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CNN BREAKING NEWS
Whitney Houston Dead at 48; Interview With Smokey Robinson; Interview with MC Lyte; Interview With Jermaine Jackson
Aired February 11, 2012 - 23:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
TOMMY MOTTOLA, MUSIC EXECUTIVE (via telephone): Tommy good evening, Piers.
MORGAN: Tommy, obviously, a desperately sad evening. You knew Whitney well. What are your feelings tonight?
MOTTOLA: Well, this is just so, so heartbreaking and we're all filled with sadness. It's the loss of one of the greatest treasures to the world of not only music, but you know, to everyone around her and her family, her mother, Cissy and Dion. Her Aunt Dion. It's just a tremendous tragedy for all of us.
MORGAN: And tell me --
MOTTOLA: This young girl who had this extra special voice. I mean, she was what we considered and what I considered the gold standard and really broke all barriers and really, you know, set the goal for everyone to achieve.
MORGAN: Tommy, is it right, is it right to talk about this as a massive shock or were people in the industry fearing the worse after all the stories that we've read about Whitney over the last few years. What is the sense, do you think, amongst people that there was a horrible inevitability to this?
MOTTOLA: Well, you know, one can never say what happens behind closed doors. And the pressures of this industry, as we all know, and we've seen some of the tragedies over the last couple of years with Michael and Amy Winehouse, and some of the great artist of our, that one never knows what happens in people's personal lives and how the media and all the pressures affect someone.
But certainly, and I remember when Whitney was just fully teenager and Clive Davis invited me to see her before he had even made records with her and listening to that golden voice. And one day in my office at Sony when someone had brought me "I Will Always Love You" before it had been released, and I put it on and I nearly fell out of my chair saying that this could, by far this could be one of the greatest records of all time. It's just a sin, it's a tragedy of such a beautiful treasure to be lost like that.
MORGAN: Tommy, where do you think she will rank -- Whitney Houston -- in terms of her pure talent as a singer? MOTTOLA: Well, once again, you know, I've had an incredible opportunity to be able to work with Barbra Streisand and Celine Dion and Mariah. And I mean, Whitney, as I said broke all barriers more than any of the other singers. And they did set a gold standard because she had this very, very unique, absolutely incredible style and so fluid with her vocals unlike any other singer. So we all looked up to Whitney, no matter who it was.
MORGAN: Tommy, you've been in the business a very, very long time. And you have worked, as you just said, with some of the greatest stars of them all for decades.
Has it got harder? Simon Cowell touched on this, and Lionel Richie, tonight, that it has got harder and harder to be a superstar in the music business because of the ferocious attention now from the media, from the Internet and so on.
Do you feel that? Do you sense that it's becoming ever more pressurized, that environment to try and stay at the top?
MOTTOLA: Well, it's ever more pressurized and the thought of having a body of work that's compelling that somebody wants versus one song that somebody wants to download, or if the star is made from one of the music competition shows is quite different than when Whitney arrived on the scene and how Whitney made it into the star making process.
So now with all of the media and the Internet and Twitter and all of the television exposure of all the music competitions, the pressure is outrageously enormous. Outrageously enormous. So you've really got to stand out from the fray in a big way. And then be able to survive everything else that's going to come at you.
MORGAN: Tommy, you knew Whitney well. What kind of woman was she? Because most people only knew the caricature from the newspapers, the magazines and so on. What was she really like?
MOTTOLA: Well, you know, I remember Whitney, the Whitney that I remember was this absolutely, stunningly beautiful young girl with this golden voice, smiling, laughing all the time. Basically, a church girl who came out of the choir singing with her mother, Cissy, and learning -- and emulating and looking up to all the greats like Aretha, who was her godmother and her cousin, Dionne Warwick.
So she had all these role models. And, you know, she was a very happy-go-lucky soul. And that's the Whitney that I knew. And then, of course, there was a lot of personal tragedy that she's been going through over the last few years, which I'm sure has created so much stress for her.
MORGAN: How important is it when you're somebody of this stature of fame, that you have people around you, a network of people that can protect you from all the problems and issues that arise, that come with that status?
MOTTOLA: Well, it's critical, it's critical, because, you know, there are always a tremendous amount of people in the entourage that are quick to say yes in anybody's career.
So it's a critical thing for someone to look you straight in the eye and to tell you what's right and what's wrong. But don't forget she's not a child, so she can make her open decisions.
Certainly, I mean, she had Clive as her guardian angel her entire career. He looked over her, but he couldn't be with her 24 hours a day. So, you know, again, going through everything that happens in the media and everything that happened in her personal life, I'm sure it took its toll on her. And it's just so sad to actually be looking at this tonight and it's unbelievable for me. It's not real.
MORGAN: And obviously the timing of The Grammys tomorrow night, the huge Clive Davis event tonight, the pre-Grammys party he always host, what would you think the mood will be? Obviously, shock inside. What do you think?
MOTTOLA: Yes. I'm sure she was there tonight to be with Clive and to share the joy with Clive. But hopefully tomorrow night, there will be a big tribute for her.
MORGAN: Yes. Very, very sad night, Tommy.
Tommy Mottola, thank you very much indeed for joining us this evening. We greatly appreciate it on this desperately tragic night for the music business, for the world, the death of Whitney Houston at 48 years old.
I'm going back to my colleague Don Lemon in Atlanta who will bring us up-to-date with all the breaking news, Don.
LEMON: Yes, it's unbelievable. And we are waiting for Clive Davis, right Pierce? You're going to speak to him as soon as Clive Davis calls in. And we've been looking --
MORGAN: We're hoping to. I think, it is chaotic down there. Clive Davis obviously had to make decisions about whether to go ahead with this event. I think he may now make a statement. I'm being told down there. I'm not sure -- probably Clive doesn't know quite what to do that would be appropriate.
This was the greatest star that he ever created. There's no doubt about that, you know. And I think the fact that she's died today on the day of his event, I just -- my heart goes out to him. It really does. I hope we can talk to Clive, but if we can't, it will be because he's just immersed in what I'm sure will be an extremely sad and moving occasion down there.
LEMON: And if anyone knows, the man you were talking to, Tommy Mottola, I mean, he knows, from Mariah Carey, he knows how it is to find someone and to know someone with that extraordinary talent and then help shepherd them into the music business. So, yes. And you're absolutely right, it's very chaotic. And some of the people we've been speaking to, we've had trouble getting them. Thank you, Piers.
Piers is going to stand by. We're going to see him in just a little bit. But I just want to update you, because I know our viewers are watching from around the world. I'm Don Lemon.
You're looking at Piers Morgan there. He's in Los Angeles. I'm at the World Headquarters in Atlanta.
Some sad news to report. Breaking news tonight, Whitney Houston, one of the greatest voices of her generation, dead at the age of 48. Truly a legendary singer, a legendary talent.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WHITNEY HOUSTON SINGING
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: Gives you chills, doesn't it? Her talent, amazing talent. She had some turmoil in her personal life. More than 170 million albums, singles, videos sold. Seven straight Billboard number one hits in the '80s. I almost hate coming in and interrupting that beautiful sound.
"Saving All My Love For You," "The Greatest Love of All," "Where do Broken Hearts Go," the list goes on and on and on. And just before 4:00 p.m. Pacific Time, Whitney Houston was pronounced dead at the Beverly Hilton Hotel. She was staying there for a pre-Grammy party later this evening. That party going on now.
You're looking at live pictures of the Beverly Hilton Hotel where that party is being held.
Is that the Beverly Hilton?
Yes, where that party is being held tonight. She's on the fourth floor. At the time, police do not know the cause of death. Houston's career soared in the 1980s, 1990s, but a tumultuous marriage to fellow music star Bobby Brown and the much publicized struggle with drugs and alcohol made her image suffer.
But so many people still rooted for her. We love Whitney. We wanted her to come back and be the legend. She died as a legend. We hoped that she would pull her life together, and just go back to the point where she was. One of the world's greatest singers, no doubt. And again, that's what's going on now in California.
That's not the Beverly Hilton. That's at the Nokia Theater that we are looking at right now.
Piers Morgan, feel free to jump in anytime because I know you're going to want to talk to him as well. Smokey Robinson joining us.
Smokey, I read your reaction earlier, your statement that you sent and truly the world has lost a treasure here.
SMOKEY ROBINSON (via telephone): Absolutely. I mean, no question about it. I am shocked. I mean, I've had so many of these shocks lately, it's just been incredible for me. And, you know, just the other day we lost Don Cornelius, and now here this is happening. It's just really -- I mean, I can't tell you how shocked I am about this. It's the last thing I expected to hear today, you know?
LEMON: The last time I talked to you, it was Michael Jackson, and I asked you what would you sing? And you said "Never Can Say Goodbye," which was one of Michael Jackson's hits. And I think it's appropriate. Whitney Houston, "I Will Always Love You," I think, that's what we would all sing to her if we could because she's an amazing talent.
