Photo: Kevin Mazur/WireImage.com
Whitney Houston Dies
Whitney Houston Dies
Six-time GRAMMY winner Whitney Houston died Feb. 11, according to a report by the Associated Press. She was 48. A cause of death was not disclosed.
Arguably one of the most successful female pop singers ever, Houston released her self-titled debut album in 1985, garnering a GRAMMY nomination for the prestigious Album Of The Year honor. She won her first GRAMMY that same year for Best Pop Vocal Performance, Female for the No. 1 hit "Saving All My Love For You." Houston experienced continued success at the GRAMMY Awards through the '80s and mid-'90s, subsequently earning trophies for Best Pop Vocal Performance, Female for "I Wanna Dance With Somebody (Who Loves Me)" in 1987, and Record and Album Of The Year in 1993 for "I Will Always Love You" and The Bodyguard — Original Soundtrack, respectively. 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." Her most recent release, 2009's I Look To You, peaked at No. 1 on the Billboard 200, marking Houston's third career chart-topping album.
"Whitney Houston was one of the world's greatest pop singers of all time who leaves behind a robust musical soundtrack spanning the past three decades," said Recording Academy President/CEO Neil Portnow. "Her powerful voice graced many memorable and award-winning songs. 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."
According to Ken Ehrlich, executive producer of the GRAMMY Awards, the GRAMMYs plan to honor Whitney's life with a “respectful musical tribute” that will feature Jennifer Hudson. “It’s too fresh in everyone's memory to do more at this time, but we would be remiss if we didn't recognize Whitney's remarkable contribution to music fans in general, and in particular her close ties with the GRAMMY telecast and her GRAMMY wins and nominations over the years."
Photo: Robin Platzer/IMAGES/Getty Images
GRAMMY Rewind: Whitney Houston Admires Dolly Parton After "I Will Always Love You" Wins In 1994
Whitney Houston had the chance to thank Dolly Parton — who wrote "I Will Always Love You" — for "writing beautiful songs" during her acceptance speech for Best Pop Female Vocal Performance.
Nearly 50 years after its initial release, Dolly Parton's "I Will Always Love You" has been covered by thousands of musicians. But no other rendition compares to Whitney Houston's iconic 1992 cover for the Bodyguard soundtrack — and in 1994, the two shared a full-circle celebration of the song's massive success.
In this episode of GRAMMY Rewind, relive Houston's Best Female Pop Vocal Performance win for her version of "I Will Always Love You" at the 1994 GRAMMY Awards.
"Dolly, of course, coming from you, this is truly an honor. You wrote a beautiful song. Thank you so much for writing such beautiful songs," Houston said to Parton, who presented the award and originally released the recording (which she wrote herself) in 1974.
Houston praised Rickey Minor, her band, and David Foster, who helped Houston arrange the ballad. "All the songwriters and producers on The Bodyguard, BeBe [Winans], I love you," she added before performing an impromptu song to thank her team members at Arista Records.
"I love you, Mommy and Daddy — I wouldn't be here without you. And always first in my life, I thank my Father, Jesus Christ. Without them, I am nothing," Houston said. Before leaving the stage, Houston took a second to uplift her supporters. "To all the fans, I love you! Thank you, and God bless you!"
"I Will Always Love You" also took home Record Of The Year that night, and The Bodyguard won Album Of The Year — one of only four soundtracks to date to win the coveted award.
Press play on the video above to watch Whitney Houston accept her award for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance at the 36th Annual GRAMMY Awards, and check back to GRAMMY.com for more new episodes of GRAMMY Rewind.
Photo: Michael Caulfield
GRAMMY Rewind: Lady Gaga Praises Whitney Houston's Influence After 'The Fame Monster' Wins In 2011
When Lady Gaga's 'The Fame Monster' won a GRAMMY for Pop Vocal Album, the singer hinted that her newly minted superstar status wouldn't have been possible without Whitney Houston's influence.
From the very start of her career, Lady Gaga taught society that it's okay to be different. While that may be most encapsulated in her 2011 smash "Born This Way," Gaga's 2010 album The Fame Monster — a reissue of her blockbuster 2008 debut, The Fame — solidified Gaga's place as a confidence-boosting superstar.
