When Whitney Houston’s self-titled debut album exploded in 1985, she duitifully followed its success with a tour.
She possessed an angelic voice, but performing didn’t come naturally to her, a professional shortcoming that would frequently be noted throughout her career.
Her first Atlanta stops were a double shot at Chastain Park Amphitheatre.
Peter Conlon, president of Live Nation Atlanta, remembers she was always surrounded by a phalanx of handlers and seemed like she was trying to find her live footing.
“She had incredible talent, but she was never very comfortable on stage. She wasn’t a James Brown or someone to whom performing came naturally,” Conlon said.
The last time Houston performed in Atlanta, according to Conlon, was about four years ago at the Fox Theatre. About a year ago, he looked into booking the singer at the Fox, but based on negative publicity her tour was garnering overseas, decided it wasn’t worth the risk.
“It would have been good,” Conlon said, then added, “You hate seeing anyone with that kind of talent go. We just lost Etta James and she was in her 70s…There are only so many talented people in the world and she was one of them.”
In October, Houston wrapped a remake of the 1976 Irene Cara film, “Sparkle,” which stars Jordin Sparks and Atlanta’s Cee Lo Green. Houston plays the mother of Sparks’ character and was the executive producer for the film, set for release Aug. 17.
Atlanta publicist Saptosa Foster told the AJC that Houston was “phenomenal” on set.
“I got nothing but glowing reviews,” Foster said. “They were really preparing to show that Whitney is an amazing and incredible talent. She’s stable and on top of her game.”
Many Atlanta musicians and artists who knew or worked with Houston during her years living in Alpharetta and beyond –such as Jermaine Dupri and Kandi Burruss – and were too distraught to talk Saturday night, just hours after the news broke.
Burruss, however, provided the AJC with an emailed comment regarding the loss of her friend:
”I wrote, ‘Tell Me No,’ a song from Whitney’s, ‘Just Whitney’ CD, along with Annie Roboff and Holly Lamar. L.A. Reid heard it and wanted it for her. He enlisted Babyface to reproduce the record and while in a session with him, Whitney and Bobby came in.
It was an amazing day for me because I’d put her on a pedestal as a child and would always mimic her songs growing up. One of the best moments about that day was discovering how funny Whitney was. She had me cracking up the whole night with her jokes; it was such a FUN time! Whitney made me feel like family and I am blessed that I had the opportunity to make the acquaintance of the woman that will go down in history as one of the best of our time.”
With the 54th annual Grammy Awards airing Sunday night, it seemed appropriate to remember Whitney Houston’s Grammy accomplishments. Interestingly, she never was nominated for Best New Artist.
Jennifer Hudson and Chaka Khan will reportedly perform a tribute to Houston during Sunday’s ceremony.
Talk of Houston’s death predictably commanded the Twitter-verse Saturday night. My colleague, Alexis Stevens, complied some tweets from several musicians mourning her death.