ROBINSON: Absolutely. I mean, Whitney, she was like family to me. I've known her family and her forever, you know. It's just -- I mean, people are just leaving here and it's rough. I know that she's going to be remembered well. I just hope that, you know, people think of the positive things about her and not too much is played upon about her problems, you know, because everybody has problems.
ROBINSON: And she seemed that she was coming out of them, and it's just a tragic thing to lose her this way. And I know that she was looking so forward to being at Clive's party this evening. And that was why she was at the Beverly Hilton Hotel in the first place.
LEMON: Have you had a chance to speak to her mother, Cissy? Have you reached out to her?
ROBINSON: You know, I've reached out to her today, but of course, you know, getting through her is practically impossible today, because everybody is trying to get to her, you know. So I haven't been able to speak to her as yet. But in the next day or so, I'm sure that I will speak with her. And get a chance to give her my love and give her my hugs, because that's what she needed.
MORGAN: Smokey, Smokey, it's Piers Morgan here in Los Angeles.
MORGAN: We're getting some extraordinary tributes being paid to Whitney tonight. What do you think she would wish her legacy to be?
ROBINSON: Well, knowing Whit, she would just wish her legacy to be that -- you know, Whit was one of the greatest singers to ever open her mouth to sing. And I know that Whit would want the world to remember her that way.
I know that she would want people to remember her profound talent and to think of her in a positive light. Whit was a sweetie pie. You know, she was a nice person. And I know that she would want to be remembered that way. Like I said earlier to Don, rather than being remembered for her problems, you know, which through -- I have to say through media coverage of when that was going on like that, people may keep that in mind about her. But I just hope that they remember her talent and their positiveness before they think of that part of her life.
MORGAN: Smokey, you touched on earlier the fact that, you know, Whitney had this amazing talent, that she had all these problems, but she was actually beginning to come through them and to recover for want of a better phrase, which makes this particularly sad. You obviously knew the family well. Did you really feel that she was on the verge of a proper comeback?
ROBINSON: You know, Piers, the last time I saw her I did. I saw her -- we were both at a rehearsal studio in Los Angeles, and I saw her and we just laughed and talked and she seemed like she was in such a great place and that she was on the road to recovery and to coming back and enjoying her life again. And I'm just so saddened by this, because we had such a great conversation. I mean, I just felt so good about seeing her that way.
MORGAN: Smokey, what do you think was the biggest misconception about Whitney Houston? You knew her as well as anybody. What do you think was the thing that people just didn't get about her?
ROBINSON: You know, Piers, I don't really know what people -- what the biggest misconception about her was. I think that by -- see, we live in a world where the negative is always portrayed. We live in a world where the negative gets the attention. The negative is the squeak in the wheel that gets oiled all the time.
You know, I think we hear so much negativity all the time about everything and everybody until we're geared up to hear the negative. And I think when that happens like that, I just wish that there was stations in every city and every town in the world that could give nothing but good news, you know. But I think that when that happens, and especially to a person who's already in the public's eye, a person who is in the entertainment world, you live under this microscope any way. And everything that you do, the average person who is not an entertainer, who has an average job, who is just a person who goes about their average life every day and they have their homes and their kids and whatever they're doing and their jobs that are not in the public eye, can do the exact same thing that somebody who is in the entertainment world does and the person in the entertainment world is blown way out of proportion. Like it's some unnatural thing that nobody in life has ever done and that nobody does except for people in the entertainment world.
And so it's hard. And especially, when you go through a period of your life whereas there's negativity involved. Then it's talked about and it's put out there so much and on a constant basis.
So people forget that you're just a human being, and that you're going to have your faults and you're going to have your downs and your ups and your ins and your outs. But it's just publicized so much. It's just magnified.
So I think that's what happened with Whit. I mean, her -- when she was going through her problems in her life, they were magnified so much. You know, it's hard to -- you know, I was listening and Lionel was talking about the same thing, it's hard to grow up on the stage and pretend like none of that ever happened and nobody knows. You know, it's hard to do that.
It's hard to be in the position whereas you're out front and every day, all day long people are seeing and hearing about you. And then something negative goes on in your life and it's just pushed out there and magnified. And then, yet you have to go back and face the public. It's your job.
LEMON: Hey, Smokey
MORGAN: I think the thing, Smokey, -- I think is that you hit the nail on the head there. Many people, many ordinary members of the public have the same issues as Whitney Houston or Amy Winehouse or Michael Jackson, they're just not as famous and so it doesn't get magnified or speculated over so much.
Smokey, thank you so much for taking the time to call in. We really appreciate it on this eerily Saturday for you.
LEMON: Hey, Piers, before we let Smokey go, Smokey, can I ask something?
ROBINSON: Yes, Don.
LEMON: Smokey, the last thing you said about wanting to be positive, because you said, you want to focus on the positive, and I think you're exactly right with that. What will you always love about Whitney Houston?
ROBINSON: Well, like I said, Don, Whitney was family to me, man. I will always love Whitney about Whitney, really, because Whitney was family to me. So I will always love her, and she is one of the greatest voices in the history of music. So that's what I say.
LEMON: Thank you, Smokey. Piers, thank you for letting me jump in. And we're going to go to break.
ROBINSON: Thank you, guys.
LEMON: Thank you, Smokey. And we'll be back right after this break.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WHITNEY HOUSTON SINGING
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) LEMON: The breaking news tonight on CNN. Singer Whitney Houston, dead at the age of 48, found this afternoon in a hotel room at 3:55 p.m. Pacific Time. They weren't able to revive her. Reaction coming in from all over the world tonight. And at the center of it, the heart of it, in Los Angeles, California, reaction is coming in, as well.
CNN's Paul Vercammen joins us now live from the Staple Center with reaction tonight. What are you hearing, Paul?
PAUL VERCAMMEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Don, I'm right here at Staples, and as you know, Los Angeles shuts down, this whole downtown area when it comes to The Grammys. I want to bring in a couple of fans here real quick.
Jera Please (ph) and Giselle (ph). They work in the area and they can kind of characterize for us what it was like when they first heard this news. You were in a nearby hotel and all of a sudden, what did you hear?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, we heard -- actually, it was a message that came to us via text that did you hear Whitney Houston died? And then about that time we heard a gasp throughout the hotel and everybody stopped to look at the television shows that were showing that Whitney Houston actually had passed.
VERCAMMEN: And Giselle, you work right by here at Laurice. You're a huge Whitney Houston fan. What did she mean to you?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, the '80s. Absolutely the '80s. And if anybody doesn't know anything about her gospel music, "The Preacher's Wife," she's very inspirational. And I've gotten through a lot of nights behind her gospel music.
VERCAMMEN: I appreciate your taking time out. In just a moment, we're going to go ahead and talk to the executive producer of The Grammys, Don. Ken Ehrlich will come in so I'll toss it back to you right now, and when you're ready we'll come back and we'll talk to Ken, OK.
LEMON: All right. Thank you very much, Paul Vercammen. Paul Vercammen down in Los Angeles on the streets of Staple Center getting some reaction now.
As we look at these live pictures, Piers, there they are from the streets right at the Beverly Hilton Hotel where Whitney Houston was found earlier today. It still -- having reported on this for almost four hours now, I'm still in shock that this has actually happened and that we have lost this woman and these festivities, as you see, still going on at the Clive Davis party, and you spoke with Clive Davis just yesterday.
MORGAN: Yes. I mean, it's hard to imagine what will be going through his mind. Because Clive Davis is one of the greatest figures in the music industry and the world has ever seen. He's created some of the biggest stars that we've ever heard, and Whitney was the biggest.
And we talked literally yesterday, he was in the studio, he was with Jennifer Hudson, who many compare to Whitney Houston, and she was really touched by the comparison, but said I cannot live up to that.
She said when she was young, she used to mimic doing duets, when she was 7 or 8 with Whitney. Whitney was just her heroine. They're both going to be at this event tonight. It is Clive's annual pre- Grammy party. And I can imagine the atmosphere will be extremely sad and deeply shot.
I'm being joined now, Don, by MC Lyte. She is the obviously, the wrap of it all, the L.A. chapter president of The Grammys.
MC Lyte, thank you very much for joining me.
MC LYTE, PRESIDENT, GRAMMY'S LOS ANGELES CHAPTER (via telephone): Thank you.
MORGAN: Obviously a desperately sad evening.
Yes, I can only imagine how every one is feeling. Obviously, the Grammy is tomorrow. This is a horrible coincidence that Whitney, one of the great Grammy winners in history, has died on the eve of The Grammys. She would have been at this party with mentor Clive Davis tonight. How is everyone reacting to this horrible news?
