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Newcomers and veterans celebrated in pre-Grammy festivities

By Piya Sinha-Roy

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Music's biggest names gathered to celebrate the trailblazers and veterans of their industry at music producer Clive Davis's annual pre-Grammy party, remembering Whitney Houston and honoring the work of Epic Records' L.A. Reid.

Last year's pre-Grammy festivities was marred by the sudden death of Houston in a bathtub at the same hotel a few hours before Davis' party.

Dubbed the hottest ticket in town on the eve of Sunday's Grammy awards, Davis' party attracted celebrities such as Johnny Depp, Sting, Katy Perry, John Mayer, Miley Cyrus, Joni Mitchell, P. Diddy, The Foo Fighters and Frank Ocean.

Davis kicked off the party by "introducing" his audience to electronic dance music, with a performance by Dutch DJ Afrojack, who played his remix of chart-topping hits including Beyonce's "Run the World (Girls)" and Gotye's Grammy-nominated hit "Somebody That I Used to Know."

The night featured a range of musical guests taking the stage, including veteran rocker Patti Smith, who performed "Gloria" and "People Have The Power," while R&B singer Miguel sang his Grammy-nominated hit "Adorn."

The annual Grammy Awards ceremony, to be aired later on Sunday on CBS, honors the best musicians of the year, but is also a promotional showcase for rising stars and new albums.

Best New Artist Grammy nominees The Lumineers, a indie-folk band from Denver, Colorado, got the party crowd dancing to their chart hits "Ho Hey" and "Stubborn Love."

Throughout the evening, Davis often referred to Houston, and showed a montage of the late singer's career highlights, including footage of her singing "All The Man That I Need."

"I felt her energy, I felt her love ... and I want to remind you why she was so special ... she was the greatest contemporary singer of our lifetime," Davis said.

Houston's brother Gary and sister-in-law Pat were at the party.

LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENTS

Each year, Davis picks an artist or band as the "one to watch," and this year he chose British singer Emeli Sande, saying "her performance you will not soon forget. She is about to break out in a big way."

Sande, 25, who gained worldwide attention after performing at both the opening and closing ceremonies at the London Olympics last summer, sang her hits "Heaven" and "Next to Me."

The night's honoree was Epic Records chairman and CEO L.A. Reid, who has been responsible for launching the careers of many chart-topping artists in the past decade, including Mariah Carey, OutKast, Babyface, Jennifer Lopez, Usher, Pink, Avril Lavigne, Kanye West, Rihanna and Justin Bieber.

Reid, who appeared as a judge on television reality singing competition "The X Factor" for two seasons, said his "existence" was about music.

"I live for opening doors for young, creative people ... all of us that have success, we have a responsibility to pass it on, to pave it forward for the next generation of superstars," he said.

Reid was introduced by Kenneth "Babyface" Edmonds, who regaled the audience with stories from their youth, while Usher took the stage to sing his hit song "U Got it Bad," interjecting his performance to tell stories about Reid.

Davis ended his party with a performance by Jennifer Hudson and soul singer Gladys Knight, in a tribute to Knight's career.

Hudson sang Knight's "Take My Hand" solo, before the veteran singer joined her on stage for a duet of "I Heard it Through The Grapevine." Knight wrapped up the festivities with renditions of "Neither One of Us" and "Midnight Train to Georgia."

Earlier in the night, the Recording Academy hosted their Special Merits awards at a non-televised ceremony in Los Angeles, handing out the technical Grammys and lifetime achievement accolades.

Jazz musician Charlie Haden, 75, was on hand to collect his lifetime achievement award, saying he was "honored and privileged" to receive a Grammy. Singer-songwriter Carole King and Motown group The Temptations also received awards for their illustrious musical careers and contributions.

Among those honored posthumously with lifetime achievements were pianist Glenn Gould, acoustic blues rocker Lightnin' Hopkins, country-pop singer Patti Page, and Indian sitar player Ravi Shankar, who died aged 92 in December 2012.

Shankar's daughters, sitar player Anoushka and Grammy-winning singer Norah Jones, accepted the award.

"When I watched him play, he could take people to this incredible meditative state where they'd close their eyes and just cry and get in touch with something more important," Anoushka said.

(Editing by Alison Williams)

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