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Grammy Hosts: The Best, Worst and Most Irrelevant

Our picks for who did, and who didn't, win Grammy hosting gold, starring LL Cool J, Kelsey Grammer, Queen Latifah and more

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Jon Stewart was the host at the 44th Annual Grammy Awards held at the Staples Center In Los Angeles, Ca. Feb. 27, 2002. Photo
Kevin Winter

Until last year, The Grammy Awards hadn't had a host in seven years. LL Cool J ended that drought and led music's biggest night. And he passed the test! He'll host again this coming Sunday.

But not all The Grammy hosts have gone on to such success. In fact, some of them have really bombed...

We've combed through decades' worth of shows to bring you the best, worst and the most irrelevant hosts throughout the years.

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BEST: Andy Williams

In his heyday, Andy Williams conquered both music and TV as a crooning musician and fun variety show host. The Andy Williams Show continually featured big celebrities, giving him plenty of experience touching elbows with music's biggest stars.

Watch the 1975 clip above to see him making jokes alongside John Lennon and Paul Simon—not intimidating or anything! But Williams keeps his cool and keeps up with the musicians' dirty jokes. The result was hilarious, but never too crude, showing his ability to keep things fun and appropriate.

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BEST: Ellen DeGeneres

Perhaps in an attempt to prepare for her American Idol stint in 2010, Ellen DeGeneres hosted The Grammys in 1996 and 1997. Despite no musical ability herself, DeGeneres was appropriate because of her clear appreciation and respect for the musicians.

In the above clip, her admiration of this epic performance featuring Whitney Houston, Brandy, Mary J. Blige and CeCe Winians is unmistakable. While most hosts want to keep the show moving, Ellen continued clapping even when the camera cut to her. "Unbelievable," she said. "I feel like each of those were plucked directly from my life." 

It's no wonder she books the biggest music stars on her talk show.

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WORST: John Denver

Being nominated for Song of the Year at The Grammys is a huge deal. A HUGE deal! Undoubtedly, all the nominees begin freaking out when their category is announced.

Which is why it's a shame 1977 host John Denver (above) wasn't more empathetic to these nerves when he prolonged the process by singing a clip of each song before revealing the winner. The Grammys hired him five more times after that.

Why the torture, Mr. Denver? Aren't there enough performers at The Grammys anyway?

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As if being The Grammys' first host in seven years wasn't enough pressure, LL Cool J had to deal with how he would speak about Whitney Houston's death 24 hours earlier. The death put a somber tone over the whole night, but LL Cool J kept things dignified; he was fun when it was time to celebrate and respectful when it was time to be serious.

"There is no way around this. We had a death in our family," he said when beginning the show and led the hall in a prayer that saw everyone from Paul McCartney to Lady Gaga bowing their heads. CBS loved the wording so much that a special titled, The GRAMMYS Will Go On: A Death in the Family, will air the day before the broadcast.

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BEST: Queen Latifah

Queen Latifah had double duties during the 2005 Grammys when she hosted and performed at the event. She brought sophistication with a jazzy rendition of "Lush Life" and did a truly regal job.

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Kelsey Grammer was perhaps the oddest choice for a Grammys host as the actor had no musical background or stand-up comedy experience.

That becomes excruciatingly clear above when Bette Midler facetiously exclaimed, "This is such an important award that I simply cannot do it alone; I must have aid and comfort." Cue Kelsey Grammer...

He then came out in his way-too-formal-for-The-Grammys tuxedo and glasses to utter one line Midler undoubtedly could have done herself. His nervous, uptight demeanor continued throughout the whole show proving just because you have a hit show doesn't mean you're a hit host.

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BEST: Billy Crystal

We include Billy Crystal as one of the best hosts because of his genuine excitement and awe for the music greats he was announcing.

Get a sense of that wonder as he narrates the 1987 Grammy Awards' Salute to the Blues performance featuring legends like B.B. King, Etta James, Koko Taylor and more.

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WORST: Whoopi Goldberg

We love Whoopi Goldberg. We really do. She's even a Grammy winner herself (in 1985 for Best Comedy Recording).

But she really disappointed us in 1989 when presenting Smokey Robinson with his Grammy Living Legend Award and hardly took her eyes off the teleprompter! Watch above as Whoopi starts laughing mid-speech during the honor. 

Perhaps she just knew she was doing a lousy job?

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BEST: Rosie O'Donnell

Award show hosts have very special privileges—the power to insult whoever's in the audience who have no option other than grin and bear it.

Which is why it was so nice for Rosie O'Donnell to tell a fresh-faced Britney Spears in 2000, "I have no Britney Spears jokes, don't worry." Rosie then added, "Some people are mean on these award shows." 

There are enough nerves in the room at these award shows and anyone adding negativity to the room doesn't need to be hosting.

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WORST: Kenny Rogers

As the host of The Grammys, you get some fun indulgences. A few monologues, chatting with the biggest names in music and probably a sweet gift basket. 

But for Kenny Rogers' first gig in 1980 (he hosted again in 1986), he made everyone sit through a 7-minute duet with Donna Summer where all they did was stand on stage and occasionally look at each other.

We're all about paying our respects to the greats, but 7 minutes, dude?

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Did someone forget to tell Jon Stewart he was hosting music's biggest night? The 2002 host unwisely decided to kick off the show with a sketch about airport security.

He threw in three (lame) music jokes in there, but ultimately it just made no sense to start off The Grammys this way. Save it for your own show, Stewart.

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