LYTE: It is not good. You know, it's not good. It's shocking at this point. I've talked with several people at this point, Kelly Price, as well as Missy Elliott, who were, you know, who have both worked with Whitney and were very good friends. We're just all going to miss her so, so much. And my heart goes out to her daughter and her close family and her mom. And you know, just countless people whose lives are deeply affected by this. And, you know, I just hope that we were able to recover, you know. I'm speechless.
MORGAN: Obviously Whitney went through a lot of problems in her life in the later years. Everybody knows that. It's not appropriate to rake over those details tonight.
LYTE: Absolutely not.
MORGAN: It's more appropriate to focus on her -- much more appropriate to focus on this sublime talent. People of the caliber, Smokey Robinson and Lionel Richie have been talking about her being -- and Tony Bennett -- as one of the greatest singers of all time.
How inspirational do you think Whitney Houston has been to the Jennifer Hudson generation? I would imagine there are thousands, if not millions of young women who felt inspired by Whitney Houston.
LYTE: Absolutely. The world over, boys and girls, men and women, and artists and those who never planned to sing a lick, were definitely inspired by her, by her music, her insurmountable talent. I remember, oh goodness, the first album when it came in, "You Give Good Love," and you know, "Thinking About You," it just -- whenever I hear those songs, and I play them often, it takes me back to a place where everything is carefree and it is just, you know, the age of innocence. I think she is the soundtrack for most of our lives.
MORGAN: Yes. I think that's absolutely right. And obviously tomorrow night now, a very different kind of event. The Grammys obviously will go ahead. But are you making any last minute changes? Can you tell me any sort of plans you may have at this very early stage to commemorate the life of Whitney Houston?
LYTE: Well, you know, unfortunately, I can't divulge any of that information, but you know, of course, the academy looks to recognize anyone who has done anything within the music community that moves on to the next level. Of course, they're going to be missed, but they're also going to be recognized on the show.
We just need you to talk about this on another news station the other day about, you know, Alicia Keys and Bonnie Raitt recognizing Etta James. And now, you know, of course, going to have to make appropriate moves, absolutely.
MORGAN: Yes, it's been a terrible time for the music business with Whitney Houston, Etta James, Amy Winehouse, Michael Jackson, recently as well. It's a series of huge blows, major talents all dying. And really, really sad to keep reporting on these awful events.
MC Lyte, thank you very much, indeed, for joining me. And I wish you all the very best with the event tomorrow night. It will obviously be a hugely moving event now at The Grammys.
LYTE: Thank you so much. And I send my love to the Houston Family. Thank you.
MORGAN: Yes. We all do. And we're going to go to a commercial right now, and there will be more on the breaking news of Whitney Houston's death after this.
LEMON: You're listening to Whitney Houston and some very sad news to report. Whitney Houston died today in Los Angeles at 48 years old. She was preparing to go to the Grammys, a pre-Grammy party tonight she was supposed to be at, at the same hotel where the party is at. Her body was found at 3:43 this afternoon and pronounced dead at 3:55, that's according to Beverly Hills police.
This all happened at the Beverly Hilton hotel and we have been looking at live pictures from the Clive Davis party at that hotel this evening. It is still being held. We're waiting to possibly hear from Clive Davis. This evening, of course, Clive Davis was the person who discovered -- the man who discovered Whitney Houston. Our Piers Morgan is standing by in Los Angeles. Our entertainment reporter, Kareen Wynter is standing by in Los Angeles, as well. As well as our Paul Vercammen who is down on the street at the Staple center getting reaction tonight to this tragic news - Paul.
VERCAMMEN: Well Don, you and I were here just a while ago, 2 1/2 years ago when the Michael Jackson was here. And Ken Ehrlich, the Grammy producer also produced that event.
Ken, can you come in here please. So quite an ironic moment. Ken, tell us, now what do you do with the Grammys show tomorrow night in light of what happened?
KEN EHRLICH, EXECUTIVE PRODUCER, GRAMMY AWARDS: Well, as you know, we had a long-term association with Whitney. Whitney was a multi Grammy winner. She appeared on the show a number of times. And you know, personally, we had done a number of shows with her. So, obviously we're very saddened. And, you know, we don't want to rush to anything that wouldn't be respectful.
So, our plan at this point is we do -- I've asked Jennifer Hudson to come and we're at this moment, you know, talking about what she's going to do. But it will be something respectful. It's not going to be a full blown tribute to me that feels like it's too early, it's too fresh at this moment. So, we're working on something that will be really respectful and appropriate to whether Whitney's memory.
VERCAMMEN: And can you discuss, you know, where are you plan to do this in the show. What if there's anything else that will occur in terms of the set up of the show.
EHRLICH: Well, you know, we've already gone through the script and there - we made a few changes just to make sure that the tone is right. Obviously shows like ours, which celebrating music of the past year and, you know, our show is known not only just for the past year but, you know, looking back at years of American popular music.
So, you know, there are some shifts that we wanted to make script wise that probably make it a little more appropriate to what's happened. And you know, it's still going to be a great music show. You know, we felt that -- I think, you know, knowing Whitney as I did. I think she very much would have wanted us to -- she was a great artist. She was a great performer and she knew the importance of thrilling an audience. And that's what we still plan to do tomorrow.
VERCAMMEN: All right. Thank you so much for taking time out, Ken. I really appreciate it. Ken Ehrlich, the executive producer of the Grammys and the old adage, the show must go on. Behind us, you can hear them rehearsing for tomorrow night's show.
As Ken said, they are going to perform. Jennifer Hudson probably doing a special tribute to Whitney Houston, Don.
LEMON: Paul Vercammen, thank you very much. Paul Vercammen reporting outside the Staples center in Los Angeles. Piers Morgan is in Los Angeles tonight. Piers, it's, you know, it's amazing how quickly things move. We're hearing about how they're going to re-jigger the Grammys tomorrow night with a tribute to Whitney Houston. And we have started reporting it. It feels like a minute ago, although we've been on the air almost four hours, things are moving in rapid speed. And we still don't know the cause of death.
PIERS MORGAN, CNN HOST, PIERS MORGAN TONIGHT: No, we don't know the cause of death. And in fact, the early indications are, the police are not suspecting foul play. Who knows what may have caused this? I think probably the reality is this is not as shocking to many people as it may have been if Whitney hadn't been through so many difficult issues in her life. It's desperately sad. I think the music industry is really, really reaming tonight from this news. She was one of the greatest figures in the music business. Possibly one of the greatest singers of all time.
The fact that it's happened on the eve of the Grammys -- I mean, I would imagine the Grammys tomorrow night will be all about Whitney Houston. I can't imagine there will be a single presenter or award winner who will not want to pay their own tribute. And you talked about Jennifer Hudson. She was in my studio last night by chance with Clive Davis, the great mentor for Whitney Houston. And she was talking about Whitney as being just her heroine, how she'll be feeling tonight and tomorrow the Grammys, Lord only knows.
LEMON: All the up-and-comers, as you heard Simon Cowell said, to all the up-and-comers, all the people and I'm sure you on when you "America's got talent," you people would come on I'm sure and say Whitney Houston, Whitney Houston, Whitney Houston.
MORGAN: Do you know what, Don? It was always the litmus test for whether a singer was any good. You know, I did six years of "America's got talent," four "Britain's Got Talent." Simon did endlessly as "American Idol" and 'X Factor." And we always said the great test of a singer is could they sing a Whitney Houston song. Because her songs were these unbelievably hard ballads to sing. You try and sing "I will always love you" to an average singer and you try to hit the high notes and you will fail.
And time and again we would see these contestants fail at the crucial moment, the big note. And if they hit it, if they were like a Jackie (inaudible) or a Susan Boyle or somebody, you knew you found somebody special. I can't think of a better way really of paying tribute to someone like Whitney Houston, other than that was the test. Could they sing anywhere near the level of a Whitney Houston?
LEMON: And you know what, Piers? Our viewers have been e- mailing me and tweeting me. They want to hear Whitney. Let's listen to "I want to dance with somebody."
LEMON: And you and I will talk about that.
(WHITNEY HOUSTON'S VIDEO CLIP PLAYING)
LEMON: As that song is playing, I'm sitting here just tapping my feet, because it does exactly what the song says, it makes you want to dance. And this is one of Whitney Houston's very first hits and I remember hearing this song, Piers, see thing video and I went, my God, who is this woman? Beautiful in this video. And she - you know, Whitney would laugh, because she would say I'm not much of a dancer. She wasn't a great dancer, so she basically did the same little move in every single video. And Clive will tell you, she sat her down a lot, but she wasn't a great dancer. But boy, could she sing.
MORGAN: I don't think it really matters how you dance if you can sing like Whitney Houston did. I mean, she was incredible. I watched "the bodyguard" again recently and just the music, the songs, the way she sang, the power and the range. It is hard, you know, we've seen some amazing singers. Barbra Streisand, Aretha Franklin, you know. There are many of them, Mariah Carey, Celine Dion. It's hard for me to think right now of anybody quite with the power and range of Whitney Houston. I'm being joined, Don, by J.D. He's an executive editor of "People" magazine.
