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#1 Austin

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Posted 12 May 2015 - 06:14 AM

While looking for pictures, I've been re-reading some interesting magazine articles/features/cover stories about Whitney. I wanted to put them somewhere to revisit, old articles that are faves, historic, interesting, controversial etc. Please post if you have any .

 

Here is one I read today:

 

http://entertainment...ston-1963-2012/

 

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TIME MAGAZINE

 

The Voice: Whitney Houston (1963-2012)
 
One of the greatest voices in the history of American popular music has been silenced. An appreciation of the talents of Whitney Houston
 
By Howard Chua-Eoan. Feb. 11, 2012
 
Several years ago in Los Angeles, I walked out of a hotel in Westwood and saw a beautiful but slight woman step out of a limousine, stride past her bodyguards and head up the front steps. It took me several moments to say to myself, “Isn’t that Whitney Houston?” She wasn’t what I expected. She wasn’t of supermodel dimensions – even if she was one of the most beautiful women in the world. She didn’t say a word – even though her voice will echo forever in the soundtrack of the my life. She simply walked imperiously forward, not evincing the slightest curiosity at the riffraff around her – myself included. She looked as if she felt she was the most important person in the world at that moment. And she was, for everyone who saw her. It was a sight I will never forget. Yet, though her self-confidence radiated into that southern California evening, she looked uncannily frail, almost small.
 
Whitney Elizabeth Houston, 48, died on the eve of the Grammy Awards, the music industry’s annual celebration of itself. The cause of her death is yet unknown, but it is certain to plunge her colleagues, friends, rivals and disciples into the kind of introspective mourning reserved only for the artists who have achieved the greatest success and become the victims of their great good fortune. Her voice, combined with her looks, made her one of the biggest stars on the planet. She set sales record after sales record. Her first major foray into the movie industry in The Bodyguard (1992) became a milestone in the issue (or non-issue) of race in casting (who could quarrel with her being the star?) and produced – or, as some critics would say, inflicted – a version of “I Will Always Love You” on the cosmos that will reverberate until its sound waves make contact with extraterrestrial intelligence. It was the range and power of her natural gifts that produced at the 1991 Super Bowl – with the U.S. 10 days into the first Gulf War – one of the most astonishing renditions of the Star Spangled Banner ever heard. The U.S. Air Force flying overhead became a mere afterthought to her renewal of the vigor of a song written in 1814. She was the voice of America.
 
The real-life Whitney Houston, however, was one of greater frailty than the superpower she manifested in her voice. She had been born to sing. Her mother was Cissy Houston, a soul and gospel performer who sang backup for Elvis Presley, Mahalia Jackson and Aretha Franklin. Whitney’s cousin was Dionne Warwick, one of the indelible voices of American pop. Whitney was herself singing in the choir in her hometown of Newark, N.J. at the age of 11. Her beauty led to an early modeling career but her vocal talents soon led to a contract with Arista Records and the producer Clive Davis, who would do more than anyone to shape her public image.
 
That image was of the gorgeous all-American girl who could belt ballads and dance tunes with equal ease. It was revolutionary in its way: that an African-American woman could embody that archetype as seamlessly as white women have in the past – at least in public. In the beginning, she was perfectly cast: glamorous and distant, with a voice that was warm even if the celebrity was unapproachable. She made you move; she made you want; she gave immediacy and voice to your instincts and emotions. But she was a goddess.
 
Beginning in 1985, that goddess would produce pop hit after pop hit at a time the record industry was at its height, in the years before iTunes: “You Give Good Love,” “Saving All My Love for You,” “How Will I Know,” “I Wanna Dance with Somebody (Who Loves Me),” “I’m Your Baby Tonight,” “My Love Is Your Love” and countless others. Her covers of previous hits like “I’m Every Woman” by Chaka Khan and “I Will Always Love You” by Dolly Parton virtually overshadowed the originals.
 
And yet the goddess would choose to marry and bear the child of one of the bad boys of the industry, Bobby Brown. That union, which lasted from 1992 to 2007, would be rocked by rumors of infidelity and drug use. She was arrested for marijuana possession in Hawaii in 2000, though the charges were dropped. Brown accused Houston of introducing him to cocaine in his 2009 autobiography. He admitted, however, that before coke, marijuana had been his drug of choice. In her last few years, Houston looked haggard and worn; her face both puffy and emaciated. More tragically, her voice was shattered, no longer able to soar. She would be unable to complete performances. She was booed at her rare appearances. Yet, her old recordings and their remixed versions would continue to be played around the world, in dance clubs, over YouTube and the latest iterations of media to astound fresh generations. But the goddess was definitely human – and no one was able to reach her to save her.
 
In the end, the private Whitney Houston was in a hell that perhaps no one will fully plumb. It may be of some comfort that her travails are over. What will never be forgotten is the glory of her voice, the ease with which she projected it into the universe and the way she made us want to sing along, carried by its optimism and its promise – no matter how illusory it turned out to be. Every great artist knows the magic of defying reality and frailty. At her peak, Whitney Houston was the greatest enchantress.
 

Edited by Austin, 12 May 2015 - 06:15 AM.

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#2 kennethbrdk

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Posted 12 May 2015 - 06:48 AM

"She was booed at her rare appearances" - when ? - The NBL tour can't be credited as a rare performance - apart from that - great article.


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#3 Austin

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Posted 13 May 2015 - 08:28 AM

ROLLING STONE MAGAZINE:

 

http://www.rollingstone.com/music/news/whitney-houston-the-diva-and-her-dark-side-20120315

 

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Whitney Houston: The Diva and Her Dark Side
 
Inside the singer's meteoric rise, chaotic life and tragic final days
 
BY DAVID BROWNE | March 15, 2012
 
Early in the evening of February 7th, Whitney Houston was ready to reclaim her place in music. Wearing black pants and a matching black sweater, she rolled into producer Harvey Mason Jr.'s North Hollywood studio with her sister-in-law and manager Patricia Houston. Whitney had just finished filming a role in an upcoming movie, Sparkle, and tonight she would lay down her part for a song on its soundtrack, "Celebrate," a duet with co-star Jordin Sparks written by R. Kelly.
 
After singing a few warm-up scales, Houston hit the mic. Her voice was no longer the brawny, octave-spanning instrument heard on her platinum hits of the Eighties and Nineties. She'd already spent several days with Mason working on her part, and still wasn't finished. "Whitney had days when she sounded amazing; she had days when she sounded decent; and she had days when she sounded not so great," Mason says. "But she was really working to improve." This session was better than most; after she'd taken her last pass, Houston excitedly asked Mason, "You got it, you got it?" When Mason told her he did, she exclaimed, "Now play it!" The two danced in front of the speakers as the booming party anthem shook the studio. For a short while, the troubles that had plagued Houston for more than a decade evaporated.
 
Sparkle, a remake of a 1976 music-business cautionary tale, would mark Houston's return to the big screen for the first time in 16 years; she was cast as the mother of a fledgling singer, played by Sparks. As a teenager, Houston had loved the original movie, which followed an R&B trio – one member winds up dead from an overdose, while another becomes a star. "I would go every Saturday for, like, four months straight, and I'd watch the matinee to evening show," Houston told a group of reporters in November. "It was a positive reinforcement for young African-American women, that anyone who wants to can pursue their dream or their desires."
 
Aretha Franklin, a longtime family friend, had attended a preview of the remake and was relieved at what she saw. "Like a lot of artists, Whitney lost her way, but she found it again," Franklin says. "I thought she looked absolutely stunning in the movie. She looked fresh and healthy and all of that."
 
But in the days that followed the session with Mason, Houston's demons rose up again. She was spotted at Hollywood nightspots acting spacey and probably drunk. She made a surprise appearance at a press conference hosted by her mentor, Clive Davis, smelling of cigarettes and alcohol. On Saturday, February 11th, Houston was planning to attend Davis' annual pre-Grammy party at the Beverly Hilton, where she was also staying. She'd flown in from her home in Alpharetta, Georgia, for the party and to work on the Sparkle songs. But later that afternoon, after she'd spent an inordinate amount of time in the bathroom of her fourth-floor room, members of her entourage burst in to find her submerged in her bathtub. Houston was declared dead at age 48. At press time, the cause of death was still undetermined, since toxicology reports haven't yet been released, but Beverly Hills detectives announced that a small amount of prescription drugs, which reportedly included Xanax, were discovered in her room.
 
Diligent professional one moment, wild child the next: Those were the opposing sides of Houston in her last days – and, it turns out, much of her life. Blessed with a peerless combination of bravura lung power, model-perfect looks, and an image that was both warm and regal, Houston was that pop rarity: a genuine crossover star, juggling music and film, audiences young and old, black and white. "Because of her cousin Dionne [Warwick], she understood all those pretty-BLEEP! melodies from Burt Bacharach," says Narada Michael Walden, one of Houston's many producers. "But because she was young and from the era of Michael Jackson, Prince and Madonna, she had soul in her too – those rhythms. She had both sides. Plus, she was so damn gorgeous. You couldn't say no to her."
 
But after she peaked with her 1991 version of "The Star-Spangled Banner" and 1992's The Bodyguard, her fans watched as, year by year, Houston's demons were revealed to the world: Her voice grew huskier, her looks hardened. Her records, when they appeared, didn't sell as well as they once had; her live performances revealed a performer physically and vocally rusty.
 
People who worked with her still find it hard to comprehend her dark side. "A lot of us talked about that, and no one could come up with an answer," says Gerry Griffith, the A&R man who brought Houston to Davis' attention around 1982. "Where is that rebellion coming from? It didn't come out for a while." When it did, it came out in force, nearly destroying her personal life, career and music.
 
From the start, Whitney Houston was a child of both the church and the charts. Her mother, Cissy, was a Newark, New Jersey-born soprano powerhouse who sang backup on classic records by Franklin ("Ain't No Way," "Chain of Fools") and Van Morrison ("Brown Eyed Girl"), and toured with Elvis Presley (when she was a member of the Sweet Inspirations). Her cousin Warwick had crossed over to pop in the Sixties and Seventies with hits like "Walk On By" and "Do You Know the Way to San Jose?" Whitney, born in 1963, inherited her voice from her mother, and her elegant good looks and strong will from her father, John Houston, who worked variously as a truck driver and for the city of Newark, and who would later manage his daughter's career.
 
