20 Greatest Grammy Awards Performances of All-Time

Michael Jackson, Prince, and Beyonce Lead The List

Since the first ceremony on May 4, 1959, the Grammy Awards has become the preeminent showcase for the greatest musical talent in the world. Here is a look at the ​20 greatest Grammy Awards performances of all time, including appearances by superstars Beyonce, Prince, Stevie Wonder, Whitney Houston, James Brown, Marvin Gaye, Tina Turner, Alicia Keys, Justin Timberlake, Pharrell Williams, Usher, Janet Jackson, Mary J. Blige, and of course, the "King of Pop" himself, Michael Jackson.

01
of 20

March 2, 1988 - Michael Jackson at the 30th Annual Grammy Awards

Michael Jackson. Dave Hogan/Getty Images

Michael Jackson received 13 Grammys during his phenomenal career, including a record eight trophies at the 26th Annual Grammy Awards held on February 28, 1984 at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles, California. Four years later, he gave the greatest performance in Grammy history at the 30th Annual Grammy Awards held on March 2, 1988 at Radio City Music Hall in New York. He sang "The Way You Make Me Feel" and "Man In The Mirror" from his Bad CD which was nominated for Album of the Year.

02
of 20

February 8, 2004 - Prince/Beyonce at the 46th Annual Grammy Awards

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Beyonce and Prince performing at the 2004 Grammy Awards. Michael Caulfield/WireImage

Two of the most dynamic and charismatic artists in the world, Prince  and Beyonce, united for an unforgettable performance at the 46th Annual Grammy Awards on February 8, 2004 at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, California. They opened the show, electrifying the audience with a medley of his hits "Purple Rain," "Baby I'm a Star," and Let's Go Crazy," and her debut solo single, "Crazy In Love," which was nominated for three awards, including Record Of the Year. That night, Beyonce tied the record of five Grammys won by a female artist in one year, a record she smashed in 2010 when she received six awards.

In 2004, she was honored for Best R&B Song and Best Rap/Sung Collaboration for "Crazy In Love" with Jay-Z, Best Female R&B Vocal Performance for "Dangerously in Love 2," Best R&B Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocals for "The Closer I Get to You" with Luther Vandross, and Best Contemporary R&B Album for Dangerously in Love.

03
of 20

February 10, 2008 - Beyonce/Tina Turner at the 50th Annual Grammy Awards

Beyonce and Tina Turner performing at the 50th Annual Grammy Awards at the Staples Center on February 10, 2008 in Los Angeles, California. Kevin Mazur/WireImage

Four years after igniting the stage with Prince at the 46th Annual Grammy Awards, Beyonce once again set the Grammys on fire, this time with her idol, Tina Turner. They brought the house down at the 50th Annual Grammy Awards held at the Staples Center in Los Angeles on February 10, 2008 with a riveting performance of the Ike and Tina classic, "Proud Mary." Turner was returning to the stage after a seven year hiatus, and Beyonce introduced her as a "legend" who embodies all "the glamour, the soul, the passion, the strength, and talent" of the greatest female performers. That night, Turner won her eighth Grammy, Album of the Year for s, the Joni Mitchell tribute CD recorded by Herbie Hancock featuring Turner and several other artists.

04
of 20

February 22, 1989 - Whitney Houston at the 31st Annual Grammy Awards

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Whitney Houston. Mick Hutson/Redferns

Whitney Houston's "One Moment In Time" was nominated for Best Pop Vocal Performance at the 31st Annual Grammy Awards. Although she did not win, her stirring opening performance was a magical highlight of the ceremony on February 22, 1989 at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles, California.

05
of 20

March 1, 1994 - Whitney Houston at the 36th Annual Grammy Awards

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Whitney Houston at the 1994 Grammy Awards. Larry Busacca/WireImage

March 1, 1994 was Whitney Houston night at the 36th Annual Grammy Awards held at Radio City Music Hall in New York as she won three trophies including Album of the Year for The Bodyguard Original Soundtrack. She placed her signature on the evening with her dramatic performance of the classic song which won Record of the Year, and Best Pop Vocal Performance, Female, "I Will Always Love You."

06
of 20

February 12, 2012 - Jennifer Hudson at the 54th Annual Grammy Awards

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ennifer Hudson performing tribute to the late Whitney Houston at 2012 Grammy Awards. John Shearer/WireImage

The world was shocked by the sudden death of Whitney Houston on February 11, 2012 at the Beverly Hilton Hotel In Beverly Hills, California, just hours before she scheduled to attend the annual star-studded pre-Grammy party hosted by her mentor, Clive Davis. The following night, at the 54th Annual Grammy Awards at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, one of her greatest admirers, Jennifer Hudson, sang an emotional tribute to her late idol, Houston's signature song, "I Will Always Love You."