Jay, incredibly sadden, shocking night in many ways. I can't imagine there's a newspaper or magazine in the world right now anywhere that isn't changing headlines or front covers. "People" magazine, on your normal deadline I think it's Monday. What are you planning for this?
J.D. HEYMAN, EXECUTIVE EDITOR, PEOPLE MAGAZINE: Well, certainly it's going to be an enormous tribute. And I think that you are right. I mean, she was an international superstar. She influenced generations of singers. There's not a pop singer singing today who isn't deeply influenced by her.
Obviously, as the hours go by and the days go on, we'll have a very detailed picture. In fact, we already do have a detailed picture of Whitney's last days and hours. And she was a troubled person as well as a brilliant artist. But I think what people will remember, what people want to focus on in magazines and the media in general is just the influence, the impact that she had.
MORGAN: Well, there is no doubt on twitter. You know, I'm seeing a lot of people wanting to comment, wanting to pay tribute and also feeling strongly that whatever issues she had, this is not the time to dwell on them. They know everything will be raked over as it was with Michael Jackson, as it was with Amy Winehouse. It is the nature the multimedia based. And the public will read this stuff. But for now, try and put in context for me how big a star Whitney Houston was, and in the pantheon of musical stars.
HEYMAN: Well, certainly she's one of the top tier artists of the last century and going into this one. Certainly in popular music, there are very few female artists which achieved what she did. She's a multiple, multiple Grammy winner. She was famous not just in North America but all over the world. Her songs are still being listen to and recorded. She had an enormous impact. Up there with Aretha Franklin or Diana Ross. This is a woman who any younger, any of the generation singers that were listening to now, from Adele to anybody you could mention.
MORGAN: Everyone I talked to in the business tonight, along with Don Lemon in Atlanta, said the same thing really, about the massively increased pressure on performers these days, particularly ones who may be not quite at the level they once were. Smokey Robinson touched so much lives. Lionel Richie, Tommy Mottola, Simon Cowell, all saying the nature of the modern media is so relentless. The 24 hour news coverage, the platter of magazine, the Internet, which didn't exist 20 years ago.
You put all these together, twitter, Facebook. In fact, everyone on the street has a camera. There's a paparazzi to the side. This for someone like Whitney Houston, who was the greatest singer in the world, and then began to lose some of that power through personal problems and so on, as she tried to fight back, to come back --
HEYMAN: I mean, if you think about it, she was very early on a victim of this kind of news cycle and of reality television. For the first part of her career, and well into her career, she had a immaculate image. She was considered to be a good girl in popular music. And then through the 2000s with reality show and everything, we were exposed to a side of her that most people had never seen and that had a devastating impact, I'm sure. And that is a reality that popular artists that they didn't have in the '60s and '70s and then to the '80s.
MORGAN: Certainly hugely. I imagine it will be one of the biggest selling issues in paper for a long time. I mean, I'm just judging from the reaction I'm getting. From the text messages, of e- mails. This is having the same impact I think as Michael Jackson's death on people all over the world.
HEYMAN: Well, for many people, Whitney Houston is the soundtrack of their lives. She was huge star in '80s and '90s. And people grew up with her. So, they look at their own memories in life and hear her music. So yes, absolutely.
MORGAN: J.D. from "People" magazine, thank you very much.
HEYMAN: Thanks so much.
MORGAN: I believe we will have a commercial break. There will be much more on the breaking news, the tragic death of Whitney Houston at the age of 48 after this break.
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LEMON: Hard to believe that that voice has been silenced, at least personal voice. But we will always have her music on recording. Whitney Houston dead at the age of 48, and it's still so stunning to believe that I'm sitting here reporting this tonight. So young, Whitney Houston, 48 years old, found in a hotel in Beverly Hills, California.
That song went to number one and sat there forever, forever. One of the most beautiful songs ever recorded. You heard from Tommy Mottola. He said when he heard the recording of the song, the initial recording, when Clive Davis brought it to him, he said this is one of the best songs ever recorded. They knew it was going to be a hit. It was a song that was written and performed by Dolly Parton and then years later Whitney Houston did a remake of it for her movie "the bodyguard" and it became number one and stayed there.
Another brilliant performance by Whitney Houston when she sang the national anthem. It had never been sung like that before, and that national anthem song played on the radio and then topped the charts, as well. That just goes to show you what an amazing voice, an amazing talent Whitney Houston had. Had, wow.
Jane Velez-Mitchell joins us tonight from HLN. She's at the Beverly Hilton. It's amazing. I can't believe I'm saying "had" in past tense, Jane. What are you seeing there?
JANE VELEZ-MITCHELL, HLN HOST, ISSUES: Well, this is such a sad and surreal feeling. Fans have gathered, people have just found out about this word is spreading and people are just gathering here to pay tribute.
We have people who are right over here, Don, lighting candles in honor and to pay tribute to Whitney Houston. And so many people have a personal connection. Some just fans, some just loving her songs. Many people talked about the national anthem. And it's surreal because while we're gathered here and we're all somber right, a stone's throw away, on the other side of the hotel. They're having this huge party. We can hear the music every so often. And that party is the annual pre-Grammy party that is hosted as you know by Whitney Houston's mentor.
And so a lot of people are wondering how can that party go on? But, I think you summed it up when you said the show must go on. That is really the ethos of Hollywood, Hollywood in the greater sense, that the show must always go on.
And I'm here with a woman who paper machete did demos. These are two singers. They were at a party, a nomination party, when the word sort of sprinkled through the room that they were getting on their black berries and their iPhones that Whitney Houston had passed. And you said the show must always go on, and this is what Whitney would have wanted. This party to go on. Tell me about that.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This was one of her nights with her mentor, with Clive Davis and with everyone being at that party. Now they have to turn it around to pay homage to you. You know, it's really sad, but you have to go on, you know. Got to go on.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Yes. And again, the live Davis party going on. Just a stone's throw away. And every so often we can hear the music. And so, it's very, very surreal that that's happening. And by the way, at the service entrance of this hotel, there are paparazzi and there's a police investigation car, as well. So it's a very interesting scene here and I want to thank you both for speaking and back to you.
LEMON: Jane Velez-Mitchell, thank you. Jane Velez-Mitchell there standing right next to the Beverly Hilton where Whitney Houston was -- sadly died earlier today. We want to go now to Catherine Callaway. Catherine is in Atlanta and she's getting reactions from fans here in Atlanta. Go ahead, what are you seeing Catherine?
CATHERINE CALLAWAY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi. Yes, we're here out at Fifth Street (ph) where there are a number of clubs. And I have two fans of Whitney Houston here with me. And they have been waiting in the streets in cold weather to get into this club so they could share their thoughts. What were your thoughts when you found out?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I couldn't believe it. I thought it was a yolk when I saw it on facebook. But then I looked on Google and it was true, so sad.
CALLAWAY: And you said you've been listening to her music for quite, quite a long time.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I was hoping it wasn't true, but it's really sad devastating for the music world that she's gone.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you have a favorite song of Whitney Houston?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I really like all the songs she did in "the bodyguard" and "the preacher's wife" That's my two favorite movie, alright.
CALLAWAY: Good for you.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm - it's sad that she's gone.
CALLAWAY: Yes. And you were saying, you helped that they played tribute to her tonight as some of the clubs play some of her music.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I only helped -- I want them to play "and I will always love you" so I can sing along, off key. That's our favorite song.
CALLAWAY: All right. Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts with us today and have fun out there tonight.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: OK, thank you.
CALLAWAY: Yes. Everyone's got Whitney Houston on the mind here and they are hoping to hear her music here in the club. I think a lot of people are still in shock.
LEMON: Yes. A lot of people are. Most people are still in shock. And thank you, Catherine, very much. I appreciate that. We couldn't believe it, and we had been hearing about it for a while, that Whitney Houston had died, just for a few minutes and we were waiting for confirmation from her people and still couldn't believe it. Even when the words came out of my mouth when I had to utter them here on the air on CNN live to the world, I still couldn't believe it.
I'm having a hard time now. Whitney Houston, 48 years old. Go ahead, Catherine, are you there?
CALLAWAY: I was thinking about listening to you guys talking about your favorite music, favorite songs and things that she had accomplished in her career. But do you remember when she sang the national anthem?
LEMON: My God. We just talked about it. It was amazing. She made it a hit. It was on bill boards. They played it on the radio.
LEMON: Things happen for a reason. What's her name, the first "American idol," I forget her name, I'm sorry right now. What's her name? Kelly Clarkson. Sorry, Kelly. Kelly Clarkson sang the national anthem at the super bowl last weekend and I put it on my facebook page.
CALLAWAY: And I just thought about it.
LEMON: People would respond back, Catherine, saying you know, she did a great job, but Whitney Houston did a great job, as well. And they would go back and forth sending me clips from Whitney Houston singing the national anthem. So you're exactly right, Catherine.
