Clive Davis Opens Up About Whitney Houston’s ‘Genius’

The legendary producer relives the pop diva's 1983 television debut on 'Whitney Houston: In Her Own Words.'

There were several noteworthy aspects of MTV News’ special tribute “Whitney Houston: In Her Own Words” Wednesday, such as the rarely seen interview clips of Houston from her network debut in 1986 through her final interview, as well as her unforgettable impact on music as a whole straight from the man responsible for her discovery at age 19, Clive Davis.

“The week after I signed her I had an open opportunity from Merv Griffin. He said, ‘Whenever you run across a talent that blows you away, I want you to bring her on my show,’ ” Davis told MTV News of arranging Houston’s memorable 1983 television debut.

“Either you’ve got or you don’t have it,” Davis is shown telling Griffin in a clip from that specific show.

“She’s got it, wait ’til you hear her,” Griffin said. “Here’s Whitney Houston.”

“My introduction of Whitney was that if there’s going to be one performer for the next generation who combined the beauty and lyric phrasing of a Lena Horne with those Gospel fiery roots of an Aretha Franklin, it would be Whitney Houston,” Davis said.

The legendary record producer attributed Houston’s genius to her ability to fully interpret and embody a song.

“You see the genius that Whitney Houston has as an interpreter of material and you realize why genius can be applied to only a few interpretive performers,” Davis said. “She finds meaning and depth and soulfulness in a song that often the writer and composer never really knew was there. Whitney approached that with her phrasing; she studied hard. She would go into the studio, sometimes she would do it on one take. Once she agrees that the song is special for her, she really does in every matter make it her own.”

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