07
of 20

Jan, 26, 2014- Stevie Wonder/Pharrell Williams/Nile Rodgers at 56th Ann. Grammys

Nile Rodgers, Stevie Wonder and Pharrell Williams performing during the 56th Grammy Awards at Staples Center on January 26, 2014 in Los Angeles, California. Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

Daft Punk swept the 56th Annual Grammy Awards on January 26, 2014 at Staples Center in Los Angeles, California winning five awards including Album of the Year for Random Access Memories, and Record of the Year, "Get Lucky" featuring Pharrell Williams and guitarist Nile Rodgers from Chic. The highlight of the evening was their riveting performance of "Get Lucky" with surprise guest Stevie Wonder, featuring the refrain from the Chic classic, "Le Freak," followed by Wonder's "Another Star."

08
of 20

January 31, 2010 - Beyonce at the 52nd Annual Grammy Awards

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Beyonce performing at the 2010 Grammy Awards. Michael Caulfield/WireImage

Beyonce set the record of six Grammy Awards won by a female artist in one night on January 31, 2010 at the 52nd Annual Grammy Awards held at Staples Center in Los Angeles, California. Her honors included Song of The Year for "Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)," and she put her personal stamp on the event with her performance of "If I Were A Boy" and "You Oughta Know."

09
of 20

February 27, 2002 - Christina Aguilera/Pink/Mya/Lil Kim at 44th Grammys

Pink, Christina Aguilera and Mya during The 44th Annual Grammy Awards on February 27, 2002 at Staples Center in Los Angeles, California. Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic, Inc

One of the sexiest performances in Grammy history occurred at the 44th Annual Grammy Awards held on February 27, 2002 at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, California when Christina Aguilera, Pink, Mya, and Lil Kim sang the Labelle classic, "Lady Marmalade" from the Moulin Rouge soundtrack. Clad in radiant lingerie, the ladies were joined onstage by Patti LaBelle, and won the Grammy for
Best Pop Collaboration with Vocals.

10
of 20

February 20, 1987 - Whitney Houston at the 29th Annual Grammy Awards

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Whitney Houston at the 1987 Grammy Awards. Chris Walter/WireImage

Whitney Houston's version of "Greatest Love Of All" was nominated for Record of the Year at the 29th Annual Grammy Awards held on February 20, 1987. It lost to "Higher Love" by Steve Winwood, however the voters may have wanted to change their minds after Houston's powerful performance of the song at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles, California.

11
of 20

February 8, 2006 - Alicia Keys/Stevie Wonder at the 48th Annual Grammys

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Alicia Keys and Stevie Wonder at the 2006 Grammy Awards. Bob Riha Jr/WireImage

Stevie Wonder and Alicia Keys performed an inspiring tribute to the victims of Hurricane Katrina at the 48th Annual Grammy Awards held  on February 8, 2006 at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, California. They were the first presenters at the ceremony, and Keys said, “We can’t ignore that the past year has been a hard one for a lot of people including our friends from New Orleans — that most musical city — and the Gulf Coast." Wonder joined her in stating that music can lift us to a "Higher Ground," and then they brought the audience to its feet with an a cappella version of his classic song from his 1973 Album of the Year, Innervisions.

12
of 20

February 13, 2005 - Alicia Keys/Jamie Foxx/Quincy Jones at the 47th Ann. Grammys

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amie Foxx and Alicia Keys performing at the 2005 Grammy Awards. Frank Micelotta/Getty Images

Alicia Keys, Jamie Foxx, and Quincy Jones paid tribute to the late Ray Charles at the 47th Annual Grammy Awards held on February 13, 2005 at Staples Center in Los Angeles, California. After performing her hit “If I Ain’t Got You” which won Best Female R&B Vocal Performance, Keys was joined on stage by Charles' long time friend, Jones, and Foxx, who won an Oscar portraying Charles in the 2004 film, Ray. Foxx said, “For an old friend,” before they lifted the audience with a joyous version of Charles' classic “Georgia On My Mind” with Jones conducting the orchestra. That night, Charles' posthumous duets album, Genius Loves Company, won eight awards, including Album of the Year. 

Charles passed away June 10, 2004 at the age of 73.

13
of 20

February 27, 2002 - Mary J. Blige at the 44th Annual Grammy Awards

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Mary J. Blige performing at the 2002 Grammy Awards. Frank Micelotta/ImageDirect

Mary J. Blige was nominated for two awards at the 44th Annual Grammy Awards held on February 27, 2002, and although she did not win, she made a musical statement remembered by everyone in attendance at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, California. "The Queen of Hip-Hop Soul" was up for Best Female R&B Vocal Performance for "Family Affair," and Best R&B Album for No More Drama. The title tune was her new mantra,  and she performed it with a fierce conviction that let the world she had changed her life and put all the negativity behind her.

