And Grammy winners and losers told The Early Show national correspondent Hattie Kauffman that Charles deserved all the honors. His final album, "Genius Loves Company," was released just months after his death.
"I think that Ray Charles really represented the fabric of what America is supposed to be about. …He crossed all the boundaries that weren't supposed to be crossed," Stevie Wonder told Kauffman.
Paying tribute to Charles,and performed his classic ballad, "Georgia."
"He totally and completely deserves every single thing, and if anything, it's late," Keys said. She won Best R&B Album honors.
"You have so many Grammys already," Kauffman said to Keys, "but do you still get butterflies when they say, 'And the Grammy goes to…'?"
"Oh, definitely," Keys says. "There's a certain element of butterflies and anticipation, but I really like to not really focus on that so much, you know. For the evening, I really am so proud to be here."
Charles' album of duets featured him singing with Elton John, Willie Nelson, Norah Jones, and others.
"What did you think when you were asked to be a part of it?" Kauffman asked Jones.
"At first, I thought, 'I can't sing with Ray Charles, I'm just going to sound stupid.' But then I thought, 'Of course, how could I pass up that opportunity?' It was amazing."
"I wish Ray could have been here tonight," Kauffman observed.
"He's watching, I promise you," laughed producer Phil Ramone and John Burk. "Ray was here tonight, no doubt about that. Because I could hear him laughing, 'What, five Grammy's? Seven?'"
Duets seemed to be the theme of the night. Three-time winnerkicked up his heels with the legendary James Brown and newlyweds Jennifer Lopez and Mark Anthony gave their first joint performance since their marriage.
Also, Melissa Etheridge showed her strength after battling cancer, when she joined Joss Stone in a powerful tribute to the late Janis Joplin.
Etheridge told Kauffman she's "doing great."
The man with the most nominations, Kanye West, won Best Rap album, which he recorded after a serious car accident that shattered his jaw.
West brought down the house with his controversial song, "Jesus Walks."
Asked by Kauffman how gratifying it was, West responded, "Webster hasn't made the words to describe how I feel on a night like tonight. This is the Grammys. …I just won at the Grammys! I tap on my mom, like, and my dad…and I'll just tell them, like, 'We're at the Grammys!' I just want remind them where we're at."
Grammy Song of the Year was "Daughters," John Mayer's plea to parents to treat their daughters well.
Mayer made a surprising revelation to Kauffman: "I (had) said, "I don't think it should be a single…because it's such a personal song. …It happens to be very personal and dear to me, but it's just that to try and sing a song like that, I don't think I'd believe the person who sang 'Fathers, be good to your daughters.' I think I'd probably gag myself, you know?"
The broadcast included an all-star lineup singing for tsunami relief.
"Helping those less fortunate, that's the way you really say to God, 'Thank you,'" Wonder noted.
Queen Latifah did double duty as host and performer, risking a "wardrobe malfunction" in the process when she ripped off her skirt.
"Everyone expects Usher to rip off his shirt, but you ripped off your skirt," Kauffman pointed out.
"You know," Latifah responded, "Baby get lost, is like, hey, Mama Moore is stepping out here, let's take that off, let's show a little leg and have a little fun with these guys in this tuxedo. That was the plan and I'm just glad it went over perfectly."