Going to L.A. for the Grammys is always a surreal experience. Everyone in the music industry converges on the city for a long weekend of public ceremonies and private parties. Although I’m not a member of the industry, I have covered countless artists during the course of my career and been fortunate to be a part of the Grammy festivities for years. This past February was no exception. On the Friday evening before the show, there was the MusiCares Gala; next, I went to a private dinner hosted by Andre Harrell with a sexy mix of fashion, film and music folks. Saturday, there was the ASCAP breakfast for Grammy nominees, then a brunch given by the Roc Nation crew, where I stayed, drinking their signature grapefruit cocktails, until past 4 p.m.
The mood of the weekend up to that point had been celebratory, and everyone at each event was partying hard. The Roc Nation brunch was particularly festive. Rihanna, Katy Perry, Ne-Yo, Kelly Rowland, Michelle Williams, Nicole Richie, Rashida Jones and AJ Calloway were all there, hanging out while Sam Ronson spun the label’s superhits. None of us could have imagined that as we blithely partied, one of our most gifted and troubled divas lost her life.
I left the brunch feeling great. I got in my rental car to head back to my hotel to get ready for Clive Davis’s annual pre-Grammy affair. Whitney Houston was going to perform, and I couldn’t wait to see her. I was driving down Sunset Boulevard when my cell phone started to go off. For awhile, I ignored the sounds of incoming text messages. But then it started to ring. When I finally picked it up, EBONY Senior Editor Adrienne Samuels Gibbs told me that Whitney Houston had died. I went cold, made it a few more blocks, then realized that I could no longer drive and pulled over to the side of the road to let the news sink in. Whitney had died during the most important weekend in music—on the same day she was to sing at Clive’s party.
There are moments as a journalist when you have to shelve your emotions and get to work, and this was one of the most difficult times I’ve had to do it. With her obvious talent and equally obvious demons, Whitney had always represented the very best of who we are, as well as the struggle that makes every single one of us human and vulnerable. As much as she held appeal for audiences ranging from the ’hood to the concert hall, the supertalented singer’s life was also a true cautionary tale—one that I took to heart. But I knew that I had a responsibility. EBONY has had a long history with Whitney Houston over the past quarter century, giving her an amazing 17 covers and chronicling her life and career. If any magazine had to pay tribute to her, it was EBONY. So it was time to get to work.
Our team put most of this issue together in one week, racing to find the best writers, images and ideas that would properly celebrate the legacy of Whitney Houston and what she meant to this publication.
Read more in the April 2012 issue of EBONY Magazine!