14
of 20

2005 - Usher/James Brown at the 47th Annual Grammy Awards

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Usher and James Brown performing at the 47th Annual Grammy Awards. KMazur/WireImage for The Recording Academy

One of the greatest dance-offs in Grammy history occurred at the 47th Annual Grammy Awards held on February 13, 2005 at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, California when the pupil, Usher, met his idol, James Brown. Usher began performing his hit "Caught Up" from Confessions which won Best Contemporary R&B Album. He dazzled the audience with his amazing footwork, then he was joined by the Godfather of Soul for an incredible dancing display as they sang his classic, "Get Up (I Feel Like Being a) Sex Machine."

15
of 20

February 8, 2006 - U2/Mary J. Blige at the 48th Annual Grammy Awards

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Mary J. Blige performing with Bono and U2 at the 2006 Grammy Awards. Mary J. Blige joins Bono and his band U2 to perform 'One' (Photo by KMazur/WireImage for The Recording Academy

U2 was the big winner at the 48th Annual Grammy Awards held on February 8, 2006 at the Staples Center, and one of the great memories of the night was their collaboration with Mary J. Blige. The Irish band won five awards including Album of the Year for How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb, and they shared the stage with "The Queen of Hip-Hop Soul" for a powerful performance of "One" which was nominated the following year for Best Pop Collaboration with Vocals.

16
of 20

February 23, 1983 - Marvin Gaye at the 25th Annual Grammy Awards

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Marvin Gaye. Paul Natkin/WireImage

Marvin Gaye only won two Grammys during his legendary career; both at the 25th annual Grammy Awards held on February 23, 1983 at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles, California. Gaye's "Sexual Healing" was honored for Best R&B Vocal Performance, Male, and Best R&B Instrumental Performance. He sang his triumphant song at the Shrine Auditorium that evening in Los Angeles, California, and the following year, on April 1, 1984, one day before his 45th birthday, he was fatally shot by his father. 

17
of 20

February 24, 1987 - Janet Jackson at the 29th Annual Grammy Awards

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Janet Jackson. Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Janet Jackson received three nominations, including Album of the Year for Control, at the 29th Annual Grammy Awards held on February 24, 1987. Although she did not win, she emerged from the shadow of her brother, Michael Jackson, and demonstrated that she was also a great entertainer. "What Have You Done For Me Lately?" from Control was up for Best R&B Song, and Miss Jackson answered the question with an authoritative exclamation point, commanding the stage with her exhilarating choreography at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles. Adding a taste of "Nasty," she was joined by Jimmy Jam, Terry Lewis, and Jerome Benton from The Time.

18
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February 11, 2007 - Christina Aguilera at the 49th Annual Grammy Awards

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hristina Aguilera performing at the 2007 Grammy Awards. Kevin Winter/Getty Images

James Brown passed away December 25, 2006, and when it was announced that Christina Aguilera would perform a tribute to him at the 49th Annual Grammy Awards on February 11, 2007 at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, California, there was skepticism that she could do justice to "The Godfather of Soul." She proved the doubters completely wrong with her first note, passionately belting his classic, "It's A Man's Man's Man's World." As a video of "The Hardest Working Man in Show Business" played behind her, Aguilera earned a standing ovation, dropping to her knees and working the microphone in the glorious tradition of "Mr. Please, Please, Please."

19
of 20

February 10, 2013 - Justin Timberlake/Jay-Z at the 55th Annual Grammys

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Justin Timberlake and Jay-Z performing at the 2013 Grammy Awards. Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

The 55th Annual Grammy Awards on February 10, 2013 at Staples Center in Los Angeles, California marked the comeback of Justin Timberlake, who emerged following a seven year hiatus from performing live. He came back strong with old school glamor and tuxedo flair, performing "Suit and Tie" with Jay-Z, and "Pusher Love Girl" with a full orchestra. Both songs won Grammys the following year in 2014.

20
of 20

February 11, 2007 - Chris Brown at the 49th Annual Grammy Awards

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Lionel Ritchie, Chris Brown and Smokey Robinson at the 2007 Grammy Awards. Kevin Winter/Getty Images

Chris Brown was nominated for Best New Artist in 2007, and although he did not win, he presented some of the most acrobatic dancing in Grammy history when he performed "Run It!" at the 49th Annual Grammy Awards held on Sunday February 11, 2007 at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, California. Brown followed songs by Lionel Richie and Smokey Robinson, who hugged him on stage following his performance.

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Simmons, Ken. "20 Greatest Grammy Awards Performances of All-Time." ThoughtCo, Feb. 10, 2017, thoughtco.com/unforgettable-grammy-awards-performances-2850851. Simmons, Ken. (2017, February 10). 20 Greatest Grammy Awards Performances of All-Time. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/unforgettable-grammy-awards-performances-2850851 Simmons, Ken. "20 Greatest Grammy Awards Performances of All-Time." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/unforgettable-grammy-awards-performances-2850851 (accessed November 24, 2017).