By Jericka Duncan and Cherri Gregg
Philadelphia (CBS)– Whitney Houston was such an iconic figure to people around the world and right here in Philadelphia.
Eyewitness News spoke to several fans who followed Houston’s career from beginning to end.
“Whitney Houston, no matter what life she led, the impact that she has had on music is undeniable,” said WRNB radio talk show host MoShay LaRen.
LaRen says she grew up watching and wanting to be like Houston. “As a young girl, Whitney Houston, she could do no wrong,” said LaRen. “Everybody wanted to be Whitney Houston and have the big ‘ I Want to Dance with Somebody’ hair.”
The pop-icon’s voice, style, and grace attracted fans from everywhere. Here in Philadelphia, Houston is being remembered. KYW Newsradio spoke to WDAS radio personality Patty Jackson and Philadelphia native and singer Kathy Sledge.
“She was such a huge role model,” said Sledge. “She was such a huge role model to so many, especially young black women, young black girls.”
“She is truly one of the greatest singers of our generation,” said Jackson. “It was so sad to see her life as we watched her through the ups and the downs,” Jackson noted.
Chuck Gamble of Philadelphia International Records says in the mid-80s, when Houston was still relatively unknown, she recorded “Hold Me” with Sound of Philadelphia sensation Teddy Pendergrass- the first song after his accident.
“It gave Whitney a chance to come out with a legendary artist.”
Gamble says Houston was a superstar and one of the best voices in decades.
“She had the ability to sing a song both vocally and have people love her.”
Gamble says The Sound of Philadelphia had a long history with the entire Houston family.
“Gamble had an opportunity to work with her mother early on, in the 70s with Cissy Houston when she was a part of one of the acts they had then called the Sweet Inspirations.”
He says the world has lost a voice that will be untouched for many years to come.
“She’s one of the greatest artists that we’ve had in the last 20 years or so.”
Those who followed Houston’s life were not oblivious to the tough times. Houston divorced her husband, R&B Artist Bobby Brown and accused him of domestic abuse. She later admitted that she had a drug problem. But there was something special about Houston, fans say that kept them wanting the best for the legendary singer, who died at the age of 48.
“No matter what she went through, the world has always believed that she would come back,” said LarRen. “She was on her way back and people were believing that she was on her way back.”
Legendary producers Kenneth Gamble and Leon Huff, who wrote and produced hits with the late Linda Creed, who later wrote Houston’s #1 smash, ‘Greatest Love of All,’ released a joint statement.
“Whitney Houston was an unbelievable talent and one of the greatest voices of all time. Her passing is a tremendous shock and a terrible shame. She had a rough life and was under so much pressure as an artist, because she meant so much to the music community. She was one of the most admired singers ever, who was loved by everybody. We’re praying for her family.”
Gamble & Huff also recalled Ms. Houston’s strong Philly connection:
– A then-unknown Whitney Houston recorded “Hold Me,” a duet with Gamble & Huff recording artist Teddy Pendergrass for his 1984 Elektra album, “Love Language,” his first following the automobile accident that left him paralyzed.
– Gamble & Huff wrote and produced a number of hits with the late Linda Creed, who later wrote Houston’s #1 Smash, “Greatest Love of All.” They first met Houston in Philadelphia at a memorial for Creed, following her death from breast cancer, recalling that Houston “looked like a model and had so much going for her” when they went to her dressing room. They also recalled seeing Houston for the last time at Clive Davis’ annual pre-Grammy party in 2008.
– Gamble & Huff’s relationship with the Houston family began in the late ‘60s when they worked with the R&B act the Sweet Inspirations, founded by Cissy Houston. A Gamble & Huff composition, “Gotta Find Me A Brand New Lover” appeared on the group’s fifth album (Sweet Sweet Soul) in 1969, and “whenever Cissy couldn’t find a baby sitter, she’d bring Whitney to our studio in Philly. Cissy always used to talk about her daughter when we were recording with her, and what a great talent she was going to be.”
Kal Rudman, publisher of the Friday Morning Quarterback, bible of the broadcast and music industries, also expressed his thoughts on the passing of Ms. Houston.
“We have lost a magnificent voice, and I am certainly grief-stricken. This is another tremendous blow to the record industry. Whitney’s alliance with the genius, Clive Davis, who often produced her records and picked most of her hit songs with his golden ears, made for a double dynamite combination.
“Whitney came to my office in Cherry Hill (NJ) a number of times and she couldn’t have been sweeter or more humble during each and every visit. She was a highly gifted woman from a highly gifted family, which included her blessed mother Cissy, another extraordinary singer, and her aunt, Dionne Warwick, whose dream of becoming a motion picture actress was realized through Whitney when she scored big in the movies. The apple didn’t fall far from the tree. I was disappointed that I was never able to work out the scheduling for a visit with her on the frequent record business specials that I co-hosted and produced on The Merv Griffin Show.
On behalf of the staff of the Friday Morning Quarterback, we send our deep condolences to an iconic musical family.
On Sunday, the chairman of the Rhythm and Blues Foundation, Damon Williams also commented on the death of Houston.
“We love Whitney Houston so much for sharing her special gift with the world.Whitney took the torch from R&B Pioneers before her and carried it to unimaginable heights. Our heartfelt condolences go out to all of Whitney’s family members.We are thankful for the many years of support from Whitney’s mom, Cissy Houston, and cousins Dionne Warwick and Dee Dee Warwick, who all are recipients of the Rhythm & Blues Foundation Pioneer Award.”