1. 1998: Aretha Franklin singing “Nessun Dorma” for Pavarotti at the last minute
In the 1990s, the aria from the Puccini opera Turandot steadily rose to popularity after Luciano Pavarotti's version was used to promote the World Cup. This peaked in 1998 when the Grammy’s scheduled Pavarotti to perform the piece backed by a full classical orchestra and choir. However, on the night of the performance, Pavarotti, who had been suffering from a sore throat, was urged by his doctors to rest. For his replacement—which presenter Sting referred to as being called with “literally at a moments notice”—the least-expected person stepped in to cover for her ailing friend. Aretha Franklin, the ultimate professional that she is, walked onstage that night void of any hesitation or uncertainty, and delivered an unforgettably stirring moment that proved she is one of the greatest singers (and fastest learners) in the history of vocal performance. It was an inspiring moment for anyone who has ever had to deliver under enormous pressure, or for anyone who has had a classical-music snob belittle your Motown collection.