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Jordin Sparks, Salaam Remi Talk Sparkle

In an exclusive interview, Sparkle star and composer discuss their roles in the film and working with the late Whitney Houston

GRAMMYs/Dec 3, 2014 - 05:06 am

Sparkle, Hollywood's latest musical drama, is scheduled to arrive in theaters on Aug. 17. Ahead of its release, GRAMMY.com previewed Sparkle with GRAMMY nominees Jordin Sparks, who stars in the film's leading role, and Salaam Remi, who scored the film.

A remake of the 1976 film, Sparkle tells the story of Sparkle Anderson (Sparks) and her two sisters and their aspirations to form a Motown group. The cast includes Carmen Ejogo, Mike Epps, Cee Lo Green, and Derek Luke, among others. The late Whitney Houston plays the role of the mother Emma, who is reluctant to support her daughters' dreams of a musical career. Sparks makes her feature film debut in Sparkle, which proved to be the last film project for Houston, who died Feb. 11.

"Working with Whitney was a dream come true for me and it's also become a huge blessing," says Sparks. "When we were filming [the movie,] we knew it was something really special. And for her to not be here, it's made it very bittersweet. It was something that she worked on for so long and something that she loved so much."

"For me it was [also] bittersweet because [composing] the score is one of the last things to do," adds Remi. "Watching the film within weeks of her actually passing was really a lot to take on."

In addition to Remi's score, the film's soundtrack includes songs performed by Green, Ejolo, Goapele, and Sparks. The soundtrack also contains the final recorded performances by Houston, including "Celebrate," a duet with Sparks. Sparkle marks Houston's fifth and final feature film role. The film is dedicated to her memory.

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GRAMMY Hall Of Fame Inspirations: Jennifer Hudson
Jennifer Hudson

Photo: Kevin Mazur/WireImage.com

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GRAMMY Hall Of Fame Inspirations: Jennifer Hudson

From timeless classics to infectious pop gems, GRAMMY winner Jennifer Hudson goes deep on six influential GRAMMY Hall Of Fame recordings

GRAMMYs/Dec 3, 2014 - 05:06 am

(To commemorate the GRAMMY Hall Of Fame's 40th Anniversary in 2013, GRAMMY.com has launched GRAMMY Hall Of Fame Inspirations. The ongoing series will feature conversations with various individuals who will identify GRAMMY Hall Of Fame recordings that have influenced them and helped shape their careers.)

Vocal powerhouse Jennifer Hudson grew up in Chicago in the '80s and '90s, but it was a piece of classic '70s disco that first made her want to put her talents to use as a professional performer.

"When I heard 'Got To Be Real' [by Cheryl Lynn] it just grabbed me," says Hudson. "That was the song that made me think, 'Oh God — that's what I want to do.' I'd mark off a little stage on the floor and hold my hairbrush microphone and jump up and down. I'd lose it."

A solid disco beat can still move her, but Hudson also cites gospel music as a major influence, having sung often in the church in her childhood with an extended family of talented vocalists.

Hudson got the chance to make her own music career real in 2004 when she delivered several knockout performances as a contestant on "American Idol." Her breakout role in the film adaptation of Dreamgirls followed in 2006, and two years later she took home Best R&B Album honors for her self-titled debut at the 51st GRAMMY Awards [link to show page].

With plans underway for her third studio album, Hudson reigns as one of the most gifted and affecting performers of her generation. Here are six recordings from the GRAMMY Hall Of Fame that continue to make her want to reach for the microphone — hairbrush or otherwise.

Whitney Houston
Whitney Houston
Arista (1985)
Album
Inducted 2013

"I have a hard time remembering what I was doing the first time I heard a lot of the Whitney songs because I went crazy for everything she did. That first album really had an effect on me. 'Saving All My Love For You,' 'How Will I Know,' 'Greatest Love Of All' — just saying the names of the songs makes me want to cry all over again. I do remember that 'Greatest Love Of All' was a total game changer for me. It was a song that had a very different kind of power. It didn't make you want to dance like my other favorites had done — this one captivated you. It put you into a trance. You started listening to that song and the world around you went silent.

"Whitney had that effect right from the start. There's a time to dance, and there's a time to listen, and Whitney had a voice that you had to listen to. The thing that has always amazed me is that her music is so powerful, and yet it's so soothing. In some ways it's perfect ear candy, but it can also move you to tears."