When Whitney was four, her parents moved her and her two brothers to suburban East Orange, New Jersey, where many black families relocated after the Newark riots. Houston was a shy kid; her grade-school principal recalls Houston standing in line, tightly holding her classmates' hands, her head down. When Houston's godmother, singer Darlene Love, would stay at the family's home while on tour, she shared a bed with "Nippy," as Whitney was called. "I was pregnant at the time and she'd go, What do you want, what do you want?'" Love recalls. "There was a store on the corner where she'd run down the street and buy fruit for me. So charming from Day One."
 
By the time Houston started high school at Mount Saint Dominic Academy, an all-girls school in nearby Caldwell, she'd become more popular; it didn't hurt that the Houstons had one of the few pools in the neighborhood. She blossomed into a lanky, beautiful girl with a wide smile. A local friend, Richard Gregory, took her to her prom, but only after talking her into it – she wasn't a heavy dater. It was her voice that caught everyone's attention. Cissy was the musical director of Newark's New Hope Baptist Church, one of the oldest black churches in the country; Whitney joined the choir when she was 11. "When I used to watch my mother sing in church, that feeling, that soul, that thing – it's like electricity rolling through you," Houston told Rolling Stone in 1993. "If you have ever been in a Baptist church, when the Holy Spirit starts to roll and people start to really feel what they're doing, it's incredible. That's what I wanted."
 
Houston was exposed to more than gospel. "Cissy brought her to one of my recording sessions," Franklin recalls of their first meeting. "She was around nine or 10. I think Cissy had instructed her to be very quiet because she didn't say too much after that. She was just very quiet and very attentive." By the late Seventies, Cissy's solo career was in middling shape, and she tried cutting disco records. During a session for disco producer Michael Zager, one of the backup singers called in sick. When Cissy suggested her 14-year-old daughter fill in, Zager thought Cissy was joking. "Nippy" showed up wearing her white-and-blue school uniform and flawlessly sang the parts that Zager taught her. "I almost fell out of my chair," Zager recalls. Houston was so impressive that Zager gave her a prominent part on his disco hit "Life's a Party."
Her few stabs at rebellion amounted to wearing different-colored socks to her Catholic school. When Whitney accompanied her mother to recording studios, Cissy would remind her daughter why they were there. During one session with Zager, Whitney began cracking jokes. "Everyone was laughing," Zager says. "After an hour, Cissy yelled at Whitney, 'Get it together and start recording!' Cissy was all business."
 
The Houstons were in no hurry to have Whitney turn pro; Cissy kept her away from a record deal until she finished high school. Still, she began a career as a backup singer on albums like Chaka Khan's Naughty, and word of her raw, emerging talent spread fast. Houston also began a teen-modeling career, after a rep from an agency spotted her on the street near Carnegie Hall; before long, Houston was posing for photos in bathing suits, preppy pleated skirts, arid ice-skating outfits in magazines like YM and Seventeen.
 
During now-legendary shows at clubs like Sweetwater's, Cissy would often give a solo spot to her daughter, who sported a short Afro and would step out on covers of pop hits like Stephanie Mills' "Home." Whitney still very much deferred to Cissy, even during these first real moments in the spotlight. As Darlene Love recalls, "It was, 'OK, now, go on back in the background – this is Mommy's show. OK, go sit down now. Don't be trying to take over.'"
 
Arista A&R man Griffith heard about the younger Houston and made his way to Cissy's shows. "I had worked with Aretha, Minnie Riperton and Phoebe Snow," says Griffith. "So to see Whitney incorporate all of what they had at one time just freaked me out. She was a natural. It flowed so easily."
 
At Griffith's urging, his boss, Arista head Clive Davis, went to one of Houston's Manhattan showcases. "I was stunned when she did 'The Greatest Love of All,'" says Davis. "It was a song I'd commissioned 10 years earlier for a movie about the life of Muhammad Ali. Signing her was one of those no-brainers."
 
"Clive wasn't jumping crazy like when Marvin Gaye was free and he was calling every five seconds, 'Have you heard back?'" recalls Roy Lott, one of Davis' vice presidents. "This was still a new artist." But Davis was impressed enough to outmaneuver a competing label, Elektra, for her talents.
 
At the signing day in 1983, Houston, in a Levi's sweatshirt and jeans, was very much a work in progress. "Just a regular kid," recalls Lott. "Not squeaky-clean, but a regular kid." Everyone knew Houston could sing, but expectations were modest for someone so young. Talent agent Ben Bernstein, hired to set up tours and personal appearances for Houston, says everyone would've been thrilled to sell a few hundred thousand albums.
 
Houston already had a father, but in Davis, she found a protective and overly doting show-business father figure. Known equally for his love of an across-the-board pop song and his considerable ego (later, industry execs would joke that Davis thought the CD was named after him), Davis had started as a lawyer for Columbia Records before becoming head of the label in 1967, where he signed Santana, Janis Joplinand many others. After being ousted in 1973, he launched his own company, Arista, in 1975.
 
The 50-year-old Davis, who was three decades older than Houston, treated his signing like newfound royalty. "He talked about Whitney the way he talked about Janis Joplin," says former Arista creative-services director Ken Levy. "He was from the world of great singers. He's enchanted by powerful voices." From the start, Davis was viewed fondly by Houston and her family; the fact that he'd worked with Warwick and Franklin at Arista played in his favor. They believed in Davis so much that they asked for a rare key-man clause in Whitney's contract: If Davis left Arista, she could leave as well.
 
Davis took his time with Houston: Over the course of more than two years, he and his team sifted through material, arranging showcases with her for songwriters and spending close to $400,000 on the album, a huge sum. More than the heads of most labels, Davis approved all the song choices. "Clive would gather material and send her a cassette of songs," says Lott. "And 95 percent of the time she would say, 'That sounds great.'" Houston seemed happy to let Davis take control, since she had crossover dreams herself. "She was always looking to impact as many people as possible," says Lott. "She wanted to be a major artist." She began wearing wigs onstage and in videos - her choice, according to Lott.
 
During those early days, Houston enchanted everyone who encountered her. After the L.A. session for "Saving All My Love for You," "we were all fawning over her," recalls pianist Robbie Buchanan. "Nathan East, who was playing bass, asked her to marry him. She just blushed." At the session for "How Will I Know," producer Walden remembers the skinny Houston walking into a New York studio with Cissy and nailing the vocals. "When it was done, she leaned back in the chair in the control room like an old veteran," says Walden. "She loved her voice."
 
Her debut album, Whitney Houston, released in March 1985, was a textbook crossover success. Arista released "You Give Good Love" to R&B stations. When it caught on, three other singles followed: "Saving All My Love for You," "How Will I Know" and "The Greatest Love of All." All hit Number One on the pop charts."Gospel was the basis of her gift," Griffith says. "You put pop on top of it, and boom."
 
As Houston's second album got under way, the pressure was on. Houston was developing signs of the forcefulness she'd come to exhibit later. This time, the same musicians who worked on her debut rarely saw her. "She got more assertive," says keyboardist Preston Glass. "On the first album, she was very gracious and spent time talking with us. On the second album, when she came in to do her vocals, she said, "I don't want anyone around except the producer and engineer.' Later I'd have to ask Narada,'How'd it go?'"
 
Walden, who did most of the tracks on Whitney, noticed a change in Houston as well. "After a first album, most acts have a sophomore jinx, and I said to her, Are you nervous?'" Walden says. "She said, 'No. If they loved me the first time, they'll love me now.' I was really taken aback by her confidence. But she was right."
 
Whitney, released in 1987, repeated the first album's formula of bouncy pop R&B ("So Emotional," "I Wanna Dance With Somebody [Who Loves Me]") and mass-appeal ballads ("Didn't We Almost Have It All," "Where Do Broken Hearts Go") - all four of which went to Number One on the pop charts. Men were attracted to her, and young women related to her mix of heartbreak and empowerment. "I first saw her in the 'I Wanna Dance With Somebody' video,'" says Christina Aguilera. "I was instantly drawn. She represented a female who was strong and had a strong voice, and that appealed to me as a young girl." Some of the pressures of being America's new pop princess began to chafe. Offstage, she would sneak away and smoke cigarettes. And she expressed a desire to branch out musically. "She was smarter than people took her for," says Steven Saporta, executive producer of some of her early videos. "She wanted to discover her gospel roots early on, and more themed music. At that time, Linda Ronstadt had done a Mexican record, and I remember we talked about it and how interesting it was."
 
Some of this filtered up to Davis: "After the second album, she came to me and said, 'Everyone's telling me I should write songs. Is this wise?'" he recalls. "She saw that Madonna and Janet Jackson were co-writing. I said, 'Look, you're from the tradition of Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald, Barbra Streisand and Frank Sinatra, whose genius is in their voice and the meaning they find in songs.'"
 
A turning point seemed to arrive in 1989, when Houston was nominated for Best R&B/Urban Contemporary Single by a Female at that year's Soul Train Awards. Seated up front, Davis and Houston listened as the announcement of her name was greeted with scattered boos. The two looked at each other with baffled expressions. Crossover success had come at a price: For critics in the African-American community, Houston – or, as some called her, "Whitey Houston" – wasn't black enough. The criticisms seem silly now, but at the time they stung deeply. "She would look at us and say, 'What do they mean I'm not black enough? I've been in the church my whole life,'" recalls Don Ienner, who had been general manager of Arista. "It was horrible and undeserved. That might have haunted her the rest of her life."
 
Houston and Davis sought to make her image and her sound more soulful on her third album, I'm Your Baby Tonight, using producers like LA Reid and Babyface. "We shot the cover under the Brooklyn Bridge with her on a motorcycle," says Levy. To everyone's surprise, she even rode the bike around the set of the shoot. "Privately, she was rebellious," says a source who worked with her at the time. "She was, 'Oh, yeah? I'm so much cooler than people think.' But she couldn't really say that. It used to flip her out when the urban world would get in her face and say she sang like a white girl. The next time I saw her, she started talking a little more street." That side of Houston became more prominent, thanks to a new man in her life.
 
