The performance also included collaborations with a number of other female artists including Katy Perry, Kacey Musgraves, Miley Cyrus, Maren Morris and singers Kimberly Roads and Karen Fairchild of country-pop quartet Little Big Town.
Hip-hop recent arrival Cardi B performed her hit "Money" in a production that carried echoes of pioneering Jazz Age film and nightclub star Josephine Baker.
Later, after her win for rap album with "Invasion of Privacy," she told of her struggle to finish the album after becoming pregnant, a tale of the balancing act facing working women that further echoed a theme of female empowerment running through the show.
Among the awards distributed early in the show, the high-profile song of the year award went to actor-musician Childish Gambino's "This Is America," his bracing critique of racism, sexism, commercialism and other isms prevalent in contemporary American life.
Another sign of academy voters' intent this year was a trio of Grammys awarded to jazz musician John Daversa for his album incorporating performances by several young people in the U.S. under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Act (DACA).
The album, "American Dreamers: Voices of Hope, Music of Freedom," won for large jazz ensemble album, while Daversa's wildly imaginative arrangement of John Philip Sousa's 121-year old iconic march "The Stars And Stripes Forever" earned him the instrumental or a cappella arrangement award. The track "Don't Fence Me In" collected a third for improvised jazz solo.
Diana Ross sang her 1970 hit "Reach Out and Touch (Somebody's Hand)," yet another plea for unity, triggering a sea of waving hands from the Staples Center audience.
Lady Gaga teared up when her song "Shallow" from "A Star Is Born" won for pop duo or group performance, lauding the film for the spotlight it shines on issues of alcoholism and suicide.
"If I don't get another chance to say this," she said, before learning whether the song might also collect the record of the year award, "I am so proud to be part of a movie that addresses mental health issues.
"They're so important. A lot of artists deal with that and we've got to take care of each other. If you see somebody that's hurting, don't look away. And if you're hurting, even though it might be hard, try to find that bravery within yourself to dive deep and go tell somebody and take them up in your head with you."