CALLAWAY: It's just -- yes, we had the same conversation at our house when we heard her singing. Nobody could sing it as good as she did. And what an incredible talent. She will so be missed and let's do hope that they pay tribute to her in some way tomorrow night.
LEMON: Catherine, thank you. Thank you for bringing that up. I appreciate it.
Piers Morgan is standing by in Los Angeles. Piers, you know what I'm talking about. Kelly Clarkson has an amazing voice, but people often compare, when you do a song that someone else has done well. You know, they compare you to the person who did it first and who did it well and who many people would say did it better. But, just to be compared to that person is an honor in deed. And to be compared to Whitney Houston of course, I'm sure is an honor to Kelly Clarkson after having sung the national anthem just a few days ago.
MORGAN: Yes. Don, I understand we have the great Larry King, and I think that Larry, you have with you Jermaine Jackson, is that right?
LARRY KING, CNN HOST, LARRY KING LIVE (via telephone): I think we're going on now. Hold on. LEMON: Go ahead.
MORGAN: Larry, it's Piers. Can you hear me?
KING: I hear you fine.
MORGAN: Larry, thanks so much for calling in. What is your reaction to the appallingly tragic death of Whitney Houston?
KING: Well, it's a real tragedy, Piers. In fact, are you coming to the party?
MORGAN: No, I was supposed to be joining, but I've actually come into CNN and we're just rolling with the breaking news. What is the mood there like, are you there?
KING: Yes, that's all everyone is talking about, Piers. It's only talking about Whitney Houston and the sadness. It's semi festive and semi -- it's almost cerebral. It's surreal. I've never been at a party like this. You know, her remains are still in this hotel and they haven't removed them yet. The police are hear. Crowds are outside. The room is packed. The show is about to start. We understand Tony Bennett is going to sing a special tribute to her.
It's just really sad, Piers. As you said so often tonight. This is not supposed to happen to people this young. The only other comparison I make is to Judy Garland who had those ups and downs and died tragically in about the same age as Whitney.
MORGAN: Yes. That's very true. And I was thinking as you know, Larry, a bit. Just in the last two or three years, we've lost Michael Jackson, Elizabeth Taylor, Whitney Houston, Etta James, and Amy Winehouse, all in different circumstances. But some really huge legendary stars, all dying in very difficult circumstances.
KING: You know what it teaches us, Piers? That we're all here on borrowed time, aren't we? I think we should wake up in the morning and say thanks.
MORGAN: Yes. Larry, I think we have got Jermaine Jackson on the line, as well. Jermaine, are you there?
JERMAINE JACKSON, MICHAEL JACKSON'S BROTHER (via telephone): Yes, I'm here, Piers. How are you?
MORGAN: Thank you so much for calling in. I know that you knew Whitney well. How are you feeling tonight? It's been a real bombshell to everyone. No one was expecting this.
JACKSON: Yes. It's a tragedy for me. I woke up this morning - I'm in Istanbul. And I was getting ready to make my flight back to L.A. and I just turned on CNN, which I watch CNN all over the world and that's how I got the world. And I'm just devastated because we go way back from the very beginning.
My life with Clive Davis started right at the Beverly Hills hotel right where he is right now. And after I was arranging my deal with him, he told me to put on my producer cap and see what can I do for this artist. It was Whitney Houston singing in a club at 18-years- old. And he asked me if I could work with him on some songs and so, we got together and we produced stuff like if you sing "Why is it beautiful", "take good care of my heart", "Nobody loves you like I do." Just a lot of great songs. And this is tragic but - she was a voice that the world enjoyed hearing. And it's just very sad, because we (INAUDIBLE) from the very beginning, the very beginning.
MORGAN: Jermaine, obviously -- obviously many people, Jermaine, are drawing parallels with the tragically early death of your brother Michael. There's only a couple years. And people feeling he was the king of pop, she was the queen of pop. Both of them dead at really horribly early ages.
Did they know each other? Did Michael know Whitney?
JACKSON: Yes, yes. They really did. Whitney had a chance to come out to Neverland. And she told me she had a great time. And Michael said that she enjoyed herself, as well. And when Michael passed, she called me. And she was there for me and saying to me, if you need anything, Jackson -- because she called me Jackson -- just call me; I'll be there for you.
And she was very, very sweet. So this is very devastating for me, my family, the fans and the world, because she was a voice that the world enjoyed very much.
MORGAN: And Larry --
MORGAN: Great talking with you. I wish it was a better occasion.
MORGAN: Yes, Larry, thank you very much.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you. you too, Jermaine. Be well.
DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: Hey, Piers, can I ask Jermaine a question here?
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LEMON: Jermaine, it's Don Lemon. You did a duet with Whitney, didn't you?
JACKSON: Several, several. We did a lot of music from the very beginning, from the very beginning.
LEMON: Tell the viewers about that, the songs and how it was working with her.
JACKSON: Well, just -- just standing opposite of her in front of a microphone and just hearing this talent from the very beginning -- I think I worked with her when she was 19. And we did songs like I was mentioning earlier, songs like "Take Good Care of My Heart," "Nobody Loves You Like I Do," "If you Say My Eyes Are Beautiful," "Someone For Me," "Don't Look Any Further."
And she did some backgrounds with me on a song I had, which was a number one record in Russia, called "Sweetest ." So we have been together since the very beginning, the very beginning.
I mean, our lives really started right there at the Beverly Hills Hotel. I think it was Bungalow B something. I was going there to be signed to Arista after having sold so many years at Motown with my ex- father in law, Barry Gordy. And then Clive Davis and I sat down, and we worked out a deal.
Right after that, he asked me if I could do something for this artist. That's when he put on a tape and it was Whitney Houston singing. And I said, well, why don't we do something like a Marvin Gaye, Tammy Terrell. And that's the approach that I took from the very beginning.
But she's always been sweet. I would see her in places, and she would say, are you OK, Jackson? I would say, yeah, I'm fine; are you OK? I always wanted her to get back on the right track. I don't want to talk about the things that happened in her life on the downside of things, because I think it's important she has done so much good for the world with her music and her sales. And that's what the media tends to do. They tend to look at the negative things.
But there's a lot of good. There's a lot of good. She inspired a lot of young females and males and singers. We loved her. My family loved her. She's definitely --
MORGAN: Jermaine, if I could jump in, Jermaine, I just wanted to ask you, again about the parallels with your brother Michael, because both of them were these hugely famous, iconic entertainers. They both died around the same age. And both of them were exposed to really ferocious media scrutiny and pressure, not just the media, from the public as well, for many, many years.
Do you think it's become almost impossible to lead any kind of normal life given the glare of modern media with the Internet, with 24 hour news and so on? You saw it first hand with Michael. And friends of Whitney's have talked about it tonight. Do you think it's becoming really, really difficult?
JACKSON: Yes, it is, because with Twitter and Facebook and all of the different ways of getting information out there that's not true, and people finding out about people's lives and the rumors spreads and all of the gossip shows and the tabloid hoopla, yes.
But at the same time, when there's a young star, whether it's my brother or Whitney, there's always a wall being built around them that keeps family away. And in these trying times and these hours of despair, family should be there. And all of the time, family is not there because they're being kept away.
I knew her mother very, very well, her brother, her father. And they seemed to be very, very close when she first started. But I'm pretty sure, just like with my brother, if the industry and the people they come, the ticks and the parasites and the people, and they surround themselves and they want to become his mother, his father, his sister, his brother, her mother, her father, her sister, brother. And they push the family away.
That has a lot to do with this, because at the end, there's nothing more strong than family. And if you are close to your family, you can have a successful life on stage and offstage. Exactly.
MORGAN: A lot of people tonight on the Internet and Twitter and so on are saying that Whitney's life really was in two parts, the time before she met Bobby Brown and the time afterwards. Do you think it's fair to blame Bobby Brown for a lot of the problems that she suffered?
JACKSON: Well, I heard things, and I saw things. I think when Whitney did the 30th, my brother's show, she was very thin. And I was very much concerned. And I -- and I pulled her aside and I said, are you OK? And she said, yes. But see, we can only se and guess what's going on.
As far as Bobby, I've always enjoyed Bobby's talent. And we all hear these things. But we don't know as to how much truth there was to these statements when they were put out there.
But I will say that we're all accountable for our own actions. And we can't say it was Bobby. We can't say it was this, because at the end of the day, we're all adults.
LEMON: Hey, Jermaine. It was interesting because Piers earlier called -- your brother was the King of Pop, and Piers earlier said Whitney was the Queen of Pop. I'm sure there was a friendly competition. And I mean this in the best way, because I remember back in the '80s and '90s, Michael would be like, OK, , I got "Off The Wall," and Whitney would be like, OK, well I got "How Will I Know."