"Lady Marmalade"
LaBelle
Epic (1975)
Single
Inducted 2003

"When it is time to dance, this is the [song]. I think everybody has the experience with music that certain songs are powerful enough to take you right back to a certain time and place. There are songs you appreciate for the music, but there are songs you just feel are like old friends — you've got some history with them. For me, hearing Patti LaBelle and the group singing 'Lady Marmalade' takes me right back to the times when I was first getting so excited about music. This is the kind of song that just made me jump up and want to be a part of what was going on.

"I also remember being impressed by the look and the image of LaBelle too, which I didn't really know about until I'd already been familiar with the song. [They were] so much fun, and so expressive. I wish things were a little more like that now. Sometimes it feels like everything's been done. You think somebody has a new look and it turns out LaBelle [were] already there.

"Oh Happy Day"
Edwin Hawkins Singers
Buddah (1969)
Single
Inducted 1999

"I started out singing in church choruses, and even before I was singing I was sitting [on] my grandmother's lap while she was singing the chorus on Sunday or at choir rehearsal. My whole family sang — my grandmother was the youngest of 11 siblings and they all sang together as a group. I remember they'd do these warm-ups where they'd go around and everybody in the family had to sing their name: 'My name is Jennifer Hudson, how do you do?'

"I always loved that feeling of being surrounded by music and family, and that's a feeling I get from 'Oh Happy Day,' which is kind of funny because for all the singing we did in church, I don't think we sang that song. Once I heard it though, I couldn't get enough of it. It's one of those great pieces of music that's a real church song, but it gets you there just like any great up-tempo pop song. It gives you that great feeling of energy and makes you smile. It does what the title tells you it does — makes your day a happier one."

"Bridge Over Troubled Water"
Simon & Garfunkel
Columbia (1970)
Single
Inducted 1998

"I just absolutely love this song, and have from the first time I heard it. But for a long time what I was familiar with was the Aretha Franklin version. A friend finally introduced me to the Simon & Garfunkel original. Their recording is so perfect and so heavenly — every time I hear it I either want to sing along with the whole thing, or just say, 'Hallelujah.' The sound is so pure and the arrangement is so beautiful, it just sends you away. Then, when you really listen to the words, it's beautiful on a whole different level. What does everyone want in life but a bridge over troubled water?

"This is the kind of song that makes me wonder: When it was being written and recorded, did they have a sense of how amazing and timeless this was? Did they know from the start it was a masterpiece? I think we musicians know when we've done the best we can do, and that's a great feeling. But I wonder if there's an extra awareness when you create something that's just going to last forever. This song is definitely in that category."

"People"
Barbra Streisand
Columbia (1964)
Single
Inducted 1998

"The Way We Were"
Barbra Streisand
Columbia (1974)
Single
Inducted 2008

"I don't remember my first time hearing Barbra Streisand. I just think I was always aware that she was the top — that she's as good as you can get as a singer and a performer.

"The first time I really became aware of just how special a talent she had was when I actually had to get it together to sing a couple of her songs at one of Clive Davis' Pre-GRAMMY [Galas]. It was a tribute for her, and two days before the show Clive asked me to sing 'People' and 'The Way We Were.' I had to take on these two gigantic signature songs — songs that aren't easy to deliver — and sing them with her sitting right in front of me. Are you kidding me? I almost lost my mind.

"She makes the first few lines of 'People' sound so easy, but melodically it's very difficult to get it just right. To this day I want to sing that over again and get it right — a little more right. I think I must have spoken to her after I sang, but I was so terrified I don't remember a thing. I think she was smiling, but I don't know. I love her. I'd sing for her again if I could — but maybe not one of her songs."

(Jennifer Hudson won her first career GRAMMY in 2008 for Best R&B Album for Jennifer Hudson. As an actress, her role in the 2006 film Dreamgirls earned her numerous awards, including the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress. A day after the death of Whitney Houston on Feb. 11, 2012, Hudson performed "I Will Always Love You" as a special tribute on the 54th GRAMMY Awards telecast.)

(Chuck Crisafulli is an L.A.-based journalist and author whose most recent works include Go To Hell: A Heated History Of The Underworld, Me And A Guy Named Elvis and Elvis: My Best Man.)

