobe.” @aliciakeys and Boyz II Men sing in tribute to Kobe Bryant and his family at the opening of the #Grammys https://t.co/kk0nIau0ee pic.twitter.com/v3KpXSkvyW
— The Hollywood Reporter (@THR) January 27, 2020
“We will make sure that we are celebrating the one thing that brings all of us together,” said Keys. “And that’s music. It’s the most healing thing in the world.”
The cameras panned across the audience, showing faces touched by emotion, thinking about the loss. And on Twitter, people were thankful for the moment of gravitas:
Alicia Keys is the perfect person to be hosting the #GRAMMYs tonight – Let’s do what we are all here to do – the one thing that has the power to bring all of us together is music
— Bentley (@BentleyRadio) January 27, 2020
Alicia Keys and Boyz II Men just pulled out the tears #GRAMMYs pic.twitter.com/aEXuDwZmuh
— Joshua Chenault (@joshuachenault1) January 27, 2020
Hi ok I’m inside the #GRAMMYs and that Alicia Keys and Boyz II Men moment honoring Kobe was chill-worthy in person (as I may guess you all felt at home)
— David Oliver (@doliver8) January 27, 2020
Alicia Keys had the difficult task of opening a celebration of music in “the house that Kobe Bryant built” hours after his death. Boyz II Men joined her for a short song. She did a great job of acknowledging the somber moment while also setting up the show to go on. #GRAMMYs pic.twitter.com/38gnsoCNx7
— Blake McCoy (@BlakeMcCoyDC) January 27, 2020
Other artists paid tribute to Bryant as well, including Run DMC…
.@kobebryant jersey held up during Run DMC/Aerosmith performance #GRAMMYs pic.twitter.com/J5tlWPnmOi
— Joel Franco (@OfficialJoelF) January 27, 2020
…and Lil Nas X.
Lil Nas X sings “Old Town Road” alongside a Kobe Bryant jersey at the #GRAMMYs https://t.co/k6dOKYyZEH pic.twitter.com/Z2O8QavAcK
— Variety (@Variety) January 27, 2020
A tough night to celebrate music, but a good reminder that grief expressed together can become transcendent.