Faith Hill Fills In At Academy Awards

Country/pop diva replaces Whitney Houston at last minute.

Country diva Faith Hill was a last-minute fill-in for Whitney Houston at the Academy Awards on Sunday. She performed two songs in the tribute to Oscar-winning music.

Academy Awards co-producer Lili Fini Zanuck, who directed Hill’s recent video “Breathe,” asked the country chanteuse to replace an ailing Houston, according to an unnamed music-industry source.

Hill is no stranger to film music, having had soundtrack cuts on both “Message in a Bottle” (“Let Me Let Go”) and “Practical Magic” (“This Kiss”).

Hill also will participate in a tribute to “Peanuts” comic strip creator Charles Schulz, to air on CBS, during May sweeps. She’ll sing “Poor Sweet Baby, Charlie Brown” for the special, which was in the works before Schulz’s death on February 12.

In more TV news, Hill will join Donna Summer and Mariah Carey in an all-star tribute to Diana Ross at Madison Square Garden in New York the evening of April 11. “VH1 Divas 2000: A Tribute to Diana Ross,” the first “VH1 Divas” concert to honor an individual artist, will feature songs made famous by the Supremes and Ross herself. The show will air at 9 p.m. EDT on VH1.

Hill’s flurry of activity comes as she readies for a summer of touring with her husband, singer Tim McGraw.

Hill also has been nominated for 13 awards on two country awards shows. Five of the nominations are from the Academy of Country Music, whose awards show is set for May 3 in Los Angeles and will air live on CBS. Additionally, she leads all nominees with eight nods for the TNN/Country Weekly awards, to air live on TNN from Nashville at 8 p.m. EDT on June 15.

“This will be Faith’s year,” a Hill spokesperson said of the singer, whose song “Breathe” (RealAudio excerpt) crossed over to the pop charts from country.