And then it would be boom and boom, one after another, one number one hit after another. And they were happening in the '80s and '90s, both at the same time, with Whitney and your brother.
JACKSON: I think your voice is cutting out. I didn't catch the last part. But I will say Michael and Whitney shared a lot of success during the '80s. And they became friends. I'm very happy and proud and very honored that I got a chance to be a part of her life, to help create that world of success with Clive Davis.
And Clive has been unbelievable with Whitney and myself, and just having that vision. And we've always had a very solid relationship, where we would say hi and just really care about each other. I felt that she really genuinely cared about me and my family. Just like I said, she had called and phoned me when Michael passed. She was very much concerned about how I was doing.
So I was very happy that she had phoned during the time.
MORGAN: Jermaine, if I could ask you, how good a singer technically -- you're a great singer yourself. And you are the brother of one of the greatest singers in history. How good do you think from a technical point of view, Whitney's voice was? Because obviously to a layman like me, it sounded unbelievable. But tell me about the voice.
JACKSON: Whitney was incredible because she was an artist that -- she had a lot of influence from her mom, Aretha Franklin, a lot of the greats that were out there before her. But just being in the studio with her, I'll never forget when we were singing "If You Say My Eyes Are Beautiful," and just standing on the opposite side of the microphone. I would do my part and she would do her part.
And here's someone that would take a lyric and give it so much feeling and so much conviction and so much soul. And I was just mesmerized, even when she was 18, and we were doing music. But she was an incredible artist and voice.
That was a gift. That's definitely a gift. And it was devastating to hear her tour later, and then to not hear that voice as clear as it was from the very beginning. And we have to take care of our instrument, which is the voice. But she was an incredible artist, incredible singer. She could sing anything, Piers, anything.
MORGAN: Do you think, Jermaine, that the pressure of losing the quality of her voice was beginning to really bear down on her, because that's the sense that I'm getting from people who knew her well, is that when you have had this astonishing peak to a voice, that if you start to lose that, it becomes a really, really awful thing to deal with?
JACKSON: I really don't know, Piers. But I saw some of the concerts, some of the comments from the concerts that she did in Australia. And the people were saying horrible things. They wanted their money back. But you have to give it to her. She went up there and she tried.
And whether she was making a mockery of herself, she put forth the effort. And you have to give her the A for the effort, whether the voice was there or not. She showed up. She did had show.
But I could tell that there was something wrong and something different, because of -- it just takes a toll when you don't take care of the voice, the vocal chords. But she will always be remembered as the greatest female singer of all time, really. She was a voice for the world to enjoy, definitely.
LEMON: Jermaine --
MORGAN: We're hearing actually that Bobby Brown has performed in concert tonight, I think some reunion with New Edition, in which he did tell the crowd that he loved Whitney Houston.
LEMON: Memphis Tennessee, he's performing. I'm hearing that as well. Jermaine, are you still there?
JACKSON: Yes, I'm still there. LEMON: Jermaine, it's interesting because sitting here and talking to you on the air, just how the fans love your brother and love Whitney Houston. They're guiding me through the coverage here. And it's interesting. They're saying, "Don, don't say Michael Jackson was the King of Pop; he is the King of Pop. You have to correct that."
So it's people still live your brother. And they will always love Whitney Houston. Here is the thing, I sat behind you in court just a couple months ago. And my heart just went out to your mom. And your mom and I kind of bonded. And we would share our nods and hellos every day in court.
And you said you knew Whitney for such a long time. Her mother, I can't help but think about Cissy Houston. And do you have a few words for Cissy Houston and for the family and what she's probably dealing with right now, having gone through it with your mom?
JACKSON: The last part of the question, I didn't catch. But you mentioned we were in court during the last trial, right? Of my brother?
LEMON: Yeah, and I was talking about Cissy Houston. Having dealt with it yourself with your mother, Whitney's mom, Cissy, have you reached out to her? Can you tell our viewers what's on your mind when it comes to her and what she's possibly dealing with, having dealt with it yourself?
JACKSON: Well, Cissy was always nice to me, even from the very beginning. I can imagine what she's going through because I -- we have been through it with my mother. And it's very tough to lose a child and for you to outlive your child is very tough.
But I will say I just woke up in Istanbul and turned on CNN and saw what was going on with Whitney. So I haven't had time to do anything but talk to you guys. But I'm catching a plane back to the states. I'm just hoping that she stays strong. And our hearts go out for her mom and her brother, Gary, and her father and all of her loved ones.
It's very tough. It's very tough. You just -- this is when family is so important, when you pull together and you mourn together. We're still mourning for my brother. I mean, I was just with a bunch of the fans here yesterday, and just talking to them and giving them sort of a feeling of ease and signing pictures of Michael and the brothers and the Jackson 5 and myself.
And now here is Whitney. And it's just so much. It's so much. I mean, Smoky said it best, "we need to remember the good things about her. We need to learn from this as well." We just lost Don Cornelius. And it's just what we're going through in these times.
LEMON: Jermaine, thank you. Piers, stand by. Piers Morgan joining me in Los Angeles tonight with this coverage of the sad death of Whitney Houston. And Piers, I said -- in fact, it's in Mississippi, Bobby Brown is performing tonight, South Haven, Mississippi. You're quite correct. He's performing with New Edition. And he paid tribute, as you said, to Whitney Houston tonight.
So Piers, stand by. We're going to get to a quick break. Piers and I will be back with continued coverage of the death of Whitney Houston.
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LEMON: I'm Don Lemon live at the CNN World Headquarters in Atlanta. Welcome to our viewers around the world. I'm here in Atlanta, excuse me. My colleague Piers Morgan is covering the story for us. He's in Los Angeles tonight. And we have team coverage tonight.
We want to start with Kareen Wynter. She's our entertainment correspondent. And Kareen, you have been getting reaction from people in the music industry tonight.
KAREEN WYNTER, CNN ENTERTAINMENT CORRESPONDENT: I have. And I'll get to that in just a second, Don. The party may be going on in Beverly Hills tonight with that Clive Davis party, but we're seeing stars pulling out, Tweeting about it, in fact. Sharon Osbourne Tweeted a short time ago that she's too devastating, too heart broken to attend.
And speaking of the big pre-Grammy events, you know, the biggest party of all happening tonight, Don. We were able to confirm that Whitney Houston was scheduled to attend. She wasn't going to perform there. She wasn't going to be attending the Grammys at all, either, tomorrow.
And really what is so tragic in all of this -- and I know you and Piers have been discussing is this all night long -- is Bobbi Kristina and how she must be holding up during this very, very difficult time.
One of my colleague, Michelle Turner, she was able to confirm with Johnny Gale (ph) that Bobbi Kristina -- she may be here in L.A. They're not sure of her exact whereabouts. But quote, "she's not doing well at this time."
I had an interesting conversation with Kenny Lattimore (ph). He hosted the party, Don, on Thursday where Whitney Houston performed, where people said she just looked so comfortable, so beautiful on stage. And that Bobbi Kristina -- they were encouraging her to go up and perform with mom. She's always stepping back, letting mom take the spotlight.
But she was right there to se her mom really perform for the last time. And quickly, I just want to get to a really, real a poignant comment. Eddy Luverd (ph), who has known Whitney Houston for decades, I spoke with him at length on the phone a short time ago. And he really, really sums up what so many people are feeling really at this hour and all of their shock over what has happened.
He said, Don, that there is now a hole in all of our souls. He told me a really touching story. By the way, he's not in L.A. And he said, Kareen, thank goodness I am not there. I want to deal with this mourning, this grieving from a distance. He's in Atlanta right now.
And he said Whitney was here a few years ago. She actually attended one of his concerts, went backstage. And he said everyone knew Whitney as this big over the top star, a diva. He said it was so -- couldn't be further from the truth. She was so down to Earth and that they really just joked all night long in his dressing room.
And that's the Whitney that he wants to remember, and he wants to hold on to. And that this is a game. He said this, Don. This is a game with a lot of pressure. And this is one of the big pit falls we're seeing right now, the loss of a beloved entertainer.
LEMON: Absolutely. Don't go anywhere. I want to read this one just coming into my e-mail, Kareen, and then we can talk about some other folks who are sending their condolences. This is Bishop TD Jakes saying "we're deeply saddened by the tragic and untimely passing of Whitney Houston, whom we were blessed to have just completed work with the remake of her film "Sparkle."
And then he goes on just to say "she has left behind a musical and film legacy that will endure. She will be sorely missed by us all." That's Bishop TD Jakes sending that in.
But Kareen Wynter, you're hearing from people there. And as you said, the gentleman just said, I can't deal with it. I want to be in Los Angeles right now. I couldn't deal with it. It seems every time, it's always -- because L.A., that area, the center, that's where the stars are all -- all are.
