The organisers of the Grammy awards scrambled to recast the annual ceremony as a tribute to Whitney Houston, whose death plunged the music world into mourning on the eve of its most star-spangled night.
The tragedy cast a particular pall because Houston, who had won six gongs at the event over her career, had been due to attend a pre-Grammy party hosted by Clive Davis. The music mogul had given the diva her first recording contract.
In a tragic turn of events, the star had died in a hotel room a few floors above the party, just a few hours earlier in the day.
Jennifer Hudson, who was presented with her first Grammy by Houston in 2009, would perform a tribute at the refashioned ceremony, it was quickly announced. Scriptwriters were called in to re-engineer the show, which was to become a celebration of Houston's life and music.
Los Angeles police have released few details of the star's death. A member of her entourage found the singer and alerted security at the Beverly Hilton hotel but paramedics, who were already on site for Davis' gala, failed to revive the singer. She was pronounced dead at 3.55pm local time on Saturday.
Some reports suggested she had been found submerged in her bathtub and that prescription pills were found in the hotel suite. The celebrity news site TMZ.com reported that family members claimed Houston had been taking Xanax for anxiety.
At Mr Davis's party, R&B stars Brandy and Monica decided not to perform as they were grief stricken. They had prepared for their duet with help from Houston last week, though observers said Houston had appeared dishevelled and had smelt of drink and cigarettes at the rehearsals.
Others, though, said she had appeared happy in her final days.
On Thursday, she appeared with fellow singer Kelly Price on stage at a Hollywood club, where she sang the hymn "Yes, Jesus Loves Me" to loud cheers.
Houston's Grammy-winning music was immediately in demand as the news of her death broke and by lunchtime yesterday she accounted for 36 of the top 200 songs on iTunes. Her greatest hits collection was the No 1 album, with the soundtrack to her movie The Bodyguard at No 8.