Legend outlined the melody of the 1960s pop standard with spare piano playing. After he delivered a verse and Erivo added her contribution, they paused their performance as the screen showed the faces of the deceased – a group that includes Prince, George Michael, Sharon Jones, Leonard Cohen, Juan Gabriel, Phife Dawg and many more. Following the visual tribute, Legend and Erivo finished their rendition of “God Only Knows” with an emotional, melismatic repetition of the title phrase.
Legend is a frequent presence at the Grammys. He has been nominated a whopping 27 times and has taken home 10 awards, including the coveted Best New Artist honor in 2006. His most recent win was in 2016 for “Glory,” a song with the rapper Common that appeared in the movie Selma.
Legend released a new album, Darkness and Light, last December, after the deadline for this year’s Grammy ceremony. He’s starting his 2017 with several appearances at high-profile awards shows: in addition to this Grammys performance, he’ll be playing a pair of songs from the movie La La Land at the upcoming Academy Awards. In May, Legend heads out on a U.S. tour with the singer Gallant.
Legend’s duet partner during the night’s performance, Erivo, already won a Grammy on Sunday: as a member of the cast of the musical The Color Purple, she won a Grammy Award for Best Musical Theater Album.