Chris Stapleton came late, but he came hard at the 2023 Grammy Awards. His performance with Stevie Wonder and Smokey Robinson on Sunday night (Feb. 5) was country music's biggest moment of the night (so far).

A quick, incomplete list of legends seen smiling, laughing, dancing and jumping around as Stapleton and Wonder played "Higher Ground" included Nelly, Jennifer Lopez, Brandi Carlile, Taylor Swift, Barry Gordy and more. The wild close featured a guitar solo, keyboard solo and trumpet solo. At one point, cameras whizzed by Miranda Lambert, who had a look that seemed to say, "Y'all, I've been telling you!"

It's been seven-plus years since Stapleton burst through from unheard-of songwriter to superstar in the span of 10 minutes. His 2015 CMA Awards performance with Justin Timberlake made him a star overnight. Lambert was there that night — in fact, she was one of his earliest and most fervent supporters.

For years, awards show producers have tried to capture something similar with Stapleton and a guest de jour. This is the closest anyone's come to capturing that CMAs magic.

The performance was a tribute to Robinson and Barry Gordy, and it started with Wonder singing the Temptations' "The Way You Do the Thing You Do." That led to Robinson taking the stage for an exciting performance of "The Tears of a Clown."

Energy built throughout the first two portions of the performance, but it was typical for an Hour 1 Grammy performance.

Stapleton's introduction helped shimmy into "Higher Ground." Wonder opened the song's lyrics, but quickly the two master's were trading lines and solos, seemingly pushing each other harder and harder at every turn.

attachment-Stapleton Wonder Grammys
Kevin Winter, Getty Images

Stapleton entered into the awards ceremony as a nominated songwriter for Best Country Song for Willie Nelson's "I'll Love You Til the Day I Die." He co-wrote the tune with Rodney Crowell, and it appears on Nelson's 2022 album, A Beautiful Time. Earlier in the night, that award went to Cody Johnson's song "Til You Can't."

  • Chis Stapleton has eight liftetime Grammy wins out of 16 nominations
  • His first came with the Steeldrivers in 2009
  • He won three Grammys at the 2022 Grammy Awards

Stapleton's appearance on the Grammys comes just one week before he is set to perform the National Anthem at Super Bowl LVII on Sunday, Feb. 12, in Glendale, Ariz. The singer is also looking ahead to the 2023 leg of his All-American Road Show Tour, kicking off April 26 in El Paso, Texas.

The 65th Grammy Awards aired live from Arena in Los Angeles on Sunday, Feb. 5 on CBS. The show also featured performances from Brandi Carlile, Luke Combs and Kacey Musgraves, who honored the late Loretta Lynn with a tribute.

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