And every time we have to deal with a tragedy like this, we go to the same place pretty much. We're at the Staples Center, at the Beverly Hilton, and in the same places where they have the memorials for these stars. And sometimes it's like, are we going to have to do this in -- there are pictures now, live pictures of the Staples Center in Los Angeles, and the Nokia Theater right near there, where the Grammys are going to be held, and then the Grammy pre-party they had tonight at the Beverly Hilton Hotel, hosted by Clive Davis.
We heard from Tony Bennett. We saw some video from him earlier, his statement on camera. And then behind him, I saw Gladys Knight, who was next in line or next in the cue to be interviewed and talk about Whitney Houston as well. Another diva, another star. And I'm sure her heart is breaking as well. Kareen?
WYNTER: You really said it best, Don. It's so fresh because of what you mentioned. It just seems like this just happened. And it really did with Don Cornelius, another big legend in the music industry passing. And people are still trying to heal from that, trying to grapple with the huge loss.
And it's really going to change the tone of tomorrow's Grammys. You can just imagine what producers are scrambling to put together now behind the scenes, because it is, Don, an event where you do celebrate music. You do celebrate the best and brightest, but this is going have to be undoubtedly toned down now given the nature of what's happened.
MORGAN: Yeah, yeah, absolutely. And of course, that's what's happening on the West Coast. Thank you very much, Kareen Wynter. But Whitney Houston is an East Coaster. She's from Newark, New Jersey, Piers Morgan. Earlier this evening, the mayor of Newark released a statement sending his condolences as well. Let's go to Piers Morgan. Are you there?
MORGAN: Yeah, I am, Don. I don't know if we had this already tonight, but it's a really moving Tweet from Bette Midler, which is sort of a repeat if we have everybody, "little by little, these deaths kill the best part of each of us, the awe and joy we feel when we hear a gift that can only come from God."
I think that's something that has resonated throughout all of the interviews we have done tonight, is that people do feel that Whitney Houston had this God-given talent. There's a sense tonight that we have lost something very, very special.
We're going to go to Poppy Harlow, CNN correspondent who is in Newark, New Jersey, at the church where Whitney Houston attended. I think Poppy, they're planning a pretty special event in her memory. Is that right?
POPPY HARLOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely, Piers. I think you said it exactly right, a God-given talent. That's exactly what Whitney Houston had here in Newark, New Jersey. We're out front of the New Hope Baptist Church. If you can recall from videos, some know it very well, of Whitney Houston as a young girl singing here, her hair back in a ponytail, people looking fondly back at that on Youtube tonight.
This is the place where Whitney Houston began her singing career. And it's a place that is very much still a part of the Houston family. I spoke tonight extensively with Pastor Joe Carter outside of the church, who issued a statement just a short while ago. And he told me that Whitney's mother Cissy is still very much a part of the church.
She was actually a choir director here for 54 years. And I asked him, what is the relationship now between the Houston family and this church. He said, it is, quote, inseparable. Starting tomorrow morning at 6:30 a.m., they will have a service in Whitney's memory. And he said he will be preaching throughout the day with, quote, a heavy heart.
So clearly a God-given talent. And you're going to see people coming into the church and coming very, very early in the morning to pay honor to Whitney Houston. MORGAN: Yeah. And she began life as a gospel singer in a -- and the church very important to her. So I'm sure that her family will be really important there.
Poppy, thank you very much indeed.
We'll be back after a short break with more on the devastating breaking news of the death of Whitney Houston at the age of 48.
MORGAN: You're watching CNN, with the breaking news of Whitney Houston's death at the age of 48. Her body was found at the Beverly Hilton Hotel in Los Angeles. And we're going to go straight there now to join CNN's Jane Velez-Mitchell and Michelle Turner, who are at the Beverly Hilton, where Clive Davis, Whitney Houston's great mentor from Arista Records, is hosting what was supposed to be a celebration, a pre-Grammy party, but it has turned, I would imagine, into something of a wake.
Jane, tell me what's going on there.
JANE VELEZ-MITCHELL, CNN ANCHOR: Well, it's surreal and it's emotional. Piers, behind me, there are fans singing a medley of Whitney Houston songs in tribute to her. This has just happened spontaneously and it's been happening through the night.
Meanwhile, the party you refer to, the Clive Davis pre-Grammy party is happening a stone's throw there. Ever so often, we hear music emanating from the Beverly Hilton.
And CNN's entertainment correspondent Michelle Turner has just returned from the red carpet, stars going into that party. And it is surreal. It's odd that this party is happening at the very hotel where Whitney Houston was found dead.
MICHELLE TURNER, CNN ENTERTAINMENT CORRESPONDENT: Right. And that's kind of the sentiment that was on the red carpet tonight. Most of the celebrities that I spoke with going to the party said this was just very odd. It's a very solemn red carpet. All of the talk was about Whitney Houston. No other talk, period.
Most people said they are just having trouble digesting it all. One of the things when I spoke with Gladys Knight, she was so broken up because her and Dionne Warwick, which is Whitney Houston's cousin, are very close friends. Se told me they had actually through the years confronted Whitney a number of times with her substance abuse issues, kind of like an intervention, to try to bring her back and get her back on the right track.
Everybody, though, said despite her struggles that we all saw play out in front of us, they thought she was and forever will be the voice, period. VELEZ-MITCHELL: She is the voice. That's what all the fans have been saying. I don't know if you can hear them, but they are continuing to sing as we speak behind us. And people have talked about her National Anthem, how she turned the National Anthem -- we are trying to walk over there, but we have got a bit of a chorus.
But let's go as far as we absolutely can. Let's see. We will just step over. Yes, this is about as far as we can. But I will put the mike out and see if we can hear it.
MORGAN: Yes. We can hear it loud and clear.
MORGAN: You can hear it loud and clear. It's very moving there. It is a very surreal situation. Larry King called in earlier to say there was only one topic of conversation. But he also made the point that he believed that Whitney Houston's body was still in the hotel.
So you have this extraordinary situation of Whitney's body being in the Beverly Hilton and this party going on in the same hotel. It must be very, very strange down there.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: It's bizarre because at the service entrance, the paparazzi are gathered. And there is a detective's vehicle and a coroner's style vehicle there. And they've surrounded it and they are waiting.
So it's like there were three different worlds here. There's the party with the glamour celebrities. There's the fans singing. And then there's the paparazzi hovering around where they think -- for all we know, the body is still there. they're being very cagey about it.
I just called the police five minutes ago and they said we can't release that information at this time.
TURNER: But Jane, we have covered so many death investigations, things like that. When there is a death investigation, the body still being here really isn't all that odd, because she was reported dead I think around 3:55. It's what -- 9:30. So doing an investigation is going to take a lot of time. That really is not weird.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: It's odd that there is a party going on at the same time and that people are singing songs. What's also interesting is that we just heard Jennifer Hudson is going to be performing a tribute to Whitney Houston at the Grammys. And you had some very fascinating things to say about that, that they were -- for all years, they have never been light. This year, they are light.
TURNER: Right. The producers were saying earlier in the day that they went into the show this 2.5 minutes light, which never happens. So it was very odd that they were going into the show light anyway.
Then this happened. So they decided we have to do a lot of restructuring. Earlier, we were told that it looked like Jennifer Hudson would be performing the tribute. Now it is confirmed that she will be performing a tribute to her.
One of the things that Jennifer Hudson has always said, Whitney Houston, number one, was her musical idol. Her most proud moment was when she received her Grammy from Whitney Houston just a few years ago. She said that made her so emotional. It was actually right after her family had passed away. So that was just amazing to her.
MORGAN: If I can jump in.
MORGAN: If I can jump in there, funny enough, we had Jennifer Hudson in this studio in Los Angeles yesterday with Clive Davis, in which she talked exactly about that moment when she was presented with her Grammy by Whitney Houston, her idol. And she told me this really moving story of how when she was young -- a young seven, eight-year- old Jennifer Hudson, she used to pretend doing duets with Whitney Houston.
So it was real hero worship. So I think for her to be singing a tribute to Whitney at the Grammys tomorrow, an already emotional event, I think is going to be an incredibly moving thing. And I think that everywhere is going to be watching the Grammys. I think everyone will be paying tribute to Whitney Houston.
You have this event tonight. Larry King says the only subject of conversation is Whitney Houston, as you would imagine. This whole thing reminds me of the death of Michael Jackson. He was the King of Pop and I will say it again. To me, she was the Queen of Pop. It's a desperately sad day for music, for the world, for everyone that new and loved her music and Whitney Houston.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: You know what's interesting though, Piers, when Michael Jackson died, remember, there was an extraordinary effort to resuscitate him. He was taken to the hospital. It was hours before he was formally pronounced dead.
And here this happened very, very quickly; 3:43 the call comes in; 3:55, she is pronounced dead. It's striking how fast this all happened today here. I think it's interesting. And it may reveal a little bit about what happened that they were able to pronounce her dead so quickly.