The 1989 "Soul Train" Awards shook Houston's world in another way. That night, Houston met Bobby Brown. Raised in the projects of Boston's Roxbury neighborhood, Brown, then only 20, was a star himself, having scored hits as a member of New Edition. His multimillion-selling 1988 solo album, Don't Be Cruel, established him as the king of new-jack swing, and he was a hell-raiser in other ways – he had already fathered three kids with two women.
 
As Houston later told RS, Brown was initially brusque toward her: "He was hot, he was on fire. I and some friends of mine were sitting behind him. I was hugging them, we were laughing, and I kept hitting Bobby in the back of the head . . . I leaned over and said, 'Bobby, I'm so sorry.' And he turned around and looked at me like, "Yeah, well, just don't let it happen again.' And I was like, 'Oooooh, this guy doesn't like me.' Well, I always get curious when somebody doesn't like me." Eventually, it was Brown who asked Houston out; the two became a couple almost immediately. Houston turned down his first marriage proposal. She told RS, "The first time he asked me to marry him, I said, 'Forget about it, no way. It's just not in my plans.' [But] after a year or so, I fell in love with Bobby." They married in 1992. To many, the couple were a strange fit. But Houston and Brown, as one of their later duets would say, had something in common: "When you love, you love," Houston told RS. "You know, Bobby and I basically come from the same place. Bobby comes from Boston, out of the projects. I come from Newark, out of the projects. Bobby has two very strong parents, I have two very strong parents." She later told Oprah Winfrey they were in "crazy love" at the time and had sex constantly.
 
Her marriage to Brown worked on other fronts; she'd long been attracted to bad boys, and had briefly dated Eddie Murphy. But rumors swirled that Houston was in a relationship with Robyn Crawford, a female friend from her teen years who worked as Houston's assistant on the road. Houston denied the rumors to RS: "Our relationship is that we're friends. We've been friends since we were kids. She now is my employee. I'm her employer. And we're still best of friends. I mean, what kind of a person am I - to be married and to have another life?" Crawford has never addressed the issue (and declined to speak with RS for this article).
 
Brown was later quoted saying the marriage was "doomed from the very beginning. I think we got married for all the wrong reasons. Now, I realize Whitney had a different agenda than I didI believe her agenda was to clean up her image, while mine was to be loved and have children. The media was accusing her of having a bisexual relationship with her assistant. In Whitney's situation, the only solution was to get married and have kids. That would kill all speculation, whether it was true or not." Houston ferociously defended her marriage to the press. "You see somebody, and you deal with their image. It's part of them, it's not the whole picture," she told RS. "I am not always in a sequined gown. I am nobody's angel. I can get down and dirty. I can get raunchy." Looking back on that time, Houston later told Winfrey, "[Brown] allowed me to be me."
 
Months after her marriage to Brown, Houston made her feature-film debut in The Bodyguard. By then, she'd been signed to Triad, a Hollywood talent agency. Watching the glamour-girl video for "Where Do Broken Hearts Go," several Arista executives joked, "There's the screen test." The moment arrived with The Bodyguard. Houston's role - a pop star being stalked by a psycho – wasn't a stretch, and expectations for the film were modest.
 
At the last minute, co-star Kevin Costner suggested Dolly Parton's "I Will Always Love You" to replace another song planned for the film. During the sessions for the song, producer David Foster saw Cissy Houston nearby: "She had no idea who I was, and she leaned over and said, 'You're witnessing greatness right now – I hope you know that.'" During the making of the Bodyguard soundtrack, Houston painstakingly worked on all the vocal parts in "I'm Every Woman" while visibly pregnant. Her daughter with Brown, Bobbi Kristina, was born in March 1993.
 
Promotion executives at Arista were initially worried that radio stations wouldn't play a song with a 45-second a cappella intro, but nothing could stop "I Will Always Love You," a massive hit that helped the soundtrack album sell at one point a million copies a week. By the late Nineties, according to Lott, Arista's annual gross profit had jumped from $35 million, when Houston was first signed, to $400 million, and Houston's record sales were largely credited with boosting that number.
 
After making two more movies – the female-empowerment film Waiting to Exhale and the comedy The Preacher's Wife – Houston returned to music full-time with 1998's My Love Is Your Love. By now, rumors that she and Brown were a tempestuous couple were rampant. The album had a tougher lyrical and musical stance, particularly on one of its standouts, "It's Not Right But It's Okay," about marital infidelity.
While working on the album with Houston, Wyclef Jean sensed her growing disenchantment with the expectations placed on her from all sides. "We talked about the church, because that's where it started," says Wyclef. "Once you can stand up and rock the church congregation, everything else is easy. But when you're a church person, people expect you to be a certain way."
 
On the day My Love Is Your Love was released, Arista arranged a record-signing session at the Virgin Megastore in New York's Times Square. Lines began to form around the block. Only one thing was missing: Whitney Houston. After some frantic searching, her handlers finally found her – in the bookstore two levels down, reading a book of dirty sex jokes and letting loose with her full-throated laugh.
 
Houston began acting out in other, more dramatic ways as word of her turbulent marriage and drug use with Brown made the rounds. On tour to promote the album, in 1999, she canceled five shows – including one in her hometown of Newark, 15 minutes before showtime. With a sold-out arena waiting, promoter John Scher was called backstage by Houston's father, John, who was then managing her. "He closed the door and looked at me very upset and said, 'She's not gonna make it,'" Scher recalls. "He was welling up with tears." The official reason was throat ailments, although Scher was never told the precise reason for the cancellations. "That was a tough tour," says Scher. "She had issues, and during that tour they sometimes got the best of her."
 
The girl who had once been so prompt to teen-modeling sessions was now showing up for a photo shoot six hours late. In 2000, Houston was fired from a planned Oscars performance after wobbly rehearsals in which she reportedly kept breaking into "The Way We Were" instead of the song the orchestra was playing, "Over the Rainbow." That same year, she was a no-show at Davis' induction at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Performing at Michael Jackson's huge New York concert the following year, she looked distressingly thin.
 
"We were lacing our marijuana with base," Houston told Winfrey in 2009. "We were buying kilos and ounces and ounces . . . I didn't think about the singing part anymore." Asked if she missed it, she replied, "No." When Houston opened her mouth to sing, out came a deeper, sometimes hoarser tone that seemed incapable of hitting the once-easy high notes. "The voice is a muscle, and you're always taught to go to the gym and warm up and stretch first before you lift hundred-pound weights," says Foster. "She was lifting hundred-pound weights right out of the gate and probably did some damage to her voice."
 
Just Whitney . . . , released in 2002, made her sound behind the curve, overtaken by younger R&B acts like Alicia Keys and Destiny's Child. The album came and went with minimal impact. The most depressing part of its promotion arrived when Houston was interviewed by Diane Sawyer. Asked whether she was doing hard drugs, Houston famously snapped, "First of all, let's get one thing straight. Crack is cheap. I make too much money to ever smoke crack. Let's get that straight. OK? We don't do crack. We don't do that. Crack is whack."
 
Houston's self-destructive behavior during this time still surprises those who worked with her. "There was zero indication there would ever be a problem," says Arista's Lott of her early days with the label. To make matters worse, Houston suffered two significant losses early in the decade: In 2000, Davis was ousted as head of Arista. In 2003, her father died after a battle with heart disease and diabetes; she entered rehab for the first time the following year. "If Clive hadn't left Arista and John hadn't passed away, it's possible things would have turned out differently," says a source.
 
For many fans and friends, her wild, disheveled appearances in Brown's 2005 reality show, Being Bobby Brown, were the dismaying capper. "We all watched that, and we were like, 'Oh, no,'" says songwriter Diane Warren. For years, Houston kept up a stoic front about Brown. "She was working hard to keep herself together, and I think she felt that if she admitted any feeling of sadness or weakness she would crumble," Crawford told Esquire in her only public statement on Houston's death. In 2006, after years of turmoil, Houston and Brown separated, officially divorcing the following year.
 
In 2007, Davis had risen to a new position overseeing the RCA Music Group, which included Arista, and he began plotting Houston's comeback by gathering new material. Warren wrote one song, "I Didn't Know My Own Strength," expressly for Houston. "She got rid of Bobby Brown, she got help, she was strong," Warren says. "She was taking on the world again. When she heard it, she was like, 'You wrote my life story. You really got inside my heart.'" Warren watched Houston summon up her old vocal prowess at the sessions for the song. "Some people were saying, 'She's not gonna hit those notes anymore, she doesn't have it, her voice is damaged,'" Warren says. "But I sat there, and she nailed it."
 
I Look to You, the album that would be Houston's last, wasn't the triumphant comeback she and the label had hoped. Although it sold an impressive 300,000 copies in its first week, proving the loyalty of her fan base, it didn't generate any major hits, and newer pop acts like Lady Gaga and even Miley Cyrus far outsold her.
 
In 2010, Houston launched a comeback tour of Australia, Asia and Europe, her first since 1999. But several shows into the tour, in Brisbane, Australia, she looked and sounded winded, had coughing fits and couldn't remember the names of her backup musicians. During "I Will Always Love You," she paused before the song's climactic power note to take a drink, then finally sang it softly. TV-news cameras caught fans walking out in disgust, and the reviews were brutal.
 
According to Australian promoter Andrew McManus, Houston and her team made a mistake having her sing and dance along with her dancers. "Whitney tried to dance, but by the third song she was duffed," McManus says. At a meeting the next day, it was decided that Houston would focus on singing onstage. McManus says Houston wasn't doing drugs or drinking on the tour, beyond some champagne in her dressing room, and in later shows, Houston did rise to the challenge. "She had lost the top range of her voice, and some of the audiences were not very kind," says Aretha Franklin. "But night after night, she stood there like a champion and gave her very best."
 
After she hit one especially strong note in the last Australian show, in Melbourne, she saucily told the audience, "See, I'm not so bad!" Promoter Scher says there were some "initial conversations" about a U.S. tour, but he never heard anything more. In the spring of 2011, Houston was once again back in rehab for drugs and alcohol.
 
On the Detroit set of Sparkle that day in November, Houston looked surprisingly radiant in all white, and sounded upbeat about the project and her future. "I don't think of it as like, as a comeback," she said. "Entertaining is in my family bloodline. I can't help it. It's natural."
 
