Remembering Whitney Houston: Clive Davis, Dolly Parton, Diane Warren Share Their Stories

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This story originally appeared in the Feb. 24 issue of The Hollywood Reporter.

The sudden death of Whitney Houston sent shockwaves through the industry on the eve of music's biggest night, the 2012 Grammy Awards. Here, the iconic singer's friends, colleagues and admirers share their intimate and personal memories of her life.

Gladys Knight
Singer-songwriter

I know that family -- [her cousin] Dionne and I have been close since we started in the industry. I knew her mother, Cissy. I remember the day Dionne told me, 'Wait till you hear Nippy [Houston's nickname]!' It's part of life, and it's God's plan. Her star was so bright. Even though it burned for a short while, boy, did it burn. There will never be another voice like that. Hers was unique to the world."

P. Diddy
Hip-hop mogul

"I sat next to Whitney at the BET Awards, and if you ever sat next to her anywhere, you already knew that you were in for a good time. Whenever you saw Whitney, she always hit you with that beautiful smile, that incredible energy and a grandma hug that just shook your body -- that real love. Hearing her sing was like listening to magic. Anytime we think of Whitney, we have to remember that positivity. Whenever she performed, she'd give 5,000 percent. She gave love. She was not a hater; she was a congratulator
all the time."

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Jennifer Hudson
Singer-actress

"When I first heard 'I Will Always Love You,' that was my song. I would create duets between us because I always wanted to sing a duet with Whitney. She's who I modeled myself after; I always loved her technique. I never had any formal training." 

Clive Davis
Producer

"I am devastated by the loss of someone who has meant so much to me for so many years. My heart goes out to her daughter, Bobbi Kristina, to her mother, Cissy ... to her extended family who loved and cherished her and her spirit. Whitney was a beautiful person and a talent beyond compare. She graced the stage with her regal presence."

Maureen Crowe
Music supervisor, The Bodyguard

"I had pitched 'I Will Always Love You,' and Kevin [Costner] decided that would be the song and brought it to her. I could have easily been forgotten. It was like my second or third film. She thanked me for my ears at the Billboard Awards and at the Grammys. I was shocked. I didn't even realize what that meant -- that's the kind of person she was. She didn't want the little people to be forgotten. She truly tried to acknowledge everyone around her. She was a very generous, gifted person who knew she was gifted and knew that she wanted to give her gift back to the world. When she sang, she gave a thousand percent."

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Penny Marshall
Director, The Preacher's Wife

"Last time I saw her was last year. She was trying to get better. We still don't know everything that happened; I'm not gonna guess about it. I'm just sad. I did Preacher's Wife, so she got to sing her gospel songs, where she came from. She was great. She was a delight. She was fun to be around."

Dolly Parton
Songwriter, "I Will Always Love You"

"I was brought to tears … when Jennifer Hudson sang, 'I Will Always Love You' on the Grammys in memory of Whitney. Like everybody else, I am still in shock. But I know that Whitney will live forever in all the great music she left behind. I will always have a very special piece of her in the song we shared together and had the fortune to share with the rest of the world. Rest in peace, Whitney. Again, we will always love you."

Diane Warren
Songwriter

"I'd written 'I Didn't Know My Own Strength.' It's basically, 'Survived my darkest hour ... I picked myself back up.' Because she was doing a comeback record, she got divorced from Bobby Brown, and going to kick ass again, like she always did. It was an amazing experience because I was actually in the studio with her. David Foster produced it, and he was kind of afraid: 'Will she be able to hit those notes after damaging her voice a little bit?' Being in that room when she wrapped her voice around that song and hit those notes, I was sitting there and crying."

Forest Whitaker
Director, Waiting to Exhale

"The first day of shooting was only with Whitney, a simple scene where she applied makeup to go out. I proceeded for a whole day to just shoot her eyes, her mouth, her ears, her hand, her smile, her face. … So when studio executives flew in, I was confused and explained that it was the beauty and power of Whitney that would make the film work. I turned on this old song by the Whispers, 'Chocolate Girl,'  and called action. After looking at Whitney on the monitor, they stepped back. It was impossible not to see her beauty, not to feel her soul."

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Mick Jackson
Director, The Bodyguard

'I Will Always Love You' was virtually the last thing we shot in the movie. We shot it live in the  Fontainebleau hotel ballroom in Miami in April 1992. You hear that song and you hear her as she goes through it -- not just demonstrating this amazing vocal talent that she had but just living through emotions that you've seen her go through in the movie in the song. And that's a lasting thing."

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