LOS ANGELES – Aretha Franklin missed Sunday's Grammy Awards, but the Queen of Soul was far from forgotten.
The show's first 15 minutes were devoted to Franklin, who was hospitalized last year and has canceled concerts and personal appearances through May.
LL Cool J reminded audience members of Franklin's 18 Grammy wins at the start of the show, just before singers Jennifer Hudson, Christina Aguilera, Martina McBride and others performed a rousing medley of some of the music legend's greatest hits.
"Aretha Franklin is, and always be, the Queen of Soul," LL Cool J said. "Tonight, she's the queen of our hearts, too, and the queen of the Grammys."
The musical tribute opened with "Natural Woman," before moving into solos of "Respect" by Hudson, "Think" by Florence Welch of Florence + the Machine and "Sprit in the Dark" by Yolanda Adams.
Franklin was a huge fan of the performances, writing in an e-mailed statement, "I LOVED it! The ladies all sounded so wonderful and they looked fabulous.
"I enjoyed each and every performance, especially Yolanda doing 'Spirit in the Dark' and Christina's rendition of 'Ain't No Way.'"
It was an upbeat start to the show and if there was any doubt about Franklin's health, she made her first nationally televised appearance in a taped message Sunday night.
Wearing a white strapless gown, Franklin, 68, appeared to have lost weight, but made clear she had no intention of leaving the music scene anytime soon.
"I wish that I could have been with you all tonight, but since I couldn't — next year, OK?" Franklin said in the taped message.
Franklin had surgery late last year for an undisclosed ailment. She was photographed Friday.
She was certainly on the minds of fellow artists, including Lenny Kravitz, who credited Franklin's influence for part of his musical career.
"She's the queen," Kravitz told The Associated Press before the Grammys. "She's it. She's part of why I do what I do."