"It was the happiest I've ever seen her working, and I'm not blowing smoke," says a friend, Sparkle producer Debra Martin Chase. "She hung out on the set. She was in the makeup trailer, on time, every day." Between filming, Houston attended a Detroit Lions game and popped into a studio to record a song with producer Harvey Mason. Houston had first sung that song in her Baptist church in Newark, and it would be the last track she would record alone.
 
According to reports, Houston fell off the wagon hard in the next couple of months, hitting bottom with a confused and confusing two weeks in Los Angeles. On Thursday, February 2nd, she was seen wandering around by herself in the Hollywood nightclub Playhouse, drunk. A few days later, she met with Davis at his hotel bungalow to happily play him the Sparkle tracks; a few days later, she would make a bedraggled, uninvited appearance at his press conference for a project with Brandy and Monica.
 
That night, Houston and her entourage visited the club Tru Hollywood to cheer on a performance by Kelly Price. "Hold on, I'm gonna come up," Houston said, making her way from her table to the stage. She joined Price for a brief harmony on the hymn "Jesus Loves Me." In video footage shot that night, Houston sounds raspy. Backstage, Houston reportedly got into a tussle with former X Factor contestant Stacy Francis, which may have accounted for the bits of blood seen dripping down Houston's leg as she left the venue.
 
The night of Houston's death, Davis' annual party went on. The mood seesawed between somber and upbeat; one minute, Pitbull rocked his playful hit "Give Me Everything," and the next Davis was asking for a moment of silence in Houston's honor. "It was BLEEP! weird," says Warren. "It was like this surreal, weird movie. People are talking and we're acting normal. But there's nothing normal about this, because four floors above us is Whitney Houston's body, not even cold. And I'm just sitting there, like, 'Can I have more wine, please?' I don't even drink."
 
At Houston's funeral on February 18th, the different aspects of her world once again converged: family members alongside record executives, Bobby Brown alongside childhood friends from her school and church. R. Kelly's moving, gospel-rooted take on "I Look to You" and performances by longtime friends BeBe and CeCe Winans contrasted with the sight of Brown storming out at the beginning of the service after feeling his posse had been dissed by being asked to sit in different parts of the church. Producer Walden remembers the last few times he saw Houston, when she said she wanted to work with him again, this time on a remake of Brainstorm's obscure 1977 disco hit "Lovin' Is Really My Game." Walden cut the track and waited for Houston's schedule to open up so they could finish it. "Like Aretha, Whitney was always a threat," he says. "Like Michael Jackson, always a threat." But Houston never made it to Walden's studio in the Bay Area, nor was she able to sing one of its most telling lines: "Why not give me a chance/I swear I could prove it."
 
This story is from the March 15th, 2012 issue of Rolling Stone.
 

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#4 Austin

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Posted 13 May 2015 - 09:30 AM

Playboy interview:

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Edited by Austin, 13 May 2015 - 09:31 AM.

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#5 Austin

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Posted 13 May 2015 - 06:05 PM

NEW YORK TIMES MAGAZINE : 

 

http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2012/12/30/magazine/the-lives-they-lived-2012.html?view=Whitney_Houston

 

 

The Lives They Lived : Whitney Houston
 
B. 1963  |  By JOHN JEREMIAH SULLIVAN
 
WHEN I HEARD THAT WHITNEY HAD DIED, I flashed on the room where I first saw and heard her, when most people did, in ’85. Carpeted basement, Indiana, MTV — it was precisely the room the people marketing her wanted to get her into, a honeycomb in a continent-size hive of suburban mall consumers. There hadn’t been much black music on MTV at that point. Pretty much all of it was black music, of course, but sung by white people, or by Michael Jackson. But in that year — the year of Reagan’s second inaugural, the year the ozone hole was discovered — there appeared Whitney Houston, conceived in a dream that God and Clive Davis dreamed. It was the “How Will I Know” video. I remember a near-bodily level of irresistibility, about her and the song and the images, such that you experienced them almost as a kind of brutality, as if bound in a force field. It’s strange to think about the exact moment you first heard a supremely, expensively well-made pop song and knew you were hearing music that would exist somewhere in your head till the day you died.
 
We call them “throwaway” songs, but they’re the opposite. The video was off in a way that played against the song’s sugary shyness. Whitney dances through a splash-painted maze and is aggressively danced up to by various guys in black modern-dance gear, women in arty mimelike outfits. But at a certain point, the semaphores start swirling out of control. Whitney comes a-snapping up to a curious spinning figure, a black guy whose body is half bridegroom — tuxedo and top hat and tails — and half bride, in a white wedding dress, down to the garter belt and stockings. The female side wears what can only be described as whiteface. Subversive? Insane and meaningless? Who knew? Whitney gives a little conspiratorial nod, like, uh-huh, you know what I like. Soon, we find her dancing next to a grotesque creature, a kind of hydra wearing a giant blue gown, with two rows of heads sticking out of it and praying hands, a gospel choir turned into a singing monster. Whitney dances above it, free and giddy in her confusion. It is simply bizarre.
Whitney Houston was a pure product and prodigy of gospel; her roots were so deep in that world. You know the trio of names from her bio, but let’s repeat them anyway: daughter of Cissy Houston, cousin of Dionne Warwick, goddaughter of Aretha Franklin, whom she knew as Aunt Ree, and who suddenly appears at the end of the video, in black and white on a video screen, putting her hand to her ear, like, “What are you saying?”
 
In the backing vocals on “How Will I Know,” that was supposed to be Cissy, the mother, saying, “Don’t trust your feelings . . . love can be deceiving.” The song would have taken on the form of a daughter going to her mother and begging to know, “How can I tell if he’s for real?” But the producers opted to overlay Cissy’s tracks with Whitney’s own voice, so Whitney is talking to herself. Cissy is still credited — she is there, I suppose, down in the mix, as a texture.
 
What you hear in Whitney’s music is partly the sound of what happened to soul under the pressure of Reagan/Bush. Something about a voice the excellence of which was said to lie in its awesomeness, in an almost forbidding sense: she could sing things other people couldn’t sing. At her height she was a voice of empire. Having her do “The Star Spangled Banner” was like wheeling out a nuclear missile. Her performance of it at the Super Bowl in 1991 — in the midst of the Persian Gulf war — is staggering (lip-synced, but she’d sung it somewhere). The recording was a hit on the charts again after 9/11. With the sheer force of her singing, she actually makes the national anthem musically interesting, but unlike the other famous instances when that happened — Hendrix, Stravinsky — hers is a version utterly without subversive shading, without critical comment of any kind. When the fighter jets go over at the end, they aren’t in contrast to the song, they punctuate it. Whitney standing there in her red-white-and-blue jumpsuit. The year before she married Bobby Brown.
 
Her voice was so good. Against all the cheesiness and drama, against the spectacle of what we now know was her actual disintegration on that reality show, the monolithic excellence of her instrument, when she was at her best, will last. If you doubt it — or if you just want a way to remember her, at the end of her last year on earth — check out the a cappella version of “How Will I Know” that floats around the Internet. All the dated synthiness is stripped away. You can hear the surprising solidity of the melody (written by the husband-wife songwriting duo Boy Meets Girl), and you can hear the shining one-in-a-million-ness of Whitney’s voice, the voice that launched a thousand pop divas but hasn’t quite been equaled by any of them.
 
John Jeremiah Sullivan is a contributing writer for the magazine and the author of ‘‘Pulphead.’’

 

 

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#6 Austin

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Posted 17 May 2015 - 03:05 AM

Life MAGAZINE
Oct 1990
 
Title: Whitney Houston.
Author: David Van Biema
 
Time Inc. 1990
 
-
 
Whitney Houston drapes herself over a chair in the middle of her own living room and seems out of place.
 
It's not just the living room itself; although at 25 feet high, bounded on one side by a panoramic view of her Mendham, N.J., property and on the other by a magnificent stained-glass wall, capped by a teal- and mauve-framed skylight more suited to an observatory, it's a space in which only a giant could feel comfortable.
 
Nor is it merely that the real-life Whitney Houston isn't the dominating presence her album covers suggest, although this, too, is true. (She is smaller, less statuesque, more girl-like.)
 
No, it is something less tangible -- some lack of understanding between her and the space. A tentativeness. A formality, as if this were someone else's home and it was resisting her.
 
Later she will tell a story that helps explain it: "When I finished touring on the second album, I hadn't lived in my house. I'd owned it for a year and a half, but I hadn't lived in it. I designed it on the road -- picked out the blinds -- but here I was moved in, and it was like it wasn't mine. The bedroom was so large, sometimes it seemed it was swallowing me. And I'd sleep in the maid's quarters. People used to laugh at me, but I needed to get a grasp on it, you know, my living space."
 
And from then on, as she passes through her home followed by the photographer, his assistants, the fashion coordinator and the hairdresser, it makes sense.  Some of the rooms are hers, some of them aren't -- yet. You can own a house, but it may be years before you occupy it.
 
Likewise, it may take a while for a very gifted and precocious musician to truly occupy her talent. Or for a young woman to whom everything came very, very quickly to occupy her life.
 
For four years there was virtually no getting away from her, not that anybody wanted to. Her first album, Whitney Houston, was the most successful solo debut in history. Her second, Whitney, featured four consecutive singles -- "I Wanna Dance With Somebody," "Didn't We Almost Have It All," "So Emotional" and "Where Do Broken Hearts Go" -- that hit No. 1 on the Billboard chart. She was just right for the conservative '80s. She was identifiably black, a gorgeous black woman, and nonthreatening enough for the "9-to-90" demographic to let into their living rooms. And she could sing. Trained by her mother, Cissy, an R&B and gospel artist (as well as backup singer to Elvis and Aretha), and influenced by her cousin, Dionne Warwick, Whitney had the Big Voice and could do seemingly anything with it. Her debut moved The New York Times to herald the 22-year-old as "a massive talent."
 
