("We Will Always Love You: A GRAMMY Salute To Whitney Houston" will air Nov. 16 at 10 p.m. ET/PT on the CBS Television Network.)
When I first met Whitney, she was 13 years old. Her mom did a session at Atlantic Studios to sing background vocals for my 1977 album Garden Of Love Light. Tommy Dowd co-produced the album with me and he brought in Cissy Houston. Whitney's mom sang so powerfully I couldn't believe the sound. "Take me, take me, take me, take me, to the garden of love light." I saw a small girl sitting there quietly in the corner watching like a little angel. That was Whitney Houston.
Later, when Whitney was about 20 years old, Gerry Griffith called me about working on "How Will I Know," a song from her 1985 self-titled album. And I'm glad I did. When I met her again, she was so thin and statuesque but she had that same massive sound as her mom. I thought, "Wow, what a contrast to be so model-like with this massive sound coming out." "There's a boy I know/He's the one I dream of!"
What a sound! And she sang that whole thing after we put the background vocals down with her mom in the studio at Media Sound with engineer Michael Barbiero. She sang that whole thing in one take. I told Michael, "Get everything set up, mics, no distortion, everything really cool and clean, cause I feel it — she's gonna lay it down in one take." She sure enough did. Then she came back into the studio and looked at me like, "Yeah, so?" I said, "You just killed that thing!" She said, "Yeah I know," as if to say, "I'm bad like that, I know I'm bad like that." And that's my story with Whitney Houston.
Then Clive Davis got involved with me on Whitney's second album, primarily choosing material like "I Wanna Dance With Somebody (Who Loves Me)." Gratitude and love to him. Whitney broke the Beatles record with seven No. 1 singles in a row, and she and I went on to have 18 songs together, including "I Wanna Dance With Somebody (Who Loves Me)," "So Emotional," "Where Do Broken Hearts Go," "All The Man That I Need," "One Moment In Time" for the 1988 Summer Olympics and "I'm Every Woman" for The Bodyguard movie.
I'm very proud of my love for Whitney Houston. She really changed my life. She made my life a better life. She was so beautiful in her love for God, her love for her family and her love for music. She truly loved her music. She could do everything! She had flawless rhythm, flawless pitch, flawless feeling, and flawless beauty. You couldn't say no to her. We Love you Whitney! Cissy Houston and her family, huge hugs and love to you!
(Narada Michael Walden is a three-time GRAMMY-winning songwriter/producer. In 1993 he shared the Album Of The Year GRAMMY with Whitney Houston for The Bodyguard — Original Soundtrack Album. In addition to Houston, Walden has collaborated with GRAMMY-winning artists such as Jeff Beck, Mariah Carey and Aretha Franklin, among others. His most recent solo album is 2012's Thunder.)