In this episode of GRAMMY Rewind, we turn back the clock to 2011, when Lady Gaga won Pop Vocal Album for The Fame Monster. Her third win of the night (hit single "Bad Romance" won Best Female Pop Vocal Performance and Best Short Form Music Video), Gaga couldn't help but let out an "Oh sh—!" when she began her acceptance speech.
After thanking her Little Monsters, family, team, and label, Gaga hinted that the moment was a childhood dream come true. And before leaving the stage, Lady Gaga acknowledged that she was particularly inspired by Whitney Houston's impact.
"I wanted to thank Whitney because, when I wrote 'Born This Way,' I imagined she was singing it because I wasn't secure enough in myself to imagine I was a superstar."
Press play on the video above to watch Lady Gaga's candid acceptance speech for Pop Vocal Album at the 2011 GRAMMY Awards, and check back to GRAMMY.com for more episodes of GRAMMY Rewind.
Photo: Dominik Bindl/Stringer via Getty Images
Clive Davis On His Famed GRAMMY Party, The Future Of The Industry & Whitney Houston's Enduring Legacy
As Clive Davis' renowned Pre-GRAMMY Gala returns after a pandemic-induced hiatus, GRAMMY.com spoke with the music industry icon about some of his most unexpected career wins and his thoughts on the 2023 GRAMMY nominees.
One of the most legendary events of GRAMMY weekend is back after a two year break.
Masterminded by Clive Davis, the Pre-GRAMMY Gala & Industry Salute to Icons has enjoyed iconic status as a place where music industry titans, tastemakers, politicians and actors alike rub elbows to toast the year, reflect on the past and look to the future of music. Taking over the Los Angeles' Beverly Hilton, the return of Clive's party for the 2023 GRAMMYs is a show business tradition without parallel.
The event also comes on the heels of a big year for Davis, who not only celebrated his 90th birthday but also hosted the Paramount+ series Clive Davis: Most Iconic Performances, and was portrayed by Stanley Tucci in the big-screen adaptation of Whitney Houston's life in I Wanna Dance With Somebody, which hit theaters in December.
Ahead of the Feb. 4 event, GRAMMY.com caught up with Davis at the Beverly Hilton to preview this year's party, gauge his thoughts on today's favorite artists and reveal the act whose success most took him by surprise.
Your Pre-GRAMMY Gala is back for the first time since 2020 after a COVID-induced break! How does that feel, and how are you feeling?
I feel great that it's back. The demand from day one — maybe since we emailed the invites this year — there's been such eagerness. People are ready and it makes me feel great. I'm getting emails and so much in writing as to what the party has meant for them, somehow it triggers that type of response and it's been touching. It's exciting!
Can you offer us a preview? Who's coming or who may be performing?
Well, you know that that's all a secret. Who's coming is a who's who of music, many more great movie stars are coming whatever the reason. Nancy Pelosi and Paul Pelosi are coming, for example. But the tales about who meets who from past parties [are legendary], from Brandi Carlile meeting Joni Mitchell for the first time and how they've bonded since, or Joni meeting someone like David Hockney.
This year, the Gala is honoring Atlantic Music Group Chairman and CEO Julie Greenwald and Atlantic Records Chairman and CEO Craig Kallman. Can you talk about their impact on the industry?
They have been very gifted competitors as far as I'm concerned. I've obviously competed more with people like Mo Ostin, Joe Smith and Chris Blackwell. But Julie and Criag are incredibly gifted music executives. I greatly admire what they've done and how they're revered by the artists who've worked with them.
In fact, one artist who works with them has asked to present the Icon award to Julie, and normally it's Harvey Mason Jr who's presenting it. So we'll see if that comes about. But if it does, it will be touching.
You bring up Joni Mitchell — in the past year she's had a renaissance of being back in the public eye. What does that mean to you to watch Joni come back?
I felt it starting six, seven or eight years ago. Joni decided she wanted to attend my GRAMMY party. I don't allow schmoozing, so if there's a five-minute or seven-minute gap in between performers, I give shoutouts because it's a big ballroom and people don't often know who's there. But when I gave a shoutout to Joni Mitchell, I mean, it got as much reaction as one for an artist who has conquered the room after a performance. There were cheers and a standing ovation just for a shoutout, so there's a connection there. She influenced so many lives. And she'll be there this year too.
I want to talk to you about Whitney Houston. Her movie came out last month and people are celebrating her again since it's her 75th birthday year. When you look back at your memories of her, do they make you sad or joyful?
