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Winehouse rules Grammys, Soweto choir wins award

British pop singer Amy Winehouse, whose rapid descent from promising newcomer to emaciated junkie played out in the full glare of the public eye last year, took home five Grammy awards on Sunday.

But jazz veteran Herbie Hancock was the shock winner of the coveted album of the year award, preventing Winehouse from enjoying a historic clean sweep.

Winehouse (24) did win the key awards for record and song of the year for her hit tune Rehab, as well as best new artist. Her haul was rounded out by the female pop vocal solo performance for Rehab, and pop vocal album for Back to Black, her breakthrough release.

Hip-hop star Kanye West (30) who led all Grammy contenders with eight nominations, ended up with four awards. He was hoping for his first album of the year win, after losing with his two previous releases.

Yet it was Hancock who claimed the best album Grammy for River: The Joni Letters, a tribute to Canadian singer/songwriter Joni Mitchell. He also won the contemporary jazz album Grammy, bringing his career haul to 12. Virtually no one among the Grammy pundits had expected him to take the big prize. Even his nomination was a surprise.

”What a beautiful day this is in Los Angeles,” Hancock said, as he took the stage at the Staples Centre to pick up the album of the year award. ”Joni Mitchell, Joni Mitchell, Joni Mitchell, thank you so much.”

He said it was 43 years since a jazz artist won the album of the year award: Stan Getz and Joao Gilberto’s Getz/Gilberto.

Mitchell, coincidentally, won a pop instrumental Grammy for One Week Last Summer.

Even without album of the year, Winehouse savoured a stunning comeback. She entered a London rehab clinic last month after a long battle with drugs and alcohol. Just three weeks ago she was filmed appearing to be smoking crack cocaine at a party.

Because of the rehab — and problems getting a US work visa — Winehouse performed two songs live via satellite from a London venue. She performed confidently, offering a few sly grins.

Second win for Soweto Gospel Choir

Meanwhile, the Soweto Gospel Choir won a second Grammy for their album African Spirit. This is the second time in a row the group has scooped top accolades in the best traditional world music category.

Lucas Bok, the musical director of the album, as well as founder member Shimmy Jiyane, were called to the stage to accept the award.

”Soweto Gospel Choir is absolutely thrilled to have won a Grammy for the second time. It was so special to win last year, but twice in a row, is more than we ever could have hoped for,” said one of the group’s members.

”We are particularly excited as it shows that the level of our music has stayed consistently high, and this has been recognised by our peers. We hope we can continue to make South Africa proud.” – Sapa, Reuters

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