TURNER: One of the other things --
MORGAN: Also --
MORGAN: I was going to say I have a home not far away from where this event is going on tonight. The first I knew, I was going to go down to this event at the inviting a of Clive Davis. And then I suddenly heard all these helicopters and a lot of activity around the Beverly Hilton. I couldn't work out what on Earth was going on. And then I got a few text messages to say there were reports that Whitney Houston had died. And you just couldn't believe it because she was due to go there tonight. She may even have performed. Clive Davis was so proud talking about her last nigh. You have the Grammys tomorrow.
It's really an extraordinary set of circumstances. People down there, I would imagine, are just reeling, aren't they, from the shock of all this.
TURNER: Absolutely. You know, one of the people that I spoke with tonight on the red carpet was the "X Factor USA" winner, Melanie Amaro (ph), who was literally sobbing to me on the red carpet tonight. She said, number one, Whitney was her idol. And she just met her for the first time three days ago.
She ran into her at the doctor's office, just by happenstance, three days ago at the throat doctor. They met each other. And she said Whitney told her keep the torch going. She said she seemed fine, but it just hadn't sunk in to her.
Kelly Rowland (ph) was on the red carpet tonight and was crying, could not do interviews. It really has been a very, very odd --
MORGAN: As you were speaking there, we were seeing footage of Clive Davis actually arriving at the Beverly Hilton. And an incredibly difficult night for Clive Davis. He's one of the great legendary figures of the music business. He sat here last night in this studio, gave me a great interview, talking about Whitney Houston, his greatest protege. And how he is feeling, how he has gone ahead with the event.
But I would imagine that of all the places he wished to be, to be surrounded by people who loved Whitney Houston and her music -- the cream of the industry is down there tonight. I imagine he thinks that's the best place that he could be. I am sure there will be a night of tributes and memories, just an extraordinary occasion.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: It's not just the stars. I spoke with a woman who did the demo tracks for some of Whitney Houston's hits. And they do have lesser known singers who do the song first. And then the star comes in, listens to their rendition and often copies it.
She did those demo tracks. For her, this person was a deity really. She was devastated. So it's not just -- it's the stars, but also all these little people in Hollywood, the ones struggling to make it, who look up to Whitney as one of those who did make it from their ranks.
TURNER: You know, one of the things that you mentioned, Piers, was that we just saw video of Clive Davis arriving. It's just a little poignant because the image that we usually see arriving to his party with him is with Whitney Houston on his arm. Every year, they would arrive together. So I'm that picture there is pretty hard for people to take and see.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: And here we are in Hollywood. It just occurs to me that a roomful of Hollywood script writers couldn't come up with something as dramatic, as poignant, as tragic and surreal as this. Piers?
MORGAN: It's certainly true. And of course, at the end of it, you are left just with this shocking news that Whitney Houston, one of the greatest singers of the modern generation, possibly one of the greatest singers in history, has died at the age of 48.
We will take another commercial break, hear a bit more of Whitney and her singing. And we will be back with more of this terrible story after this break.
LEMON: We are remembering Whitney Houston tonight, dead at the age of 48. The singer found in a Beverly Hills hotel room. If you would like to remember Whitney Houston, you can go to Remembering Whitney Houston. It's on CNN.com/IReport. There is a photo gallery there. And people are sharing their memories of the late singer.
I can't believe I'm saying that. Then on her Facebook, I just discovered -- I just Tweeted it out, a beautiful picture. And I put it on my Facebook page as well, of Whitney Houston. And it's from her Facebook page.
But we are remembering the singer tonight. It's interesting that people have been weighing in and talking about all the great songs of Whitney Houston. And what I find is that when you have talent, there is nothing that is higher than that. There's nothing trumps that.
Whitney Houston had two songs that became number ones and sat at the top of the charts. And both of them were remakes. "The Greatest Love Of All" was a remake from George Benson from 1977. How many people remember George Benson's version? I'm sure some of us do. But most people associate that song with Whitney Houston.
The same for "I Will Always Love You," which was a Dolly Parton song. And then Whitney Houston redid that song and made it number one. And it became Whitney Houston's song.
so when you are talented, you are talented. And there's no two ways about it.
Paul Vercammen in Los Angeles tonight, at the Staples Center. Paul, people are paying tribute to Whitney Houston there tonight. What are you hearing?
PAUL VERCAMMEN, CNN ENTERTAINMENT CORRESPONDENT: Well, what I am hearing is how floored people were when the announcement came here. They were in rehearsals. It's a very important night, the Saturday before the Grammys, because they work hard on putting on the best show they can.
They say when the word came that Whitney Houston had passed, the energy was absolutely just sucked out of the room. It was stone cold quiet. Someone said they saw Rihanna after walking around. And she was very, very somber, very quiet.
Now they are preparing for the show and it will go on. Let's go ahead and talk to a music insider. Go ahead step on in here.
Virgil Brown has been a photographer for Chris Brown among others. He is attending the show tomorrow night. I guess the first question I had for you is the music business is a tough business. Express to us the level of respect that Whitney Houston had among her peers.
VIRGIL BROWN, PHOTOGRAPHER: I think Whitney Houston had a positive effect on people young and old for many years. There was definitely not a person that didn't like Whitney Houston, no matter through the ups and downs. She was a great inspiration to all. And a true legend has definitely been taken from us today.
VERCAMMEN: When you take your seat inside the awards show tomorrow night and they begin to remember Whitney, what is going to go through your mind emotionally? It is going to be a tough moment.
BROWN: It definitely will, just from the beautiful voice. There has never been a voice quite as eloquent and as beautiful as Whitney Houston. There are a lot of great singers out there, but there's only been one Whitney Houston. I think the room will definitely filled with emotion and compassion. It will be a beautiful evening tomorrow night.
VERCAMMEN: I thank you for taking time out, Virgil. Appreciate it.
There you have it. For these people who are going to go ahead and be part of this event tomorrow night, they want to make sure that Whitney is honored. But you can tell, Don, that a lot of people are genuinely choked up. And we were talking to Ken Ehrlich earlier, as you recall. He's the executive producer.
I mean, off camera, he just kept shaking his head, saying, I can't believe in a sense I am doing this again. Because as you well know, he produced Michael Jackson's memorial service right behind us at Staples. Back to you, Don.
LEMON: I was there with you. Paul Vercammen, thank you very much.
Piers Morgan also in Los Angeles tonight. Piers, I said -- and I don't want people to get me wrong. Whitney Houston had more than two number one songs, but two of her number one songs that I know of were remakes that she made into her own. You have to really think about it when you say "The Greatest Love Of All," that was originally a George Benson song that was very popular in its day.
And then Whitney Houston redid the song and the same with "I Will Always Love You," a Dolly Parton song, who also paid tribute tonight, sending in a statement to CNN about Whitney Houston. That was her song and then Whitney Houston made it her own. Just an incredible talent.
MORGAN: I thought you said something earlier that really resonate with me. You and I are the same sort of age. You are 45; I'm 46. She died at 48. We have grown up with Whitney Houston.
When I am looking at the Twitter feed and Facebook and so on, you can see from all over the world, certainly people of our age and anyone younger and older -- she appealed to all ages by the end. But I feel like a part of my is gone tonight, in away, because her music was just so synonymous with every party you go to, every -- you know, every dinner, someone would at some stage put on Whitney Houston song.
I've judged talent shows, "America's Got Talent," for years where endless contestants would played her music. I feel like she's kind of been there in the background for so long. And the idea that Whitney Houston is no longer with us at the age of 48 is really jut incredibly sad.
I think although there will be, as we keep saying, the inevitable speculation about what led to her death, and a lot of going over all the issues that she had and the problems that she had, I think it's really appropriate for us to focus on the incredible talent, the amazing voice, the fact that Whitney Houston was one of the greatest singers that the world has ever seen.
LEMON: Well said, Piers Morgan. We are going to listen to some of Whitney Houston's memorable songs right after this quick break.
LEMON: Well, Whitney Houston has passed, Piers, 48 years old. We can hardly believe it. Just Another testament to her talent as I -- in the break, someone said, Don, you forgot about "I'm Every Woman," which was a Chaka Khan song that she made into her own and took to number one.
So as you know from doing the talent shows, when you have talent, when you have a voice like that, nothing else trumps that. You can do anything and make it into your own. And you will have success.
MORGAN: I just think there will be, as we say, endless raking over her life. In the end, Whitney Houston's legacy is going to be this voice. And she could hit notes that I don't think anybody has ever been able to watch. For sheer power and range and the ability to hold them -- you listen to something like "I Will Always Love You," there aren't many people ever that could sing like that.
And I think the great testament to Whitney Houston shouldn't be any of the stuff that went off stage or out of the studio. But it should be this voice which, as many people tonight have said, was the voice of an angel. So I think Don, it would be right for us to leave the viewers tonight after hours now of very moving coverage I think with the voice.
LEMON: We will always love you, Whitney.