There's a certain element of both because I miss her. But, seeing the recognition of her talent and seeing that it's historic — in the film, she's quoted as being the finest of her generation. So, it's a combination.
I'm gratified that she was not a one-hit wonder or a passing fad, but she'lll be a permanent influence and inspiration to young artists forever because she was that unique. So it's been very gratifying.
Speaking of the movie, Stanley Tucci portrayed you. This is a feeling not many people in the world know, to be depicted in a film. How do you think he did?
I felt he did me justice, and if that's his take on me, I'm happy with that take. I was gratified that my character is being portrayed by a really gifted actor who was not hamming it up or inventing a shtick or a persona. The reaction of others is that he captured me too, so it's only been positive. We've also become quite friendly.
I'm interested in your thoughts on the state of the music industry. Where does it stand now?
I'm very excited, most of all, that the industry is healthy — especially having gone through the period that the future of music was questionable. Now, I'm endowing a school in my name at NYU and giving scholarships.
People ask, "Is there a legitimate future in the industry?" And the answer is, music is a necessity and it will be here to stay. So I feel very good that the industry is healthy, and the streaming and digital evolution, and that those entering a career in the industry will take it wherever that goes in the future.
Speaking of the modern industry, are your feelings on the current crop of nominated artists?
I'm a big fan of Beyoncé, I'm a big admirer of what Harry Styles is doing so uniquely. But in the longer future, there hasn't been a new Bob Dylan or Bruce Springsteen. I also want to make sure that with hip-hop dominating, that a new Aretha Franklin or Whitney Houston — a person with a voice who is breathtaking — deserves to have a home.
In your storied career, has anyone's success taken you by surprise?
I have a healthy respect for failure, so the most gratifying thing for a legacy or my career has been the height that so many artists that I've created a home for have reached and influenced as many people have. I'm thinking of someone who was maligned by the critics like Barry Manilow was and now he's still headlining. I recently saw him in Florida at an arena and the fervor in the audience for him was amazing to see.
Does a particular record come to mind?
As far as what record, the record that I helped break personally that the odds were against and became a landmark breakthrough was Kenny G's "Songbird," especially being an instrumental. I wrote a letter to every radio station. He became the best-selling instrumentalist of all time.
But who's' also coming to mind is when I signed Carlos Santana for the second time. It was viewed as Davis' folly. This was a man who did not have a hit in 25 years and was past the age of 50 and wasn't even a lead singer, so the fact he could come back with one of the best-selling albums of all time in Supernatural. I thought he'd have some success or else I wouldn't have signed him, but to be an all-timer is clearly surprising and gratifying.
Photo: Travis Bailey
Babyface Reflects On Collaborating With Whitney, Toni, Ella Mai & More: How The Legendary Hitmaker Learned To "Speak In Their Voices"
Babyface has enough Top 10 singles to keep a playlist bumping for hours. The songwriter and producer discusses his most memorable productions, many of which tell compelling stories from a woman's perspective.
You didn't have to live through the '90s to know that 11-time GRAMMY winner Babyface is the mastermind behind so many of the decade's biggest R&B hits. Whitney Houston's "Exhale (Shoop Shoop)," Boyz II Men's "End of the Road," and Toni Braxton's "You're Makin' Me High" are just a few No. 1 singles penned by the Songwriters Hall of Fame inductee.
Babyface's legendary status is driven home by 125 Top 10 writer/producer credits, top-tier collaborations with Aretha Franklin, Stevie Wonder, Barbra Streisand, Beyoncé, and Eric Clapton, plus his own iconic hits, such as "Whip Appeal," "When Can I See You," and "Every Time I Close My Eyes." But telling compelling stories — especially from the female perspective — is arguably one of his greatest strengths, as evidenced most recently on Girls' Night Out.
The 13-track collaboration project champions some of today's brightest female R&B stars, including Ari Lennox, Kehlani, and Queen Naija. Lead single "Keeps on Fallin'" with Ella Mai is nominated for Best Traditional R&B Performance at the 2023 GRAMMYs, which means he's now surpassed 50 GRAMMY nominations. "It was a nice surprise," Babyface tells GRAMMY.com. "It inspires you to keep doing the work."
