Alicia Keys and Boyz II Men give a moving tribute to Kobe Bryant at the Grammys.

(January 26, 2020).  After being introduced as host of the 62nd Grammy Awards tonight at Staples Center in L.A., singer Alicia Keys opened with a small but sincere tribute to Kobe Bryant, the Los Angeles Lakers legend who died in a helicopter crash earlier in the day in nearby Calabasas along with his 13-year-old daughter Gianna and seven others.

Alicia Keys at the 2020 Grammy Awards at LA’s Staples Center on January 26, 2020.

After the opening performance by this year’s most nominated artist Lizzo, who herself gave Kobe a shout-out before performing “Cuz I Love You” and “Truth Hurts,” Keys gave a somber opening speech that was understated but understandable given the proximity of the evening’s event to the day’s shocking tragedy.

“Here we are together on music’s biggest night celebrating the artists that do it best but to be honest with you we’re all feeling crazy sadness right now because earlier today in Los Angeles, America and the whole wide world lost a hero. 

“We’re literally standing here heartbroken in the house that Kobe Bryant built,” she said, referring to the Staples Center.

“Right now, Kobe and his daughter Gianna and all those tragically lost today are in our spirits, in our hearts, in our prayers, and they’re in this building. I would like to ask everybody to take a moment and just hold them inside of you and share our strength and support with their families.  We never imagined in a million years we’d have to start the show like this, so we wanted to do something do describe a tiny bit how we feel right now.”

She then launched into one of the saddest ballads in pop and soul music history, “It’s So Hard to Say Goodbye to Yesterday,” before being joined onstage by Boyz II Men, whose version of the Cooley High classic was a No. 2 hit in 1991.

It was a most fitting tribute considering Boyz II Men hail from Philly, Kobe’s hometown, and the Staples Center is considered “the house that Kobe built” as the home of the Lakers, for whom Bryant played his entire 20-year NBA career.

This year’s Grammys had tributes planned for the late pop/soul/rock superstar Prince, who died unexpectedly in 2016, and rapper Nipsey Hussle, who was killed by gunfire in 2019.  So to fit in another tribute at the beginning of the telecast to such a looming figure as Kobe, whose death occurred just hours earlier, was noteworthy and commendable.  And it was a sentiment that would no doubt be carried throughout the remainder of the show, as both Keys and Lizzo noted with additional comments during later appearances in the ceremony’s first hour.  

Yeah, it may be “music’s biggest night,” but the venue’s biggest star, basketball legend (and one-time rapper) Kobe Bryant, was absent – lost in an instant on a mountainside while he and his young daughter traveled to her basketball game not far away. 

Tell someone you love – but haven’t told in a while – that you love them.  


Kobe Bryant (August 23, 1978 – January 26, 2020)

DJRob is a freelance blogger who covers R&B, hip-hop, pop and rock genres – plus lots of music news and current stuff!  You can follow him on Twitter @djrobblog.

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