Mumford & Sons won the night's top award as the Grammys were handed out Sunday night in Los Angeles.

The British alt-rockers' Babel was declared album of the year, during an evening when glory was spread among numerous artists. The Black Keys made a strong showing with four awards and both Gotye and Skrillex took three.

Mumford & Sons went into the evening with six nominations, but took only best long form video for Big Easy Express in the pre-show, before their surprising big finish.

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Gotye, left, and Kimbra accept the award for record of the year for Somebody That I Used to Know. Gotye thanked Prince, standing right with cane, for inspiring him. (John Shearer/Invision/Associated Press)

In a race that could have gone to any contender, singer Wouter "Wally" De Backer, better known by his stage name Gotye, was called to the podium for the record of the year honour. He won in a field that included Frank Ocean, fun., Mumford & Sons and Jack White.

The Grammy, for the song Somebody That I Used to Know, was presented by Prince, using a white cane.

"I’m at a loss for words to receive an award from the man standing here with the cane," Gotye said. "Many years listening to this man’s music growing up, and I was inspired to make music. Thank you."

Prince nodded to acknowledge the compliment.  Backstage he did not say why he used a white cane, generally a sign of low vision.

"I just have to say there are so many incredible songs in this category, not only in the Grammys, but so many artists and pieces of music not recognized by the Grammys this year. I just want to say thank you to everybody who puts great energy into the world making music," Gotye continued.

It was the third Grammy for the Belgian- Australian artist who had an international hit with his Somebody That I Used to Know,  with New Zealand singer Kimbra. He also won the Grammy for best pop duo performance and the best alternative album award for Making Mirrors.

The Black Keys racked up accolades with four awards, including a win for best rock performance for their hit Lonely Boy.

The alt-rock band out of Akron, Ohio, also took the honours for best rock song for Lonely Boy and best rock album for El Camino in a Grammy pre-show.

The Black Keys' vocalist and producer Dan Auerbach earned an additional award for best non-classical producer for his work on El Camino and other albums such as Dr. John's Locked Down and Hacienda's Savage.

First Grammy for Drake

In his first Grammy win ever, Drake took the award for best rap album for Take Care. The Toronto rapper was not at the pre-show ceremony to accept the award.

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Drake won a Grammy in the pre-show for Take Care. (Canadian Press)

Drake has been nominated a total of 12 times since 2010, but has had to compete against some of music's biggest names, including Jay Z, Kanye West and Eminem, and has never won before.

Frank Ocean was also a first-time winner, taking the best urban contemporary album award for Channel Orange.

He beat out Chris Brown, with whom he recently scuffled. Ocean took the stage with tape on two of his left fingers, a remnant of the fight, and Brown clapped politely and nodded as he walked to the stage.

Jay Z and Kanye West took two Grammys for their  N---s in Paris — best rap song and best rap performance. Then they took a third award, shared with Ocean, for their collaboration on No Church in the Wild.

Adele wins pop solo

In the first award of the televised gala, Adele took the prize for best pop solo performance for Set Fire to the Rain, capping her triumph of 2012’s awards, when she took home six trophies. However, she won't sing in public until the Oscars on Feb. 24.

"Thank you so much, this is amazing," said Adele, resplendent in a red gown after her win. "I just wanted to come and be part of the night, because I loved it last year, obviously.

"I just want to send love to all the other girls (nominated)....We work so hard and make it look so easy."

One of her competitors in that category was Mission, B.C., singer Carly Rae Jepsen, nominated for Call Me Maybe.

fun. best new artist

Jepsen also lost out in the song of the year category to upcoming indie band fun.'s song We Are Young.

We Are Young features Janelle Monae and hit the top spot of the Billboard charts last year. The  soon-to-be 31-year-old fun. frontman Nate Ruess had a clever crack ready.

Selected Grammy winners

  • Album of the year: Babel, Mumford & Sons
  • Record of the year: Gotye, Somebody That I Used to Know
  • Best new artist: fun.
  • Song of the year: We Are Young, fun.
  • Best country album: Uncaged, Zac Brown Band
  • Best rock album: El Camino, The Black Keys
  • Best pop vocal album: Stronger, Kelly Clarkson
  • Best rap album: Take Care, Drake
  • Best urban contemporary album: Channel Orange, Frank Ocean

"Oh God. I don't know what I was thinking writing the chorus for this song — if this is in HD, everyone can see our faces and we are not very young," said Ruess.

"We've been doing this for 12 years and I've just gotta say that we could not do this without the help of all the fans we've had keeping us afloat....I guess we've felt like your best-kept secret. So thank you guys so much."

Fun. went on to take the best new artist honours later in the evening.

The Grammy Award telecast began with a circus-inspired of We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together  from Taylor Swift and a tribute to the inspiration of music from host LL Cool J.

And it continued its tradition of inspired musical collaborations including the charmed pairing of Elton John and Ed Sheeran and the high-powered country combo of Miranda Lambert and Dierks Bentley.

Performances by Timberlake, Rihanna

Justin Timberlake performed his new song Suit & Tie, sharing a stage with an equally suited Jay Z as a big band struck up behind them. It’s four years since he was on a Grammy stage.

There were also powerful performances from Rihanna and Mumford & Sons.

Carrie Underwood won the Grammy for best country solo performance for her hit Blown Away.

"Country music has always been so good to me and I thank the Lord to be part of such as wonderful, beautiful, amazing family," said the singer, who is married to hockey player Mike Fisher.

The Zac Brown Band took best country album for Uncaged, while a surprised Kelly Clarkson won the award for best pop vocal album for Stronger.

A tribute to Bob Marley with Bruno Mars, Sting and dozens of other artists had the crowd at the Staples Theater on their feet and mouthing the words.

The gala wound down with a tribute to musical stars who have died in the past year, including a salute to Dave Brubeck by Chick Corea and a performance of The Weight in memory of Levon Helm. Zac Brown, Elton John, Mumford & Sons, Alabama Shakes and gospel legend Mavis Staples joined in that performance.

There are 81 categories of Grammys, with honours ranging from classical to jazz to arrangement, but only a handful of the most popular awards are given during the televised gala.

3 wins for Skrillex

Skrillex won three Grammys  in the pre-show, including best remixed performance for Promises and best dance recording for Bangarang.

British folk rockers Mumford & Sons won the best long form video for Big Easy Express, beating out Canadian duo Tegan and Sara. 

Rihanna took best short form video for We Found Love with Calvin Harris.

Esperanza Spalding was recognized in the pre-show with an award for best instrumental arrangement as vocalist for her song City of Roses, created with Thara Memory, the Portland, Ore., trumpeter and composer who has mentored her since she was eight years old.

Spalding also took best vocal jazz album for Radio Music Society.

Canada's Loreena McKennitt was overlooked in the new age album category as the Grammy went to Echoes of Love by Omar Akram.

A song from The Hunger Games won the best song for visual medium prize, but it wasn't the one written by Montreal's Arcade Fire, it was Safe & Sound by T Bone Burnett, Taylor Swift and the Civil Wars.

Best traditional R&B song went to Love on Top by Beyoncé and best R&B song went to Adorn by Miguel, shutting out Canadian singer Tamia.

With files from the Associated Press