February 13, 2005 08:00 PM

When the Grammy dust settled Sunday night at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, the late Ray Charles and his best-selling, posthumous, final album, Genius Loves Company, emerged as the top winner, with a total of eight Grammys.

These included trophies for album of the year, best pop album and best pop collaboration for “Here We Go Again,” with Norah Jones – a collaboration that was also named record of the year. A tearful Jones accepted the award on behalf of Charles.

Alicia Keys went home with four Grammys – including the one she and Usher each received for best R&B performance by a duo or group with vocals for their No. 1 duet, “My Boo.” Keys also won for her best R&B album, The Diary of Alicia Keys.

Usher and Kanye West were both triple winners. Accepting the rap album Grammy for his The College Dropout, West acknowledged that he went into the evening with a year’s best of 10 nominations, saying during his lengthy speech: “Everybody wanted to know what I would do if I didn’t win. I guess we’ll never know.”

John Mayer won two Grammys, for song of the year, “Daughters,” and for best male pop performance. At the podium he thanked his Grammy – that is, his grandmother – “for having an awesome daughter, my mom.”

Maroon 5 was named best new artist, over Kanye West, Gretchen Wilson, Joss Stone and Los Lonely Boys, prompting frontman Adam Levine to clutch his award and declare: “This is the trippiest thing” he ever experienced.

Best rock album was American Idiot, the critically hailed rock opera by multiple nominee Green Day. Los Lonely Boys won for best pop group with vocals, for their song “Heaven.” Prince nabbed best R&B male performance for “Call My Name” – only the artist formerly known as the Artist Formerly Known as Prince was a no-show.

The country album Grammy went to Loretta Lynn, for her Van Lear Rose. Receiving a standing ovation (and taking the stage with the White Stripes’ Jack White, who produced the album) the 69-year-old star announced: “I love Tim McGraw.” Then, addressing his wife, Faith Hill, Lynn added: “Faith, I can’t help it.”

U2 took the rock song Grammy for their single “Vertigo.” Instead of performing the song on the show, however, the band chose instead to do “Sometimes You Can’t Make It on Your Own,” dedicating it to lead singer Bono’s father, who died in 2001.

Quincy Jones, acting as conductor, and Jamie Foxx, who in two weeks is expected to win the Best Actor Oscar for his portrayal of Ray Charles in the film bio Ray, joined Alicia Keys for one of two of the evening’s tributes to the music great, who died last June.

Jennifer Lopez and Marc Anthony

Another impressive musical tribute was paid the late Janis Joplin, performed by Melissa Etheridge and Joss Stone. In memory of those who died in the Dec. 26 tsunami, a galaxy of stars, including Bono, Stevie Wonder, Brian Wilson, Alicia Keys and Norah Jones, sang the Beatles’ “Across the Universe.” The performance will be sold on Apple’s iTunes Music Store, with proceeds going to the relief efforts.

Appearing in their first-ever public duet, Marc Anthony and Jennifer Lopez belted his torch song “Escapemonos” while sitting on an oversized bed. Eliciting only polite applause, the romantic number then segued into a high-voltage Southern rock medley featuring Lynyrd Skynyrd, Gretchen Wilson, Tim McGraw and others.

To accommodate the numerous musical performances and presentations of lifetime achievement awards (to Joplin, Led Zeppelin and others), several of the evening’s winners were announced before the telecast.

Among them: Britney Spears, who earned her first Grammy for best dance recording (“Toxic”); Scrubs actor Zach Braff, whose movie Garden State won for its best compilation soundtrack; and former President Bill Clinton, for best spoken word album – for his adaptation of his best-selling autobiography, My Life.

Here’s a rundown of the night’s major winners:

Album of the Year : Genius Loves Company, Ray Charles
Record of the Year : “Here We Go Again,” Ray Charles and Norah Jones
Song of the Year: “Daughters,” John Mayer
Best New Artist: Maroon 5
Pop Album: Genius Loves Company, Ray Charles
Rap Album: The College Dropout, Kanye West
Rock Album: American Idiot, Green Day
Country Album: Van Lear Rose, Loretta Lynn
R&B Album: The Diary of Alicia Keys, Alicia Keys
Electronic Music/Dance Album: Kish Kash, Basement Jaxx
Alternative Album: A Ghost Is Born, Wilco

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