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Grammys love a genius and a surprise

Los Angeles, Feb. 14 (Agencies): The Grammys got soul last night, posthumously honouring Ray Charles with wins in eight categories, including the coveted album and record of the year prizes.

Charles' song Here we go again, with Norah Jones, won record of the year and best pop collaboration with vocals. 'I'm going to cry, actually,' Jones said as she accepted the trophy for record of the year. 'I think it just shows how wonderful music can be.'

But leading nominee Kanye West stole the show shortly after being snubbed in one of the biggest shocks in the event's recent history.

The rap newcomer, whose debut album was one of the most acclaimed releases of last year, had been favoured to win the coveted best new artist award. Instead, it went to clean-cut pop band Maroon5, whose members were stunned when their names were announced. 'It seemed unreal,' Maroon5 frontman Adam Levine said backstage. 'He deserves it as much as we do, so I feel we shared it with him.'

The oversight shocked West into delivering an intense performance of his inner-city anthem Jesus Walks during a special gospel segment, and then he was named winner of the best rap album Grammy for The College Dropout.

West took the high road, telling reporters: 'I love Maroon5.' It was a far cry from his outburst at the American Music Awards last November when he lost the new artist race to country singer Gretchen Wilson.

Grammy organisers, who have taken a lot of heat over the years for some dubious choices, have tightened up selection procedures. But the West oversight, after he released one of the most acclaimed albums of 2004, could prompt renewed criticism of the event's credibility.

This year's Grammys marked the first time Charles ever received the album prize, and the first time the award has gone to a deceased artist since John Lennon (and widow Yoko Ono) won the prize in 1982 for Double Fantasy.

Charles' career Grammy haul now stands at 17, tied with bluegrass musician Alison Krauss and Irish rockers U2 at No. 8 on the all-time list of Grammy winners.

'He's just made his career about another 50 years longer,' said Phil Ramone, one of the producers of Genius Loves Company, which Charles worked on until a few months before his death last June at the age of 73. The album had been a sentimental favourite, especially given the Oscar buzz surrounding Jamie Foxx's electric turn as the 'genius of soul' in the movie Ray.

The Grammys were long on tributes and short on controversy, thanks to a self-censored performance by punk trio Green Day and Sheryl Crow's peek-a-boo yellow gown, which covered just enough. The Grammys were carried live on CBS, the network that drew fire following Janet Jackson's now-infamous 'wardrobe malfunction' at last year's Super Bowl.

A big moment was an emotional duet by English newcomer Joss Stone and Melissa Etheridge, whose bald head was testament to her struggle with breast cancer.

The Grammys have also been the venue of choice for edgy and sometimes flesh-baring fashion, most notably the navel-baring gown worn by Jennifer Lopez in 2000.

The only distant echo on Sunday was Crow's dress, which she wore onstage with cycling champion boyfriend Lance Armstrong, joking it was made from one of his Tour de France jerseys.

Clinton encore

Former President Bill Clinton kept up his unlikely 100 per cent Grammys record by winning his second trophy in as many years. He won in the spoken word album category for his recording of his best-selling autobiography, My Life. He won his first Grammy last year for the best spoken word album for children.

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