And yet even as the second album was monopolizing health clubs and car stereos in mid-1987, a number of critics were suggesting that despite owning her gift she didn't quite occupy it. Some put the point in racial terms: She was accused of betraying her black roots to do bland "crossover" material that captured the heart of Nebraska, Holland and Australia. Others took a more psychological approach. Says J. D. Considine, pop music critic at the Baltimore Sun, "She's a little like a prize horse that is trained to the point where it has its speed and command of the track, runs around it a few times to show it can do it, but isn't really interested in the race, or why it's running."
 
There may be something to that. In her youth Whitney seems to have lacked the drive to be "special" one might imagine in, say, a future Madonna or Prince.  Specialness arrived -- but not at her bidding; at her mother's, perhaps, or God's. Cissy Houston wanted her daughter to wear dresses to the Franklin elementary school in East Orange, N.J. The daughter objected. There was already trouble with classmates: "My face was too light, my hair was too long. I got chased, I got picked at. Girls would tell me, `I'm gonna kick your butt after school.' " Cissy insisted. O.K., said Whitney, then changed into smuggled blue jeans -- anonymity, sameness, safety -- when she got to school. "Blue jeans saved my BLEEP! a lot of times," she says.
 
The little girl from the unsteady family -- her parents would split amicably when she was in high school -- loved the church: the shared feelings of holiness, goodwill, belonging, and the music. But here, too, she was doomed to be special. At 11, she was plucked from the choir to sing a solo -- "Guide Me, O Thou Great Jehovah" -- and was both thrilled and disturbed when half the congregation was in tears when she finished.
 
"I always wanted to sing," she says. "But background, like my mother." Fat chance. When Whitney was 14, Cissy, performing at New York's Town Hall, brought her onstage to sing a verse of "Tomorrow" from Annie. "People rushed the stage," says Whitney. "I kind of backed up. I was scared of the intensity. I thought they were going to kill me."
 
To help her deal with her gift and the mixed feelings it stirred, Whitney had the aid of a friend. Two years older than Whitney when they met as summer camp counselors, Robyn Crawford was athletic and empathetic -- "I did a lot of listening," she says with a smile -- and she served as bulwark and reality check as her new friend's life took off. By 1980, Whitney was enrolled as a model with the trendy Click agency. Soon, performing at small clubs, she was the buzz of New York's R&B crowd. And in 1983, after a fevered professional courtship, she put herself in the hands of a man whose reputation was built on
making female vocalists -- Janis Joplin, Aretha Franklin, Dionne Warwick -- so special they needed no last names. Clive Davis, searching for a big act at his new label, Arista, recognized in Whitney the looks, lungs and lineage of a future crossover empress. Which is what she became, ready or not.
 
For his next location, the photographer chooses the game room in the basement, with its Pacmania, Blasteroids, pool table, fake-zebra chairs and fake-leopard carpeting. The spot seems more comfortable to Whitney, who is lecturing Misteblu, her Angora cat, who refuses to pose for the camera: "You eat good, you live good, you should be happy to get your picture taken with me. But life isn't like that, is it? You can't be happy all the time."
 
The next years were unexpectedly wearing. Soon after Whitney Houston came out in early 1985, she toured as the opening act for Jeffrey Osborne and Luther Vandross. When the album hit big, she became a headliner. "I toured for two years," she recalls. "Then right into the studio to make the second one." To everyone's surprise, the second one opened at No. 1 and stayed there. "It was hot as a pistol. Immediately I began to tour again. I did the States. I did Australia, Japan. That took another two years."
 
As any rocker will tell you, four years on the road can turn anybody's specialness into a pathology. You may well be special enough to ban, as one group did, brown M&Ms from your dressing room, but you may not be able to find a real friend -- or even a real emotion. As one single after another topped the charts, Whitney says, "There was no time to really revel in it or be saturated in it. There were times when I cried because I didn't understand what was happening to me as a person." When the tour finally ended, Whitney was relieved. "I had done what I was supposed to do, and my break was deserved. It was time to catch up on me."
 
So if you are 25, rich, famous, and have no idea what it all means, how do you begin to catch up?
 
"I lived in my house." Ah, yes, the house -- 20,000 square feet of palatial ranch, complete with requisite pool, her initials embedded in the bottom in 16-foot black Plexiglas letters. At first it was hopeless: Lights flickered on and off as she contended with master switches. She was ignorant of alarm codes. She felt stupid. She decided to do something. "I found out who's the electric guy, who's the maintenance guy, the pool guy, the this, the that.  Some things I learned as I went along." And one day she quit sleeping in the maid's room for good. 
 
What next? What else might yield to a little determination and work? In 1986, Whitney asked her father, who had guided Cissy's career in the old days, to run her corporate entity, Nippy, Inc. At the time, as John Houston notes bluntly, "Whitney didn't know nothing." Owned but not occupied. "I remember my father showing me pictures of this real estate, and I said, `Oh, Daddy, these are so nice, but I already have a home.' And he said, `These are your investments.' And I said, `Oh, yeah. I knew that.' " And soon she did. Now she yeas or nays his important corporate decisions and can proclaim, "Whitney Houston is a business. And she feels very good about that, you know."
 
Friendship, of course, is a more subtle task. Whitney already had old friends: Robyn, now her executive assistant; two brothers, Michael and Gary; and the little army of Jerseyites who had known her family for years and now took roles in her organization. But she needed new friends. People to share her new life as equals and still remind her of the values she grew up with.
 
BeBe and CeCe Winans, from a venerable black Pentecostal family in Detroit, were an extremely popular gospel duo. Contemporaries of Whitney, both were married, and CeCe had two children. BeBe remembers originally meeting Whitney after one of her supporting appearances. "I told her, `I don't know your name, I just want to know what church you came from, because nobody who sings like you didn't come up in church.' "
 
It was the right opener. They exchanged numbers. And exchanged them and exchanged them, so they could call each other from any city or continent. "If the phone rang at three a.m., it was Whitney," says BeBe.
 
"She's like the rest of our family," says CeCe. "She's crazy."
 
And whenever they all ended up in the same town, without a producer within miles or even a microphone, Whitney would sing with BeBe and CeCe, usually about God. It was like throwing off a straitjacket. "They sing from such a pure place," she says. "It brought me back to where I started. I could be free, to express the real core of me."
 
It was happening. Whitney's life -- her cold, resplendent, unused house of a life -- was filling, with two cats (Misteblu has a cohort named Marilyn) in the yard and music in every room. Well, in almost every room. There was still an empty room, as one of her songwriters might say, for love.
 
This was complicated, though not as complicated, she says, as some rumors have suggested. "I mean, people really believe that I'm gay! It's a real trip. At first it hurt, because even back in our hometown people thought Robyn and I were gay because we were so close. But now, all I can say is, it cracks me up. I have no desire for a woman. But if that turns you on, and that's what you think, go for it. I'm not going to spend the rest of my life trying to prove it's not true, because I know the truth."
 
The truth, she explains, is that her career had stunted her romantic life. "I wasn't really going out with anyone. I was on hold. I was recording. I was promoting. I was here. I was there. A certain kind of paranoia runs through you. It's not like people meet you and want to get to know you. They already think they know you. So one day you turn around and . . . `Oooh, I've got this wall around me.' "
 
Whitney remembers a mother-daughter chat two years ago in Verona, N.J. "I said I wanted to grab for the simple things in life. I wanted to find a guy, get married, have children. And she in her wisdom said, `Yeah, well, that'll all come to you . . . but honey, it's going to take time, and all Mommy can tell you is God knows when it's right for you. And when it's right, He'll deliver.' "
 
By way of warming up, Whitney got Eddie Murphy. "I went to Arsenio's birthday show [in 1989], and Eddie was there. Ed and I had never quite connected; the time wasn't right. But this was when I started to say, `O.K., I'll go out with you, you know, I'll have a date with you.' "
 
They both lived in New Jersey. They were both multimillionaires. And he was supportive, in his fashion: "Eddie says I can sing my BLEEP! off." Eventually the romance passed, but a picture of the two on a street, her hand on his chest, is framed in the game room.
 
Now, she says, she is "dating. But I date steady. One guy at a time." The current guy is not as well known as Eddie Murphy, but "he does exist, and he knows who he is, and he's very much a man." It is from his pinkie, she says, that she got the elaborate ring that now adorns (informally) the third finger of her left hand.
 
Finally there was an interior to Whitney's life -- a private interior with comfortable nooks and crannies that only she knew -- and the time to explore them. Time to spend a week sunning in her second home in North Miami Beach.   Time to visit her nephews and nieces or spirit her mother to a Tyson fight in Las Vegas. Time to puzzle over recurring dreams, like the one in which a statue turns into an ugly giant "eight or nine feet tall, kind of discolored.  He's always running after me but never gets me." And another in which "I'm crossing the George Washington Bridge [connecting Jersey to Manhattan], and the bridge starts swinging. It's raining and snowing and sleeting. It's so windy the bridge turns upside down. But I'm making it, I'm making it across.  And when I'm almost there, a hand reaches out for me. It's a man with white hair who says `He told me to come for you' and lifts me up and puts me on the other side."
 
And best of all, there was time to catch BeBe and CeCe on tour. Whitney joined them onstage in so many places, they started setting up a mike for her; she was often a backup singer (shades of Sundays past) but sometimes the lead. "A lot of people came to those concerts," says CeCe. "Ashford and Simpson, people like that. Some of them didn't know Whitney could sing that good. She hangs a little looser in a gospel concert, and she just let it rip. And they were floored."
 
Which is interesting, because that's what all those critics had been saying she should do, hoping she would do, suggesting maybe she couldn't do, because she didn't have the soul, or the heart.
 
The third Whitney Houston album, titled I'm Your Baby Tonight, is due out this month, and she is a little careful in describing it. After all, before Whitney was released there was a lot of talk about how it would be "blacker" than Whitney Houston, which it wasn't. Nonetheless she ventures, "It's a little heavier in rhythm; it's got nice grooves in it." R&B aficionados are heartened by the fact that several songs, including the title track, were written and mixed by the hot R&B production team L.A. Reid and Babyface. (Says Reid, "I never knew she was as funky as she is.") "This one's more spontaneous," Whitney says. "You know, I'm not going to try to be this wild queen or something, but I think maybe it's just having a lot more fun."
 
