After a stormy 14-year marriage to bad-boy singer Bobby Brown, Whitney Houston decided to end that chapter in 2006. Three years later, Houston had aligned again with mentor Clive Davis, the music industry impresario who first discovered a teenage Whitney belting out tunes in a nightclub and signed her to his Arista Records. Their final collaboration, I Look to You, was set to launch her on a “comeback” trail.
Like so many young singers, Alicia Keys — also a Davis acolyte — had long looked up to Houston. But the gifted songwriter cemented her connection to Houston, who was found dead at 48 a week ago, by writing the album’s hit single, “Million Dollar Bill.”
On Saturday afternoon (February 18), Keys honored Houston in song once again, but instead of a dance-floor-filler, the “Unbreakable” singer took to the piano for an emotional farewell at New Jersey’s New Hope Baptist Church. Keys, dressed in a dark suit, first happily recalled Houston as a “beautiful human being, [who would] call you for no reason at all but to say, ‘Hi.’ ”
Keys, who co-wrote “Bill” with husband Swizz Beatz, said Houston also made it a habit to nurture the female singers who were following in her superstar footsteps. “She reached back to so many people; she reached back to me, to Monica and Brandy … all these beautiful young artists, and just made us feel strong and capable and loved.”
“So she’s an angel to us, and has been an angel to us,” Keys added before performing a moving “Send Me an Angel.”
Keys wasn’t the only singer to pay soulful tribute to the “How Will I Know” star. Stevie Wonder, R. Kelly and gospel greats BeBe & CeCe Winans, Donnie McClurkin and Kim Burrell were among the performers at Houston’s Going-Home ceremony in Newark, where her “Bodyguard” co-star Kevin Costner delivered a heartbreaking eulogy.
Stay with MTVNews.com all day Saturday for continuing coverage of Whitney Houston’s funeral services.