 

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Special GRAMMY Tribute To Honor Whitney Houston

Jennifer Hudson to pay tribute to late GRAMMY-winning artist on the 54th Annual GRAMMY Awards

GRAMMYs/Dec 3, 2014 - 05:06 am

A special musical tribute to six-time GRAMMY winner Whitney Houston featuring GRAMMY-winning artist Jennifer Hudson has been added to the lineup for the 54th Annual GRAMMY Awards.

Houston died Feb. 11 at age 48. A cause of death was not disclosed.

"A light has been dimmed in our music community today, and we extend our deepest condolences to her family, friends, fans and all who have been touched by her beautiful voice," said Neil Portnow, President/CEO of The Recording Academy.

Houston won her first GRAMMY Award in 1985 for Best Pop Vocal Performance, Female for "Saving All My Love For You." She won the same award in 1987 for "I Wanna Dance With Somebody (Who Loves Me)." In 1993 Houston won three GRAMMYs: Best Pop Vocal Performance, Female and Record Of The Year for "I Will Always Love You"; and Album Of The Year for The Bodyguard — Original Soundtrack. Houston's most recent GRAMMY win came in 1999 for Best Female R&B Vocal Performance for "It's Not Right But It's Okay."

Hudson won her first career GRAMMY in 2008 for Best R&B Album for Jennifer Hudson.

The show is produced by John Cossette Productions and AEG Ehrlich Ventures for The Recording Academy. Ken Ehrlich is executive producer, Louis J. Horvitz is director, and David Wild and Ken Ehrlich are the writers.

The 54th Annual GRAMMY Awards will take place live on Sunday, Feb. 12 at Staples Center in Los Angeles and will be broadcast in high definition and 5.1 surround sound on the CBS Television Network from 8–11:30 p.m. (ET/PT). The show also will be supported on radio worldwide via Westwood One/Dial Global, and covered online at GRAMMY.com and CBS.com, and on YouTube.

Follow GRAMMY.com for our inside look at GRAMMY news, blogs, photos, videos, and of course nominees. Stay up to the minute with GRAMMY Live. Check out the GRAMMY legacy with GRAMMY Rewind. Keep track of this year's GRAMMY Week events, and explore this year's GRAMMY Fields. Or check out the collaborations at Re:Generation, presented by Hyundai Veloster. And join the conversation at Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.

Apple Music Exclusive: Watch Classic GRAMMY Performances

Whitney Houston, 29th GRAMMY Awards

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Apple Music Exclusive: Watch Classic GRAMMY Performances

The Recording Academy teams with Apple Music to offer historical GRAMMY performances by Miles Davis, Marvin Gaye, Whitney Houston, Shania Twain, Kendrick Lamar, and more

GRAMMYs/Nov 24, 2017 - 07:00 pm

To celebrate the GRAMMY Awards' 60th anniversary and the show's return to New York for the first time in 15 years, the Recording Academy and Apple Music are bringing fans a special video collection of exclusive GRAMMY performances and playlists that represent the illustrious history of Music's Biggest Night.

Available exclusively via Apple Music in a dedicated GRAMMYs section, the celebratory collection features 60-plus memorable performances specifically curated across six genres: pop, rap, country, rock, R&B, and jazz. 

The artist performances featured in the collection include Marvin Gaye, "Sexual Healing" (25th GRAMMY Awards, 1983); Whitney Houston, "Greatest Love Of All" (29th GRAMMY Awards, 1987); Run DMC, "Tougher Than Leather" (30th GRAMMY Awards, 1988); Miles Davis, "Hannibal" (32nd GRAMMY Awards, 1990); Shania Twain, "Man, I Feel Like A Woman" (41st GRAMMY Awards, 1999); Dixie Chicks, "Landslide" (45th GRAMMY Awards, 2003); Bruno Mars and Sting, "Locked Out Of Heaven" and "Walking On The Moon" (55th GRAMMY Awards, 2013); and Kendrick Lamar, "The Blacker The Berry" (58th GRAMMY Awards, 2016).

The 60th GRAMMY Awards will take place at New York City's Madison Square Garden on Sunday, Jan. 28, 2018. The telecast will be broadcast live on CBS at 7:30–11 p.m. ET/4:30–8 p.m. PT. 

Carrie Underwood, John Legend To Host "GRAMMYs Greatest Stories"

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Remembering Whitney Houston

A look at the celebrated singer's GRAMMY history

GRAMMYs/Dec 3, 2014 - 05:06 am

One of the most celebrated pop stars of all time, Whitney Houston achieved more in her nearly three-decade career than most artists could hope to imagine. She sold more than 170 million combined albums, songs and videos, and became one of a few artists with the distinction of performing the most times on the annual GRAMMY Awards, having graced the telecast stage eight times over the years.

