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Joni Mitchell, Tracy Chapman and Celine Dion bring Grammys audience to its feet in show's most powerful moments Print-ready version

Women dominated the winners' list and the conversation at the 66th annual Grammy Awards on Sunday night.

by Suzy Byrne
Yahoo!
February 5, 2024

Joni Mitchell giving her first-ever Grammys performance at age 80. In 2015, the folk singer was unable to speak after suffering a brain aneurysm, but she fought her way back. (Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for the Recording Academy)

Sunday's Grammy Awards turned out to be a celebratory night for women in music. Taylor Swift made history with her fourth Album of the Year win, Miley Cyrus brought home her first and second Grammys, and Billie Eilish, Victoria Monét, SZA, Lainey Wilson, Karol G and boygenius were all victorious.

It went beyond just checks in the win category, however. Some of the most poignant show moments involved female greats. Joni Mitchell, 80, performed at the Grammys for the first time in her storied career. Tracy Chapman made a rare appearance, being paired with Luke Combs to perform her 36-year-old-hit "Fast Car," which he had success covering. And vocal powerhouse Celine Dion, who has been sidelined with the debilitating stiff-person syndrome, received a standing ovation when she made a surprise appearance to present.

Joni Mitchell's 1st-ever Grammys performance after fighting back from 'near-fatal' aneurysm

While the "Big Yellow Taxi" singer is one of the most influential singer-songwriters from the '60s folk revival era and won 10 Grammy Awards as well as the 2022 MusiCares Person of the Year honor, she hadn't had a Grammy moment as a performer until last night.

Joined by her super-champion Brandi Carlile - who dubbed her the "matriarch of imagination" in a moving introduction - as well as Jacob Collier, Lucius, Blake Mills, Allison Russell and SistaStrings, Mitchell sang her hit "Both Sides Now," which was originally released in 1969, from a throne-like chair fit for a musical queen. It was a remarkable moment from the performer, who suffered what Carlile described onstage as a "near-fatal" brain aneurysm in 2015 which left Mitchell hospitalized for months and unable to speak, let alone sing. She remained largely out of the spotlight as she recovered.

Joni Mitchell has Grammys audience in tears with first ever performance at awardsScroll back up to restore default view. It wasn't Mitchell's only time on the stage. She also received a standing ovation as she walked out, with assistance, to collect the Grammy for Best Folk Album for Joni Mitchell at Newport (Live). It was at that Rhode Island festival in 2022 where Mitchell made a triumphant return to the stage, performing a surprise set, her first full-length one in more than 20 years, with Carlile and others.

Tracy Chapman's very rare performance brings the room to its feet

Chapman's "Fast Car" was a huge hit when it came out - as her lead single on her self-titled debut studio album - in 1988, winning her the Grammy for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance (and two others) at the following year's ceremony. Fast-forward several decades to country singer Combs, who had long covered it during his concerts, releasing his cover of the hit - which he called one of his favorite songs of all time - on his 2023 album, Gettin' Old. The song - in its country rendition - took on a new life.

Chapman, who leads a largely private life despite her musical success, didn't attend the CMA Awards in November when Combs's cover won Song of the Year in November, and Chapman, 59, became the first Black songwriter to win in that category. So it was a big moment to see her make a rare appearance onstage at the Grammys with Combs.

Chapman hasn't performed publicly in several years, and the audience couldn't get enough. Swift stood and sang along the entire time, while Oprah Winfrey, Kacey Musgraves and Kelly Clarkson also celebrated the moment. When it was over, host Trevor Noah said, "The legendary Tracy Chapman, everybody. Thank you so much for that!"

Celine Dion makes surprise appearance

The Canadian songstress's career has been paused amid her battle with stiff-person syndrome, a rare autoimmune neurological disorder that causes muscle stiffness and painful spasms and has left her unable to perform. The 55-year-old disclosed her diagnosis in 2022 after numerous postponements of her Las Vegas residency and other scheduled performances.

The audience applauded her bravery when she appeared to close out Sunday's show. The five-time Grammy winner, accompanied onstage by her eldest son, René-Charles Angélil, had the audience out of their seats.

"Thank you all," she said, visibly moved by the display. "I love you right back. ... When I say I'm happy to be here, I really mean it."

Dion recently announced a documentary about her health struggles.

The 66th annual Grammy Awards was a female-dominated night beyond these music legends. Some other highlights:

Swift made history for winning Album of the Year, for Midnights, the fourth time. That's more than any artist has received in that category, besting Frank Sinatra, Paul Simon, Stevie Wonder and other greats. At the show, Swift, who now has 14 Grammys, announced her 11th studio album, The Tortured Poets Department.

Cyrus brought home her first and second Grammys - for "Flowers" (Record of the Year and Best Pop Solo Performance).

Billie Eilish, Best New Artist Victoria Monét, SZA, Lainey Wilson, Karol G and boygenius were all big winners.

This power play comes six years after former Recording Academy president Neil Portnow controversially said female artists needed to "step up" after women won only 17 of the 86 awards at that year's primetime telecast.

Phoebe Bridgers of boygenius called out Portnow - who was accused of rape last year in a lawsuit (he has denied the accusation) - backstage last night after accepting one of her three new Grammys.

"I have something to say about women," Bridgers told reporters. "The ex-president of the Recording Academy, Neil Portnow, said that if women want to be nominated and win Grammys that they should step up. He's also being accused of sexual violence. And to him I'd like to say, I know you're not dead yet, but when you are, rot in piss."

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Added to Library on February 5, 2024. (683)

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