Whitney an inspiration for Bajan singers
By Yvette Best | Fri, February 17, 2012 - 1:45 PM
BARBADOS WAS NEVER blessed with a live performance from Whitney Houston, but we almost had it all.
If plans had come to fruition, the multiple Grammy Award-winner would have been on stage at the Gymnasium of the Garfield Sobers Sports Complex for the January 2011 edition of the Barbados Music Awards.
Producer Ronnie Morris told the WEEKEND NATION Timeless Entertainment had the proposal and contract rider to get Houston here, but she was eventually replaced by Faith Evans, with whom she sang on Heartbreak Hotel.
Timeless also brought Deborah Cox, who sang Same Script Different Cast with the fallen star on two occasions.
“I’m not aware of any other concert promoter in Barbados [who got] that far with negotiations on Whitney . . . . We were always in that circle. Always had the contacts to make it happen; just did not have the necessary support to make it happen. That’s the only reason we’ve never been able to bring Whitney Houston,” Morris said.
Morris is a huge Whitney fan and has all of her albums to prove it.
He said his love for her started as a youngster at St Stephen’s Primary School and described her as his vocal coach.
“I don’t think another artiste has ever come close to matching Whitney’s vocal ability in terms of power, emotion in song, connecting just through her voice to an audience. She does not need special effects, pyrotechnics or dancers to generate the wow factor with an audience – [she achieves that] just by using a microphone.
“I think the music industry has definitely lost a template. She was someone whose style has been copied by Jennifer Hudson, copied by Celine Dion, copied by Mariah Carey, copied by Yolanda Adams,” Morris said, adding that that was evident by their mannerisms and the way they used their voices.
So great was the 48-year-old’s impact on Morris that he sang One Moment In Time for his first performance at the Richard Stoute Teen Talent Competition in 1992.
Stoute said Houston’s music had stood the test of time, especially in his competition.
“I remember a lot of the contestants singing her music. I think she was an inspiration to a lot of my young people, even before this era. People like Kim Derrick and Rosie Hunte, Tamara Marshall and all these people sang her songs in Teen Talent . . . . I would think that she has really inspired young people with her vocals. I think that she was a phenomenal singer, and I’ve always loved her music,” Stoute said.
The godfather of Barbadian entertainment said Houston’s greatest song was Greatest Love of All.
“The kind of conviction she sang it with and the lyrical content of the song speak to how her life ought to have been. And the way Whitney sang it – she sang as though she was speaking to herself. That song played a significant role in Teen Talent years ago; every year somebody sang it. So I would say that the world has lost a really outstanding female singer,” he said.
Stoute noted that despite the challenges, Houston would have made an indelible mark on the world and would be “badly” missed.
Local songbird Kareen Clarke identified with almost every aspect of Houston, so much so that they were often compared. Clarke has yet to be convinced that her idol is dead.
She said the first video she had was of tall Houston singing One Moment In Time in a white dress. It was love from the start for the then little girl.
“Of course I didn’t know I would’ve been tall the same way, and her range and tone, mine would have been likened to that, as well as face structures and stuff. So for me it was just being in love with this woman in white, whose name was Whitney Houston . . . I just knew
I wanna do this, or I wanna be her,” Clarke explained, adding that she would be “up in” everything Houston did and wore.
She would go on to learn all Houston’s songs and they would go on to be a major part of her repertoire, especially when she was on the hotel circuit.
Clarke recalled being paid by a couple at Royal Pavilion to sing I Will Always Love You repeatedly, until the money ran out. And when it did she was offered an “expensive glitter” top as payment.
“Whenever I saw Whitney, I saw myself. So it wasn’t just a matter of hearing her; it was seeing her and how she delivered notes and the expressions on her face, and the fact that she didn’t fear hitting these notes . . . . It was like seeing me and I delighted in that, because it gave me hope. It made me feel like I was part of something big, something huge that I’m yet to achieve, but it will happen,” she said passionately, adding that she was always posting Whitney’s pictures and videos on her Facebook page.
Clarke said if she could attend Houston’s funeral on “the wings of a dove” she would do so.
Acknowledging that Houston’s voice was not the same after years of abuse, Clarke said it did not matter because “I got the best of Whitney”.
The 35-year-old said it was always her desire to do a duet with Houston, and is comforted by the fact that it could still be done via video. It was something she would definitely be looking into, she said.
Gospel singer Paula Hinds said she liked Houston’s vocals, and that her two favourite songs are One Moment In Time and Greatest Love Of All.
Hinds said she was concerned over Houston’s demise and how the singer allowed public opinion to shape her life. She said she hoped people would learn from Houston’s life and see how much you can lose. Hinds’ prayers went out to Houston’s family, and she said she hoped people would guard and watch over Houston’s daughter Bobbi Kristina. Hinds is concerned that the teenager is a prime candidate for addiction because both of her parents were.
Radio personality Gaynelle Marshall did a two-hour tribute on Sunday, which attracted lots of attention. She said she did not feel like she had done anything major, and that it would have been irresponsible for people in radio not to have done it.
Marshall said Houston’s passing was a significant loss in a historical context. She said Houston did not have a “bona fide” hit in 15 years, and that while her musical contributions were appreciated they were limited because the torch had been passed to the Lady Gagas, Rihannas and Beyoncés.
“The world has lost an icon, undoubtedly, but I don’t think it would have much of an effect on the current impact on the music world, simply because she hasn’t been impactful for so long,” Marshall said.
The LOVE FM announcer said she lived with the hope that Houston would find peace, and would become a mentor for younger artistes. She said the final jewel in Houston’s crown would have been for her to become a mogul like Jay-Z or P. Diddy.
Houston was found dead in her hotel room last Saturday and will be laid to rest tomorrow in her New Jersey hometown.
She might be gone, but Morris is looking to ensure that she is not forgotten anytime soon.
Timeless is in the process of planning a “massive” tribute for Houston, which Morris promises to be of the standard the one at last Sunday’s Grammy’s should have been if producers had the time.
He said plans were at an “advanced” stage and that one of Houston’s Grammy Award-winning friends had already expressed an interest.
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