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Alicia Keys turned introspective Saturday night during what had been planned as a performance celebrating the Grammys. Instead, the annual pre-Grammys gala thrown by Clive Davis had become an impromptu night of remembrance for Whitney Houston, who was found dead Saturday afternoon in her room at the Beverly Hilton.
“You feel sad because that’s how it feels when you lose someone you love,” Keys said from the stage at the Beverly Hilton. “Then you think back to how much this person has touched your life.”
STORY: Whitney Houston Death: Hollywood Reacts on Grammy Weekend
Keys, 31, grew up listening to Houston and has spoken often of the influence the singer’s work had on her at a young age. Keys eventually befriended her idol and wrote the song “Million Dollar Bill,” a single from Houston’s 2009 album I Look to You.
On Saturday, Keys sang a line from Houston’s “I Wanna Dance With Somebody (Who Loves Me),” a song she sang in the mirror as a little girl. She said growing up with Houston’s music and later forming a friendship with her made Keys realize how incredible Houston really was.
Keys recalled a time when she was pregnant and was paid a visit by Houston. The women just hung out “like girls” having a sleepover. Keys said Houston was like “a sister” to her.
VIDEO: Whitney Houston’s Iconic Moments
During her performance, Keys sang a medley of songs that included Billy Joel‘s “New York State of Mind” and Keys’ and Jay-Z‘s “Empire State of Mind.”
Keys was just one of many of Houston’s friends and colleagues to express the profound influence she had on their lives. Diddy said Houston had been an unflaggingly positive presence in the industry.
“She always gave love. She was not a hater, she was a congratulator all the time,” he said. “When I heard the news today, I was literally in shock.”
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