Adele performed “Fast Love” in a tribute to the late George Michael at the Grammys Sunday.
Mid-performance, the 28-year-old singer — decked in a simple black dress and messy up-do — stopped abruptly and appeared to swear, with producers cutting her sound for a moment before she said, “I know it’s live TV … I’m sorry for swearing, and I’m sorry for starting again.”
“I can’t mess this up for him,” she said, taking a moment to gather her thoughts and before restarting the a somber take on the song as the audience cheered supportively.
After finishing her tribute set, the nominee broke down in tears as the star-studded crowd stood and clapped.
Michael was one of several famous musicians to pass away in 2016, but Adele made clear that his musical legacy will live on. The tribute was a surprise: Although the Recording Academy announced a segment honouring Michael ahead of time, it did not share which artists would participate ahead of the telecast.
Michael was no stranger to the Grammys during his lifetime, winning one Best R&B Performance award for his 1987 duet with Aretha Franklin, “I Knew You Were Waiting (For Me)” and one Album of the Year award for his acclaimed 1987 solo debut Faith. He also received six other nominations over the years.
Michael was 53 when he was found dead in his bed on Christmas Day.
“It is with great sadness that we can confirm our beloved son, brother and friend George passed away peacefully at home over the Christmas period,” his rep told PEOPLE and Entertainment Weekly at the time, with his U.S. rep adding that he died of heart failure.
This article originally appeared on PEOPLE.com