She is also producing two tracks herself. They seem to have special meaning to her. One is a gospel-touched song coauthored by BeBe. Whitney recites the following lyric: "I'm knockin', come open up the door / My heart's been right here waiting for someone to adore / Who's to say it's easy -- sometimes life's not fair / I've heard some say just knock, the door will open / And when it does, you'll find love standing there / . . . And if it's true, I'm knockin'... . ."
 
Night has fallen. The photo session is over. In the kitchen someone is icing a cake. In the den sits a quartet of cardplayers: Whitney, Robyn, Billie (a backup singer) and Ellen, Whitney's hairstylist. Somebody is griping, creatively, about bad cards. Somebody else sings along with the radio -- note for note, in perfect harmony. Billie is telling a funny story. And suddenly a peculiar noise fills the air, sounding a little like this: Whooo! Heeee!  Whooo! Heee! It is Whitney. Still dressed in her sequined gown from the last photographic pose, doubled over in her chair, losing it, falling out laughing. "Whooo! Heee! Whooo! Heee!"
 
And at least in this room, at this moment, she seems very comfortable, totally in harmony, with her home.

Edited by Austin, 17 May 2015 - 03:06 AM.

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#7 Austin

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Posted 21 May 2015 - 06:23 AM

 
 
TGJ Replay: Whitney Houston’s ‘I’m Your Baby Tonight’
 
By Rashad on Friday 16th Jan 2015
 
 
Join us as we travel back to 1990…
 
It had to be something to be the anomaly of “Whitney Houston” in 1989. For, with history books seemingly growing weary of etching the pop princess’s name along its pages for one reason or the other (see: besting The Beatles’ singles record with 7 consecutive #1 singles, best-selling debut album by a female artist at the time, sophomore album becoming first female album ever to debut at #1, etc.), Houston, affectionately known as Nippy, was learning the hard way that success was a double edged sword.  Not only was the powerhouse vocalist grappling with having to meet or exceed the whopping worldwide sales of her first two efforts (‘Whitney Houston’ – 25 million, ‘Whitney’ – 20 million) and the evolution of and growing need for music videos (a format she never exactly clung to like her less vocally talented, chart-topping counterparts), but 1989 would bring with it glaring proof of the growing distance between herself and the “Urban” audience.
 
Indeed, two back to back unceremonious jeerings at the ’88 and ’89 Soul Train Awards signified to most that the audience had grown weary of Nippy’s soaring gospel-like vocal displays boarding fluffy “white” pop numbers.  The incidents are credited by most as the catalyst for the sonic direction of her third album.
 
Much like pop/R&B counterpart Janet Jackson, the powerhouse singer’s third album would finally see her gain ‘control’  as it marked the first time her handler, Clive Davis, would allow her more creative command over her image, sound, and overall product.  Still under his guidance, however, the two would tap Luther Vandross, L.A. Reid, and Babyface to steer the album’s sonic direction down more rhythmic avenues.  Combining elements of pop, jazz, new jack swing, R&B, and hip hop, the collection of tunes would primarily see Houston travel terrains of sound her two previous efforts hadn’t dared as, for the first time, her name was listed as “co-songwriter” and “producer” on album credits.
 
But, for safe measure (as the majority of Whit’s hits were ballads), Davis ensured the inclusion of work from previous producers Narada Michael Walden and Michael Masser to assist audiences with transitioning to this ‘new Whitney’ without alienating fans of her power ballads ‘Greatest Love of All,’ ‘Where Do Broken Hearts Go,’ and more.
 
The outcome of this venture?  ‘I’m Your Baby Tonight.’
 
Fall 1990 would introduce fans to the “new Whitney” with the release of the album’s L.A. Reid & Babyface-produced title track. With an instantly recognizable, Michael Jackson-esque intro in tow, the song would dethrone Mariah Carey‘s ‘Love Takes Time’ and blare its way to #1 on the Hot 100 and ‘Hot R&B’ charts in just six weeks on the wings of strong radio airplay and one of Houston’s most conceptually driven music videos ever.  Arguably feeling the pressure to compete with fellow pop titans’ (Madonna, Janet Jackson, Michael Jackson, Paula Abdul, George Michael) manipulation of the evolving format, ‘Tonight’s visual accompaniment would see the songstress travel through time to ode her musical influences.  Nodding to the likes of Audrey Hepburn, Diana Ross, and more, the video would symbolize a farewell to the gown-donning balladress of the 80’s fans had grown to love to greet a “hip, 90s Whitney” with ripped jeans and leather jacket to boot.
 
It worked.
 
Landing her 8th #1, the song’s chart performance would ease label fears that revamping the singer’s image was a wrong move…to some degree. Its short tenure on the chart’s perch, followed by the album’s #3 peak on the Billboard 200, led Davis and co. to go back to Houston’s tried and true formula; ballads. Tapping her remake of the early 80s, Linda Clifford hit ‘All the Man That I Need’ as ‘Tonight’s follow-up, fans not so keen on Houston’s updated sonic approach would fall in love all over again.Talk about a knockout performance! Decorated with a stunning crescendo of Whitney’s emotional vocal delivery, assortment of strings, and a high-spirited choir, the song – despite growing opposition from Carey – would reassert the singer’s position as the era’s premier balladress.  Giving the powerhouse her second #1 single from this album and 9th overall, the song would mark her first time reigning atop the Hot 100, ‘Hot R&B,’ and ‘Adult AC’ charts simultaneously.
 
At the rate the 90s was shaping up, by 1991 Whitney looked to be well on her way to dominating the decade much like she did the 80s.  Though her bad girl image would find boosts from reports of diva behavior, photos of her smoking cigarettes, updated wardrobe, and a timely relationship with R&B bad boy Bobby Brown making its waves across the rumor mills and headlines, Houston was very much still ‘America’s Sweetheart.’  The status of such was undoubtedly cemented when she took to Superbowl XXV to perform the ‘Star Spangled Banner.’ We use the term “perform” lightly.
 
Let’s try..hmm…annihilate.
 
Particularly emotional for some fans as the U.S. was at the genesis of the Persian Gulf War, the singer took to the field to lend such a heart-tugging rendition of the U.S. national anthem that it would not only be received with thunderous applause from the audience in attendance, but it would literally become the standard for every single act that has dared to attempt it after.  In fact, the response was so overwhelming that Houston’s record label home, Arista Records, granted her version “single status” and donated all proceeds to charity.
 
Despite the “lip syncing scandal” that ensued, the tune’s performance on charts delivered her highest single debut at the time (at #32 on Hot 100) and would peak at #20.  Scanning over 750,000 purchases in 8 days, at a time where singles were not digitally downloaded for $.99 a pop, the song would become Arista’s fastest selling single for quite some time.(Special note:  Whitney’s version recharted in 2001 and would make her the first and only singer in history to make the song a Top 10 hit.)
 
The overwhelming wave of publicity following her U.S. national anthem performance did not deter her attention from celebrating her first album of creative control, however.  Going back to ‘I’m Your Baby Tonight,’ Davis and co. would follow-up ‘All The Man That I Need’ with the ballad ‘Miracle’ (#9 Hot 100 peak), new jack swing jam ‘My Name Is Not Susan’ (#20 Hot 100 peak),  ‘I Belong To You,’ and Stevie Wonder duet ‘We Didn’t Know.’
 
Though each single following ‘All the Man That I Need’ would perform worse than its predecessor, the ‘I’m Your Baby Tonight’ era did little to stunt the growth of Houston’s social status.  With monumental moments like Superbowl XXV, the ensuing ‘Welcome Home Heroes’ HBO concert special, and a supporting world tour to keep her name in mention, by the time the dust settled the album still managed to shift a whopping 12 million worldwide.  Granted, the numbers paled in comparison to her two previous efforts, but the era would only act as a stepping stone to her career’s shining achievement…‘The Bodyguard’ movie and accompanying soundtrack.
 
On the awards tip, the album landed Grammy ‘Best Pop Vocal Performance, Female’ nods for ‘I’m Your Baby Tonight’ (1991) and ‘All the Man That I Need’ (1992), 1993 ‘Best R&B Vocal Performance, Female’ Grammy nod (‘I Belong To You’), and American Music Award nods, but no wins.
 
‘I’m Your Baby Tonight’ is unforgivably the least celebrated album of Whitney Houston’s prime.  A shame, let us tell it, because it gave the songstress so many “firsts”:  first time she really began to own her sexuality, first venture into unadulterated R&B devoid of pop flavouring or undertone, and the first time she took the driver’s seat to have a “say so” in how she was represented.  It was the beginning of the derailment of Houston’s pristine image and, ultimately, we liked it for what it was supposed to be until it got out of control.
 
It’s obvious, in part, the era’s overall purpose was to “modernize” the former pop princess to go toe to toe with her fellow pop titans as proof of this could be argued with the increased intensity of choreography in her music videos & staging as well as her updated wardrobe and downplay of ballads.  Yet, instead of helping her “keep up,” the era only helped distinguish her more from the Madonna’s and Janet’s of the day by adding a spice of diversity that, let us tell it, was lost again when Davis helmed ‘The Bodyguard’ soundtrack offerings.
 
Either way, IYBT is an absolute gem.
 
 

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#8 kennethbrdk

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Posted 21 May 2015 - 06:57 AM

Thanks for all these articles - I enjoy reading them :)


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#9 Austin

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Posted 23 May 2015 - 12:15 AM

 
Whitney Houston: Her Life Played Out Like An Opera
 
 
FEBRUARY 11, 2012 9:15 PM ET
 
by Ann Powers | NPR
 
It played out like an opera, her life. Whitney Houston was born during the golden, brutal days of the civil rights movement, into a family of royal women. Her mother, Cissy Houston, raised the house in gospel circles and backed up many a hitmaker; her cousin, Dionne Warwick, pioneered the crossover sound Whitney would later take even higher. Her godmother, Aretha Franklin, is soul's Queen. She was born blessed. And she grew up wise, in the nightclubs where her mama sang, like some kind of New Jersey Carmen: love is a gypsy's child; it has never known a law.
 
At 21 she became a racehorse. After a few early experiments, including apprenticeships in modeling and harmonizing with her spiritual elder sister, Chaka Khan, Houston met Clive Davis, the record man who would be her lifelong mentor. Davis signed her to Arista Records, in 1985 her debut came out and, after a slow start, three hit singles granted Houston the superstardom that would define her for the rest of her life, even after her daily circumstances had changed so much.
 