Like many gifted artists, Houston's success was not of the overnight variety.

Born Aug. 9, 1963, in Newark, N.J., Houston grew up singing in church, taking after her gospel/R&B singing mother, Cissy Houston. As a teenager, Whitney Houston provided background vocals on recordings for Chaka Khan. In 1983 she was discovered by legendary music executive Clive Davis, with whom she forged a lifelong professional relationship and friendship. Two years later Houston's career was officially launched with the release of her self-titled debut album.

Throughout the next 25 years, Houston released nine albums that peaked in the Top 20 on the Billboard 200 (including four No. 1 albums), and charted more than 20 Billboard Hot 100 Top 10 hits. Houston's unmatched talents yielded plenty of gold over the years. She garnered an impressive 25 GRAMMY nominations, winning six.

Following is a chronology detailing Houston's impressive GRAMMY legacy. Of course, the output listed below represents a brief snapshot of the career of an artist with a voice that "you wait a lifetime for," as Davis eulogized at Houston's funeral in February 2012.


1985

"Saving All My Love For You"
Best Pop Vocal Performance, Female: 28th Annual GRAMMY Awards

 

Houston made her GRAMMY debut in a big way in 1985, garnering three nominations, including Album Of The Year for Whitney Houston, on which "Saving All My Love For You" appears. The song became Houston's first No. 1 hit on the Billboard Hot 100 and was one of four songs to reach the Top 5 from this album. Co-written by Gerry Goffin and Michael Masser, the slow and seductive ballad was originally recorded by Marilyn McCoo and Billy Davis Jr. in 1978. At the 29th Annual GRAMMY Awards in 1986 Houston garnered a nomination for the prestigious Record Of The Year honor for "Greatest Love Of All" from the Whitney Houston album. The music video for the song was filmed at New York's Apollo Theater and stars Houston's mother, Cissy Houston.


1987

"I Wanna Dance With Somebody (Who Loves Me)"
Best Pop Vocal Performance, Female: 30th Annual GRAMMY Awards

Houston garnered her second nomination for Album Of The Year in 1987 for her sophomore release, Whitney, which features this dance-ready track. Co-produced by GRAMMY winner Narada Michael Walden, it became the first album by a female artist to debut at No. 1 and sold more than 9 million copies. "I Wanna Dance…" was one of seven consecutive No. 1 hits for Houston, breaking a record previously held by the Beatles.


1993

"I Will Always Love You"
Record Of The Year; Best Pop Vocal Performance, Female: 36th Annual GRAMMY Awards

The Bodyguard — Original Soundtrack Album
Album Of The Year: 36th Annual GRAMMY Awards

Houston had a big year at the 36th Annual GRAMMY Awards, garnering two of The Academy's most prestigious honors for Album and Record Of The Year for the soundtrack to The Bodyguard. The soundtrack to the 1992 film, which starred Houston and Kevin Costner, peaked at No. 1 on the Billboard 200. Originally written and recorded by Dolly Parton, Houston's soaring rendition of "I Will Always Love You" climbed to No. 1 and has sold 4.5 million copies to date. The album has sold 11.8 million albums, making it the best-selling soundtrack in more than 20 years. Houston teamed with an all-star cast to record the album, including GRAMMY winners Babyface, Robert Clivilles, David Foster, and BeBe Winans. The album earned Houston an additional nomination for Best R&B Vocal Performance, Female for "I'm Every Woman." Among Houston's most iconic GRAMMY performances is her stunning rendition of "I Will Always Love You" at the 36th Annual GRAMMY Awards in 1994, a performance clip highlighted on "We Will Always Love You: A GRAMMY Salute To Whitney Houston."


1999

"It's Not Right But It's Okay"
Best Female R&B Vocal Performance: 42nd Annual GRAMMY Awards

Houston received her last GRAMMY in 1999 for "It's Not Right But It's Okay," taken from her 1998 album My Love Is Your Love, which peaked at No. 13 on the Billboard 200 and garnered a nomination for Best R&B Album. The album garnered Houston additional nominations for Best Pop Collaboration With Vocals for "When You Believe" featuring Mariah Carey, and Best R&B Performance By A Duo Or Group With Vocal for "Heartbreak Hotel" featuring Faith Evans and Kelly Price.