Thursday, May 23, 2024

Whitney Houston: Clive Davis’s Moving Eulogy


This was Clive Davis’s very moving eulogy from yesterday’s funeral. I don’t know how he did it. When Arista’s Gerry Griffiths brought Whitney to Clive’s attention in 1983, their lives changed forever. Davis counseled Whitney through all her troubles.

“You wait for a voice like that for a lifetime.  You wait for a face like that, a smile like that, a presence like that for a lifetime. And when one person embodies it all, well it takes your breath away.  That’s the way I felt in 1983  when in the middle of your act at Sweetwater’s, Cissy, your daughter stepped forward and shattered me with her version of “The Greatest Love Of All.” And that night we connected and then we connected with each other every night thereafter for the rest of her life.

“I thought of that just this past week when Whitney and I spent Tuesday afternoon in my bungalow at the Beverly Hills Hotel.  I looked at her on the couch, saw that she had applied a little makeup and was once again taken aback — she was one beautiful woman.  We talked nonstop music, a subject we both fervently loved.  And, as we spoke, I couldn’t help but silently reminisce about all that we had shared together over the years.

“In the past every hit we shared, we shared with pure joy.  Neither of us could believe the incredible worldwide explosion when it happened.  When she broke the all time record of seven consecutive #1’s we just felt utter disbelief.  I would ask her:  are you pinching yourself?  She would say, with wide open eyes:  I’m pinching myself.  She never took anything for granted. She was never arrogant.  She was always grateful and appreciative.

“And then came The Bodyguard.  She knew how much I worried about her transition to film.  She had to hold my hand, reassuring me that it would be alright.  I said look I’ve got to worry.  I get paid to worry:  So, Whitney, I implored her, please let me worry.  But you know she was right.  She literally lit up the screen.  And when Kevin stood up and agreed with us that the movie had to be changed and opened up to much more music, who can ever forget how she looked when she mesmerized everyone in that stunning headdress with “I Have Nothing,” how she dazzled in her close-ups during Run To You, how she reinvented “I’m Every Woman” and how she captured the world forever with “I Will Always Love You.” And then she followed with two special films Waiting To Exhale and The Preacher’s Wife, were they ever memorable!

“Was there anything she couldn’t do musically?  Is there any performance of “The Star-Spangled Banner” that remotely compares to hers? Will there ever be?

“And then there came time in 1998, because of the passing of years, for what they called a comeback album.  As material accumulated we would meet in my hotel bungalow — in our pajamas at 1:00 a.m., she ordering her hamburger and french fries from room service.  I’ll never forget the expression on her face when she first heard “My Love Is Your Love” and “It’s Not Right But It’s Okay.”  She listened to each song carefully sitting on the carpet and we played each song over and over. Gradually, to my amazement, she had learned the lyrics and she started singing — with each playback she started over and it wasn’t long before she totally owned each song, finding meaning I’m sure the composers never even suspected was there.

“And that’s just the way it was with her videos.  Right from the beginning — can you picture her on that big theater stage stirring our hearts with the “Greatest Love Of All” and then turning to run to the wings into her mother’s outstretched arms?  In a flash you can visualize the verve and vitality of “I Wanna Dance With Somebody” and “How Will I Know.” The camera just loved her. Can you ever forget her video for
“Heartbreak Hotel” as she approached the water draped in fur?

“Memories. Vivid, indelible visual memories. Each of you has them as part of your lives.  I have them scorching my brain right now.  With every album we toured together at least two continents, previewing her new album and with pride playing each cut to a rapt house.  And that includes the last album: I Look To You. We first went to London. I usually would do the talking and play DJ and she would come out at the end to acknowledge everyone.  But with this album a definite difference emerged. She wanted to speak out and she did with assurance — and was she ever articulate!  No longer shy; no longer the introvert.  She was returning to music, her passion and life’s work.  Whitney lived music and Whitney loved music.  This was her world and she was so glad to be back and that’s why I’m talking today about the professional Whitney.  Without knowing of her love of music, her passion for music and her absolutely natural genius in interpreting songs, you really don’t know Whitney Houston.

“Personally, all I can say is that I loved her very much.  Whitney was, purely and simply, one of a kind.  Yes, she admitted to crises in her life.  Yes, she confessed to Oprah about her searing battles.  But when I needed her she was there.  She was there for me, an eternally loyal friend.  Whatever the cause or event, she was there dominating the stage, stunning an audience and creating still another lifetime memory.  I Believe In You And Me she sang, looking me straight in the eye, showing she knew we’ve always been in it together. Yes, I was her industry father and I was and am so proud of it.  And Bobbi Kristina you too always, always be proud of your mother.  She loved you so very much.  She defined not only pure talent but true heart and soul as well.  She’ll forever be looking after you and will never let go of your hand.

“So, as I said earlier, last week Whitney came to my hotel bungalow alone — no bodyguards, no security, just Whitney and me. And she played her new cuts from Sparkle for me and I played some new music that I liked for her.  It was like old times and she looked at me and quietly said, “I want you to know I’m getting in shape. I’m swimming an hour or two a day and I’m committed to get my high notes back — no cigarettes — plenty of vocal exercising — Clive, I’ll be ready by August.” Well, Whitney I’m gonna hold you to it.  Everyone in heaven — including God — is waiting.  And I just know you’re gonna raise the roof like no one has ever done before.”

Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman began his Showbiz411 column in April 2009 after 10 years with Fox News, where he created the Fox411 column. His movie reviews are carried by Rotten Tomatoes, and he is a member of both the movie and TV branches of the Critics Choice Awards. His articles have appeared in dozens of publications over the years including New York Magazine, where he wrote the Intelligencer column in the mid 90s and covered the OJ Simpson trial, and Fox News (when it wasn't so crazy) where he covered Michael Jackson. He is also the writer and co-producer of "Only the Strong Survive," a selection of the Cannes, Sundance, and Telluride Film festivals, directed by DA Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus.

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