U2's trophies included song of the year for "Sometimes You Can't Make it On Your Own," written by Bono in memory of his father, a postal worker who sang opera in his spare time and who Bono credits as the man who gave him both an attitude and a voice.
"If you think this is going to go to our head, it's too late," said, carting off yet another trophy.
As for the experience, well - "Being in a rock band is like running away with the circus," said the U2 frontman, "except you always think you're gonna be the ringmaster. You don't expect that on more than a few occasions you may look ... the clown, the freak."
Guitarist The Edge said the awards mean a lot to the group, "but even more precious than the awards is the gift you've all afforded us - you've allowed us to continue to make our music."
U2 provided one of the more rousing performances in the jam-packed show as they sung their hit "Vertigo" and then joined R&B queen Mary J. Blige's for their classic "One," which has become an anthem for Bono's activism on behalf of the poor. It's not the first time that Blige and Bono have teamed up – the two performed the same song last fall in one of the televised benefits for victims of Hurricane Katrina.
Alicia Keys and Stevie Wonder energized the crowd as they introduced the first award. Wonder pulled out his harmonica and the two soulfully sang his classic "Higher Ground" as a tribute to the late, whose funeral was on Tuesday.
"Let's keep trying to reach that higher ground," said Keys. "I forever want to reach that higher ground."
John Legend beat out Wonder, Keys, Fantasia and Earth, Wind & Fire to snag best R&B album for his platinum debut, "Get Lifted." He picked up his second trophy for best male R&B vocal for "Ordinary People."
Alison Krauss & Union Station also had three awards each, including for best country album, while Wonder, who released his first album in ten years last year, also won two.
John Prine surprised himself, as he won best contemporary folk album for "Fair & Square."
"I didn't expect to be up here," said Prine as he claimed his trophy. "I showed up because I got nominated. All the other nominees are sitting at home in my record collection."
For Mariah Carey – one of the best-selling artists of all time – it was a good night, but not one for the history books. She had been nominated for eight Grammys – an opportunity to make history, since no woman has ever won more than five in one night – and did win three.
But those awards were on the list of those handed out before the televised ceremony, so even though she won – her first since two Grammys as a newcomer in 1990 – Carey was shut out throughout most of the show that America saw.