I was a kid working at Tower Records in San Francisco when Whitney Houston hit. What I remember is the life-sized cut out photograph that we propped up next to the stacks of her album, which kept getting depleted and restocked. In the picture she wore a swimsuit; her body was sleek and shiny, her perfection a haughty challenge to raggedy New Wave girls like me. I can't say I loved her then. She represented '80s culture at its glitziest and most carnivorous — she was the perfect, impossibly expansive voice of the yuppie soul, feeding on stock options and caviar.
 
Later, when I got deeper into contemporary urban music, I could hear how her singing made soul music's church into a crystal cathedral. Her tone and her power put her in a class nearly by herself. And unlike other glamor queens of that era, Houston also cultivated a certain wry warmth, the laugh that burst out of her gorgeous mouth and let us know that she would always come down from the throne, kick off her spiked heels and dance with us.
 
She found even more fame in the '90s, becoming a movie star and claiming Dolly Parton's "I Will Always Love You" as a signature that came to mark every surface of the culture. Then she started to fall. Houston's marriage to Bobby Brown was a slow motion car wreck, marred by drug use and public squabbles, though blessed by a daughter whom she clearly adored. The slobbering attentions of the tabloid journalists made things worse, as did every snicker each of us indulged about her sadness.
 
Still, Houston made one of her finest albums during this period —My Love Is Your Love, which showcased a grittier voice and, on songs like "It's Not Right But It's Okay," a determination to mine hard times for meaning, the way she'd once milked the glory of her youth.
 
In this century, Houston became an emblem of decline — of the human toll taken by drugs, and of the shifting nature of pop, whose stars now act much more like trick ponies than thoroughbreds. Houston made more music and won more accolades (according to the Guinness Book of World Records, she holds more trophies than any other pop star) and did manage to occasionally appear in public. But her comeback never solidified. The most obvious testimony to the greatness of her gift is that, even when she was most down, the butt of comedians' jokes and gossip columnists sneers, her fellow artists only spoke of her in admiration and love.
 
Her artistic father figure, Clive Davis, never gave up hope that she would return. Every year at the party he threw in the Beverly Hilton Hotel — where she died Saturday afternoon, hours before she was scheduled to appear — Davis held out hope that this would be the time Houston would regain her breath and her fire and finally win again. She did make a go of it in 2009, wearing leopard skin and smiling widely as she sang with her cousin Dionne. It wasn't miraculous, but it was good enough to move the room to cheers and tears.
 
That Houston died mere steps from that stage, only to be discovered by her bodyguard in one of the thousand hotel rooms where she'd laid her head, is strange poetry. I've long thought that someone should write an opera about this brash, brilliant woman, born a child of soul and raised to womanhood within the heart of crossover pop. She broke hearts, and was herself broken. She suffered, but not in her music, which even at its saddest was grounded in a sense of dignity and the determination to transcend. She defined a style that so many would adopt, yet her talent was unique.
 
At the beginning of her book Opera, Or the Undoing Of Women, the French theorist Catherine Clement turns to various arias to embellish her argument about how music symbolizes and enacts the pain women must endure. "A prima donna is a column broken in two that bleeds from top to bottom," sings the diva in Offenbach's The Tales of Hoffmann. This reprisal reveals what we listeners crave: gorgeous suffering, self-exposure a show of power. Clement quotes another aria, from Jean Cocteau's text for Cantate, that makes me think of Whitney Houston, as I hope to always think of her. As an aerialist: "See see how I can fly / I can stay up alone / Detach myself from earth / Spin and rise / Rise wingless, wingless / Climb into the air the way you fall / Gently / In a whirl."

Edited by Austin, 23 May 2015 - 12:16 AM.

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#10 Austin

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Posted 23 May 2015 - 12:23 AM

Whitney Houston: The Long Road To Overnight Stardom
 
Bud Scoppa, Billboard, December 1986
 
Once in a blue moon, a new artist emerges who simply takes over, in utterly decisive and undeniable fashion. So it was with Whitney Houston – signed at nineteen, unleashed at twenty-one, a superstar at twenty-two. She has it all – artistry, presence, beauty, style, substance, naturalness - and you can't miss it. Whitney Houston is huge, and she can back it up for miles.
 
What a coup: Houston's self-titled debut album has smoothly become Whitney Houston's Greatest Hits, with a full half-dozen bell-ringers and steadily spectacular sales. It's a perennial, a standard, a classic, a Tapestry – yup, among the recordings of female vocalists, only Carole King's magnum opus has sold more units ... ever. And Whitney's a multimedia phenom: she's all over the tube, her lovely face adorns the covers of countless magazines, her concerts sell out in nanoseconds, she provides Diet Coke with a classic Coke-bottle shape. Hell, she's the Boss of CHR, an automatic movie star, America's sweetheart - her future's so bright she's gotta wear shades. Don't look any further – the girl is it.
 
In retrospect, Whitney Houston's superstardom seems so inevitable that her career appears to have been preordained. Surely it was all on tracks: She was meant to break big, and her record was meant to be on Arista, where her unfettered brilliance and Clive Davis' legendary savvy would elegantly entwine into a marriage as regal as that of Chuck & Di. (Clive & Whitney...ahh, the smell of it).
 
As it turns out though, the Whitney Houston phenomenon was set into motion not by the gods, nor even by Clive Davis himself, but by a hard-working low-profile guy named Gerry Griffith, whose efforts as an Arista A&R man serve to remind us what the acronym A&R stands for: artist(s) and repertoire. According to Griffith, the making of Whitney Houston was virtually the pop equivalent of a De Mille extravaganza – epic and expensive. A quick glance at the extensive credits indicates that this album did not come fast; a close reading of the inside story reveals that it didn't come easy, either.
 
Griffith got his first look at Houston back in 1980, quite by accident.
 
He and Richard smith, Arista's chief of black A&R, were at New York's Bottom Line in an official capacity, to meet and greet GRP/Arista flautist Dave Valentin, who was headlining. Through some quirk of fate, they arrived early enough to catch opener Cissy Houston, who brought her seventeen year-old daughter onstage for a solo turn. Smith and Griffith were stunned – along with the rest of the crowd – by the prodigious vocal talent of the youngster. "You should sign her," Smith told Griffith. But the A&R man wasn't convinced. "As good as she is," he told his companion, "there's still something lacking. She isn't quite ripe yet."
 
Two years later, Griffith got a call from a friend. Had he ever heard of Whitney Houston? She asked him. He remembered her name immediately from the show he'd seen and said so. "You better move fast," she cautioned. "She's negotiating with Elektra for a deal." The news shook him up. "I said, 'Uh-oh - I better check this out,'" he recalls. As it turned out, Houston was performing that very weekend at another New York club, Seventh Avenue South. Griffith called Houston's manager, Gene Harvey, and had his name put on the guest list.
 
"So I went down, and I was completely floored," Griffith says now. "She was mesmerizing. I couldn't believe she had grown so much in that two-year period. She went from a teenager to a woman. She had a mature look, her voice was more mature, she had obvious star quality. It took no genius to see it – all you had to do was just see her and you knew. I'll never forget, she sang the song Tomorrow from [the musical] Annie, and it was a showstopper. After I got up off the floor, I just knew that I had to bring her to the label."
 
To insiders, Arista's A&R sector has more in common with a monarchy than a business; signing power is all but exclusively in Davis' hands, and he prides himself on his acumen in identifying future stars. Thus, Griffith's initial task involved persuading his boss that Whitney Houston was a viable signing. Faced with this challenge, Arista A&R staffers generally proceed with great caution. But Griffith wasn't about to pussyfoot around in this case – Houston was Something Else, and Elektra was too close for comfort.
 
"So the very next day I went in to see Clive," Griffith continues. "And you know how it was – you always had to ask for things. But this time I just walked in and said 'Look – I'm showcasing somebody for you who I think is a phenomenal talent. But I need a week to prepare.' He says, 'Fine Let me know when you're ready'. He's matter-of-fact about things like that, which is understandable, because I had no idea. I set up a showcase at Top Cat Studio in downtown New York, and her current musical director put the musicians together and rehearsed them for a week. She was doing a lot of Stephanie Mills-type material at the time, and she did a couple of other standards. I asked her to make Tomorrow the finale of her showcase."
 
When all was ready, Davis limoed down to Top Cat for what, as far as he knew, would be yet another instantly forgettable audition. But not even true believer Griffith was prepared for what transpired then.
 
"I mean, I knew she was good, but she just put on a magnificent performance at the showcase. Aside from the natural talent and the great looks, the lady has got guts," Griffith marvels, reflecting on all the talented performers he's seen wilt under Davis' imperious gaze. "She's never folded under pressure. And when you put all three of those things together, you can do it!"
 
Needless to say, Davis was immediately won over, and he fought off Elektra to sign the nineteen-year-old wunderkind. But this was no time for congratulations – they had an album to make. Where would the songs come from, and who would produce it? Just as important, what demographic sector constituted Whitney Houston's target audience? One thing was obvious: The young singer wasn't going to break off songs from Annie or The Wiz. Although Davis had the utmost confidence in his ability to find hit songs and place them in the appropriate contexts, he rarely signs artists on vocal ability alone; there are simply too many variables. But this lady was simply too good to pass up. The Whitney Houston project would have to be done from scratch, and the principals needed to agree on a direction.
 
"Where do we go from here?" Davis asked, only half-rhetorically. "We don't really have any idea how to present her." His approach, according to Griffith, involved trying to come up with the best possible material, regardless of style; same with producers. "She's a general-market artist, obviously, but my [initial] approach was to give her a black base," Griffith admits. Davis was right on track, but some solicitation was necessary.
 
"Clive had the idea of showcasing her on the West Coast for writers and producers, because we were really having trouble finding material for her," Griffith says of the situation in 1982-83. "We couldn't seem to come up with any interesting combinations [of songs and producers]. So we showcased her with a live band at the Vine Street Bar & Grill in front of artists, producers, songwriters, publishers, other record company executives – everyone was there. And we didn't get one decent song out of the whole thing, although everyone was flabbergasted. So we went back to the drawing board.
 