A master of his craft, Babyface did his homework before getting in the studio with each artist on Girls' Night Out. "I needed to learn how people spoke and how melodies are different. Otherwise, I don't know if I would've been able to speak in their voices," he shares. "I have a much clearer understanding of today's R&B because there is a difference, and it's not necessarily a difference that's any better or any worse. It's just a difference in terms of time, and that's what made the process enjoyable to me."
Though Babyface took more of a mentoring approach with Girls' Night Out, he's no stranger to fostering talented female singers, particularly on the soundtrack for the 1995 movie Waiting to Exhale — which exclusively features Black women. The OST boasts a string of No. 1 and Top 10 hits penned entirely by Babyface himself, including beloved classics like Braxton's "Let It Flow" and Brandy's "Sittin' Up in My Room."
Yet "Not Gon' Cry" by Mary J. Blige — who is nominated in six categories at the 65th GRAMMY Awards — remains among Babyface's most memorable productions for Waiting To Exhale. The timeless ballad, written from character Bernadine’s point of view after her husband of 11 years leaves her for another woman, emerged as the Black woman's anthem for showing resilience in the face of romantic heartbreak and betrayal, but the song almost didn't happen.
"The opening lyrics, 'While all the time that I was loving you, you were busy loving yourself,' just sounded like a real-life conversation, and it sounded like something Mary could say," Babyface explains. "I played it for Andre Harrell, and he said, 'It's okay, but I don't think it's the record for her… Mary's too young for this. She's not 47 years old and she ain't been married and all that.'"
He continues, "My answer to him was, 'Mary's singing for everyone else… and she ultimately became a voice for other women.' It wasn't her personal story, but her voice could deliver that."
Babyface's musical legacy developed further with the formation of LaFace Records in 1989 with music executive L.A. Reid. In the label’s glory days, LaFace launched the careers of Braxton, TLC, OutKast, Pink, Usher, Ciara, Goodie Mob, and Donell Jones. But one of his most impressive feats isn't talked about enough: that Whitney Houston selected Babyface to help usher in the more R&B-oriented sound of her third studio album, 1990's I'm Your Baby Tonight.
"They came to LaFace because they wanted a Blacker record, but when I was writing 'I'm Your Baby Tonight,' I wasn't thinking R&B… I was just writing a Whitney record," he says. "There's an urban flavor to it, but the truth is it wasn't that R&B, but everything is R&B if a Black artist touches it… the idea was to run away from songs like 'How Will I Know' and 'I Wanna Dance with Somebody' that were big records for her that they said weren't Black enough."
Babyface and Houston proved to be a winning musical duo, and "I'm Your Baby Tonight" was nominated for Best Pop Vocal Performance, Female at the 33rd GRAMMY Awards. The collaboration also gave Houston her eighth No. 1 hit, tying with Madonna for the female artist with most No. 1s on the Billboard Hot 100 at the time.
The success with divas like Houston and Braxton allowed Babyface to explore his versatility as a hitmaker for superstars outside of the R&B realm. For the lush sounds heard on Madonna's sixth studio album, Bedtime Stories, the pop icon teamed up with Dallas Austin, Dave Hall, and of course Babyface, who co-wrote "Forbidden Love" and "Take a Bow." The latter song became her longest running No. 1 hit.
"The track was already laid down and when we brought in the live strings, which was Madonna's suggestion, it became a whole other thing. I think it was the combination of my background vocals behind Madonna's that just made for a very unique song in that sense for her," Babyface recalls. "She was nervous because she just wasn't used to singing that controlled and being that vulnerable. I remember how we sat there and wrote the song together [at the Hit Factory Studios in New York City], so that's a really cool memory."
As the 64-year-old musician enters the next stage of his four-decade career, he has plenty to look forward to: Touring with eight-time GRAMMY winner Anita Baker, a possible deluxe version of Girls' Night Out, and the upcoming 30th anniversary of his third studio album, For the Cool in You, which spawned the top 5 hit "When Can I See You." (The acoustic tune earned Babyface his first GRAMMY for Best Male R&B Vocal Performance.)
For all his success, Babyface has remained humble and his greatest joy comes from being able to hear a talented vocalist bring a song he wrote to life. "The best part is when you get into the studio with this idea, this little demo and then, when someone like Whitney, Aretha, or Boyz II Men sings your song, it becomes a hit before your eyes," he says. "They take it to a place I never imagined it could go."