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

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Craig Zadan
Producer, Cinderella

We [Zadan and producer Neil Meron] spent a day with her in Atlanta last year discussing a show for her and it was a great reunion. It was so great to really catch up on everything, because we were able to reminisce about all the things that we went through on Cinderella... I was so touched by how fragile and insecure and sweet and clear she was. It's the most clear I'd ever seen her. I thought she was completely sober and straight where she was in a very good place and we had a very emotional conversation. The last discussion we had was all about Michael Jackson's death. She told me she was very close to him and all about the conversations she with him. She was worried about him rehearsing for the concert tour, about whether or not he was able to get through it. And she described the experiences she had when she went over to his house and what happened when he died, and the aftermath. And we were talking about what a tragedy that was. That's the last conversation I had with her.

Lela Rochon
Actress, Waiting to Exhale

I was really looking forward to us working together again this year on the sequel to Exhale. Loretta (Divine) and I had tried to reach out to her and she was excited about seeing us. Then that Monday she checked herself into rehab, so we never connected. It was like, you do some movies and you just work with people. We did a movie and we became friends. I would imagine it's not easy to have friends or be friends. We did all those things. We did dinners, birthdays, wedding gifts, cards, notes. She cracked me up. She was funny and worldly and knowledgeable when it came to life and men and what that was and what that was about and people. She was just a girlfriend, you know. She had great advice.

Tom Hanks
Actor

Without a doubt, we've lost a magnificent talent. She could do a lot of things great. Her movies were very good. The performances that she gave were iconic and mysterious.

Rita Wilson
Actress, producer

Certainly one of the greats — she paved the way for a lot of young girls, Mariah Carey and Christina Aguilera. I remember I was going to drama school when her first video came out and I first heard the voice and then saw the video and thought, 'Who is that?' She had such exuberance and joy and just this insane talent and you felt like you were in the beginnings of really recognizing that you were in the presence of someone who was going to have a long career. Maybe she's up there with Amy Winehouse and some other fine people making some fine music.

Ron Fair
Music executive and producer

Whitney Houston was the idol of every young singer and a true role model in a time when hit songs were great melodies and incredible lyrics and not marketing concepts. Think of the simplicity of ‘saving all my love for you.’ This is like the industry loses a child before its time. Christina (Aguilera) must be crushed - Etta James and Whitney Houston were her idols.”

Matthew Morrison
Actor, Glee

She's an American icon, an international icon. I heard about it on the ride over here [the Clive Davis pre-Grammy gala], it brought me back to last year at this time; I was so excited to actually get a picture with her. I mean, I grew up listening to The Bodyguard soundtrack. That was my jam. But what's kind of eerie, is we [Glee] just did “I Will Always Love You,” and I think it's going to air on Valentine's day.

Wiz Khalifa
Rapper

It's definitely a tragic moment. But more than anything we want to celebrate her life and legacy and the happiness that she's brought to everybody's life other than the sad party of everything. I think she's gonna be remembered as an icon, as a legend, as somebody who can never be matched, never be topped, broke the mold. That's it. Whitney, we love you.

Ne Yo
Recording artist

I wrote a song for Whitney Houston on paper, yeah. I got the opportunity to work with her on the last album, but we never got to finish it. My schedule had me all over the place, hers had her all over the place. The memories from that are sitting with her in Atlanta and talking to her about what she wanted me to write about. She said, 'I want everyone to know that I'm happy. I've got my kids, I've got my music and I've got my God. I'm happy.' That stuck with me.

Lia Vollack
President of Worldwide Music at Sony Pictures

We actually were working with Whiney Houston on her movie Sparkle, Spring Aspers, my partner at Sony, and myself. Whitney has a part in that film and performs an on-camera song and she also, just a few days ago, recorded the song for the end title. (chokes up) It’s really incredibly tragic to lose someone at such a young age who had such a huge impact.

Whoopi Goldberg
Co-star in Cinderella

The loss of an icon and superstar like Whitney Houston is devastating. However, it can't compare to the loss of a mother, daughter, niece and friend, so my heart goes out to her family, to whom she was so much more.

Billy Ray Cyrus 
Recording artist

Whitney Houston was a friend. Her legacy and talent will live on forever. The music that she made has influenced and touched us all.

Foster The People
Band

It’s just really sad. I hate it when artists die when they are too young. She was just too young -- 48 is really young. And also kind of watching the progression over the last few years and the struggle she had. It’s a really sad thing to lose a talent like that.

Kings of Leon 
Band

With the digital age you hear so many rumors so often that at first it is disbelief and then once you see some reputable sources come out with it, then it just sets in. I got chills when I first heard about it. It’s just, it’s devastating. 

Ledisi
Grammy Award winning singer

Every girl, she was an influence on. We all had that brush in the mirror. Every singer pretending like they’re Whitney Houston. She was the voice. She brought so many people together with her voice and with her spirit. She was always upbeat. I’m going to miss her.

Claude Kelly
Songwriter

I worked with her on three songs on her last album, so I spent a considerable amount of studio time with her. She was first an icon to me and then became a friend, so it’s bittersweet because I love that her music is being celebrated, but of course it’s at the expense of her not being here. It’s heartbreaking, but I am here today [at the Grammys] for the same reason I was here last year. She gave me great advice. She told me to always keep your heart in the music and let everything else take care of itself. The money will come, the business will come, the opportunities will come, if you have your heart in the music and you sing about what you believe in and write what you believe in. It’s absolutely true. I’m here for that reason. She was an advocate for me when no one else really was.

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