"Interestingly enough, a lot of major producers passed on her. I used to tell producers, 'Lemme tell you somethin' man - this is the next Diana Ross.' Whitney and I even met with Michael Omartian at one time, and that didn't turn out because of a problem with his scheduling. I know Omartian probably looks back now and says, "Omigod – I wish I'd altered my schedule!"
 
If songwriters, producers and publishers had known then what they know now – that Houston would leave Ross and everyone else in the dust – Davis and Griffith would've been buried under an avalanche of cassettes and phone messages. But one writer/producer – Kashif – was paying attention. He called Griffith and casually told the frustrated A&R man, "I think I have a song for you." So Griffith and Houston drove to the New Jersey studio where Kashif was working to check it out.
 
"There was a demo of it," Griffith recalls, "but LaLa [Cope, the writer] wanted to do it live. So we stood around the piano while LaLa sang You Give Good Love. And I said, 'That's the song – that's what I've been looking for.' It was the kind of tune that had the emotion that she could get into and sing her heart out. And they had another tune called Thinking About You. So we recorded those and they turned out great."
 
That first acceptable song would become Houston's initial hit single, one that would establish her simultaneously in the R&B and pop arenas. And soon after the LaLa/Kashif icebreaker, Griffith picked up Someone For Me from Warner Bros. Music. When Davis put together the song sequence for the album, he led with these three tunes.
 
As the project began to crystallize, Houston's potential as a mass-appeal artist became increasingly apparent, which pleased Davis, inasmuch as mainstream pop was the record mogul's prime area of expertise – his absolute passion, in fact. In matters of taste, Davis is a sophisticated middlebrow who adores swelling strings and sentimental refrains; sitting judgmentally in the studio for high volume listening session, he'll drop his guard, close his eyes and visibly swell when the modulation kicks in. Davis has memorized the formulas and insists on their application in the straight pop context; even Aretha is not immune to his edicts. So, with Houston identified as a mainstreamer, Davis found himself in the need of a certified popmeister to whip up some ballads. Enter Michael Masser.
 
Griffith: "Michael had been bugging [fellow A&R man] Michael Barackman and me about all these songs he had, and Masser never demos anything – he plays the stuff on a piano, and it's always a real dramatic situation. So we all thought Masser should be involved, and Clive worked on most of the Masser portion of the album. Clive was real tough on him and kept pushing him to come up with something great."
 
Davis got exactly what he wanted out of Masser: three classically structured, highly charged units of high melodrama, each one a full-bore "Clive ballad" from muted intro to modulated climax. These songs – Greatest Love Of All, Hold Me (both co-written with the late Linda Creed and All At Once (a collaboration with Jeffrey Osborne) – are the emotional linchpins of the album, along with a re-roasted chestnut Masser had written in the mid-'70s for Marilyn McCoo: the Nyro-esque Saving All My Love For You. The pure pop was now firmly in place.
 
Meanwhile, back on the West Coast, Jermaine Jackson was brought into the Houston picture. "I mentioned to Clive that I thought Jermaine should do a duet with Whitney," Griffith recalls. "He said, 'You find the song and we'll do it' – 'cause at the time we weren't gonna do a duet with her. So I was sitting in the Arista L.A office one time, and Linda Blum [then at Arista Music, now at Chappell] walks in and says, 'I got a great song you gotta hear.' I said 'Put it on.' After eight bars I knew it was a hit. It was called Don't Look Any Further. I played it for Clive – he loved it. We sent it over to Jermaine, who said okay. We recorded the song and it was a smash – and the performances were marvellous. We were thinking about releasing it as the first single; Clive's thinking was that it could launch both their careers at the same time. And it would have had a very strong black base. We found out through the grapevine that Dennis Lambert, who wrote it, had already cut the song with Dennis Edwards! Arista music didn't actually have the copyright; it was one of those spec deals. O-k-a-a-a-y...so we had to drop it. Jermaine came up with another tune, Take Good Care Of My Heart, a beautiful song, so we eventually cut that. In the meantime, Don't Look Any Further was a #1 R&B record for Edwards. Our version would've been a crossover version, because it had more of a pop appeal."
 
It boggles the mind to contemplate how big Whitney Houston might've been with the inclusion of the smash that got away – past Tapestry, perhaps? At any rate, Jackson wound up producing three tracks, dueting on two of them. The project was just one potential single away from being complete. It came from the most conventional of sources – a big publishing company – but in a rather unconventional way.
 
"I was in Brenda Andrews' office at Almo/Irving in Los Angeles, which is my town for finding songs," Griffith says. "I told her we needed one more song for the project – a pop/R&B kind of young-dance thing – and she played me seven or eight songs, none of which I felt were right. Then she said, 'Oh, by the way, we just signed these two writers from San Francisco - lemme play this for ya.' It was 'How Will I Know.' I played it for Clive – he loved it. Now we had to find a producer, and I thought Narada Michael Walden would probably be the best guy to do it; he had this special thing he could put into it. He actually cut the track in San Fransisco, flew to L.A. to work with Mike Barbiero and lead vocals on and mixed the damn thing - he had the record done in about a week and a half."
 
So after nearly three years of false starts, brainstorms, song demos, cross country flights, missed opportunities and baroque machinations, Whitney Houston finally had her album – and Clive Davis had his most gratifying triumph. Griffith, meanwhile, wound up as A&R VP of Manhattan Records (which has had a banner year on the R&B charts). He's proud of the contribution he made to the Houston project, but he's quick to acknowledge the efforts of other key people:
 
"I can't speak for [promotional men] Donny Lenner and Richard Smith, who had to break the record. They did a great job. They went out there and sold this record, man. But to be honest with you, it really took Clive's perseverance and his ability to make things happen for her. I mean, he really made this record happen."
 
Wait a minute. Haven't we forgotten somebody? Oh yeah, that's right – Whitney Houston! "She's a delightful, talented lady," Griffith confirms, "and she's gonna be around for a long time."
 
Good point, Gerry. Actually when you come right down to it, Clive couldn't have done it without her.

Edited by Austin, 23 May 2015 - 12:24 AM.

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#11 Austin

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Posted 26 May 2015 - 02:42 AM

 
THE GLOBE AND MAIL:
 
The Globe’s Liam Lacey met Whitney just as she hit the mainstream in 1985. A look back at his impressions. From April 24, 1985
 
The latest vocal sensation in mainstream pop is a 21-year-old singer from East Orange, N.J., by the name of Whitney Houston. First cousin to Dionne Warwick and daughter of gospel singer Cissy Houston, Whitney was already established as a fashion model, a critic's darling of the New York cabaret scene, and a high-profile back-up singer, before she released her self- titled debut album on Arista this year.
 
The album, which includes duets with Teddy Pendergrass and Jermaine Jackson, (who is also one of four producers on the album) is a deliberately mainstream record, and according to some reports, it is not a full indication of her real depth as a singer. New York reviewers, who have watched her grow up, have compared the room-filling vocal powers to those of Barbra Streisand and Aretha Franklin. Despite some mediocre material on the album, Houston's pipes are unquestionably great: free from affectation, clear and effortlessly powerful.
 
Arista Records, under the guidance of president Clive Davis, has taken the launching of Whitney Houston as its major project of 1985. On Monday, RCA-Canada (which distributes Arista) brought her to Toronto for interviews and a short showcase at the Club Bluenote. Houston came on stage in a pink gown with lots of fringes, and sang five songs (to back-up tapes) for the audience, which consisted entirely of media representatives.
 
The set-up wasn't exactly satisfying, but it did allow Houston to show off a voice that can scale mountains, turn somersaults and float down to soft landings. Her vocal quality suggests she has a "magic control knob" in her larynx: with no discernible physical effort, the voice make startling leaps in volume.
 
Houston seems an uncomplicated girl as she sits, diminutive and fawn- like, in a hotel room. She is dressed in faded blue- jeans and a loose, grey sweater. While watching the blatantly erotic video of her hit, You Give Good Love - in which Houston and a photographer have a suggestive encounter (the photographer with his zoom lens, the singer with her microphone) - she laughs and describes it as "cute." She learned to sing in a church choir, although since age 12, when "I first decided I wanted to do this as a profession," she has performed back-up in the studio, on her mother's records. More recently, she has served as a back-up vocalist on records by Chaka Khan, The Neville Brothers, Teddy Pendergrass, Lou Rawls and Michael Masser, and the avant-garde funk collective, Material.
 
The voice is a gift, she says, "a gift from God - but it's also a lot of work." At times, she admits, she has actually been afraid of her own vocal power. "The first time I did a solo - I was about 13. The choir master wanted me to do the solo, and I really didn't want to. Eventually, he made me do it, and I was terrified. I spent the whole time staring at this big clock in the church, just watching the hands and trying not to think of anything. When I finished, everyone was going crazy, laughing and cheering and crying. I couldn't figure out what the fuss was about. "Then when I got older, I discovered more things that my voice could do. My voice didn't really change too much in my teens; it just got better. I got a much stronger lower end, and I could sing higher as well. Sometimes, I got upset, wondering where it was going. I'd say to my mother: "When I do this, I want to cry, or when I sing this way, it sounds really strange. "She just laughed and said, 'Girl, you've got a lot of years ahead of you yet. Don't worry about it. Just let it go and see where it leads you.' "Now I'm looking forward to what it will sound like when I get older. I listen to my mother (a member of Aretha Franklin's back-up trio, The Sweet Inspirations), and her voice sounds better than ever, and Dionne (Warwick) is still sounding great. It's hard to learn, but this is just a gift, and I'm learning to stand back, let it go, and get out of the way."
 

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#12 ILoveYouBack

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Posted 27 May 2015 - 04:06 PM

I forgot about the Playboy interview. I love it. It shows how aware and in control she was. She was no fool, no dummy, and she understood music. I wish people would speak about how intelligent she was. Not just talented.


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#13 Austin

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Posted 05 June 2015 - 09:40 PM

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#14 Austin

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Posted 06 June 2015 - 06:19 PM

Whitney's #1 Records:

 

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Edited by Austin, 06 June 2015 - 06:22 PM.

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#15 Austin

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Posted 06 June 2015 - 07:46 PM

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