Blues and Soul Music Magazine

Issue 1101

Welcome To B&S



Sharon Davis' Motown Tracking (April)

Sharon Davis' Motown Tracking
Sharon Davis' Motown Tracking Whitney Houston R.I.P. August 9, 1963 - February 11, 2012 Diana Ross receives a lifetime achievement award

How could I let Whitney Houston’s passing on 11 February, the eve of the Grammy Awards, one of the music business’s biggest events, go by and not take the opportunity of paying my heartfelt respects on behalf of all the Motown folks out there. Well, I couldn’t, could I?

And , how could I let pass by one of Diana Ross’s greatest achievements of being awarded a Grammy, an honour so richly deserved. Couldn’t do that either.

A very bittersweet situation for sure.


Whitney was such a rare flower, with a voice that now thrills the angels as much as it does us. She was beautiful – the glam model cum singer – but it wasn’t her looks I’ll remember but that vocal range that pushed the boundaries of soul music into infinity. Boy, that girl can sing. Her awful sudden death had a numbing effect. It hurt so much that another young – a mere 48 year old - should be found alone and lifeless. I care little of the reason why (God only knows), because nothing will bring her back and nothing will ease the immense loss and suffering now felt by her mum Cissy and her family. There’s no shit to be dug here, just a few words about how Whitney and Diana, two of music’s greatest female icons found their lives entwined. Almost to the end.

It’s in the public arena that Diana was once wary of the young Whitney and would, apparently, appear irritated when Whitney’s name was mentioned in her earshot. In fact, when producer/composer Michael Masser and Diana parted company (he was responsible for some of her greatest soul-searching ballads, including my all time ever title Touch Me In The Morning), it was mooted that he gave Whitney songs that he’d planned for Diana. Whether that’s the case or not, I don’t know. Of course, the media being the media, made much of this and would, where possible, elaborate on the slightest quote; much of which was misconstrued. So much so, that during Diana’s Radio City Music Hall performance in 1989, she publicly told Whitney, who was in the audience, not to believe all she had read. Hah, as much as we love the media, it can be as destructive as it is a godsend. And that remains the case today. (What sicko photographed Whitney in her coffin? Whether it was actually her body or a model, makes no odds because it was a blatant, hurtful violation of an extremely delicate and personal situation, as well as being an unacceptable intrusion into family privacy in their time of grieving. Ggrr).

Diana and Whitney’s lives crossed professionally. Like, for instance, in 1992 - I think it was - when they led a group of celebrity friends to sing for Muhammad Ali at his 50th birthday bash in the Beverly Hilton Hotel. And of course, Whitney often paid tribute to Diana in her concerts. One in particular was during her 1997/98 tour when she sang Ain’t No Mountain High Enough and The Boss (with all the richness and passion of Diana’s classics). Whitney’s voice soared as she strutted that stage, dressed gloriously in a skin tight shimmering gown, brandishing a white hanky in her hand which she used to wipe her face. Much like Natalie Cole did, back in the day.

Let’s visit the film world now - and The Bodyguard, where again their careers touched. In case you didn’t know this, the film was originally proposed in 1976 with Steve McQueen and Diana playing the lead roles but it didn’t get off the starting block, because the actor refused to be billed second to the actress. Then in 1989 or thereabouts, I seem to recall Diana’s name being linked to Ryan O’Neal as joint leads, but once again that didn’t materialise due to the strained relationship between the two. Diana didn’t get a third stab at the film because along came Mr “KC” Kevin Costner who wanted Whitney to play the lead role. It was her first stab at acting, so naturally he had a battle on his hands. Thankfully, he stood his ground and Whitney got the job. The film’s soundtrack won the 1994 Grammy Award for Album of the Year, with its lead single I Will Always Love You becoming the best selling single by a female artist in music’s history. While the soundtrack itself shifted over a million copies in the first week of sale! Well, it was the Festive Season! The album went on to pass platinum sales 17 times in America alone, with global sales topping 44 million., and she scooped a trio of Grammy Awards and, well, the rest is history as they say. Whitney went from strength to strength…………….

“I wasn’t sure whether I should be here or not…It was supposed to be the day of my celebration, but it’s hard to celebrate when there’s a loss like this…” so said Diana Ross before accepting her very first Grammy Award for Lifetime Achievement on 12 February. She looked her usual sophisticated, glamorous self, as befitting her status. But her face told it all. She was fighting the tears and struggling to smile. She was thoughtful and reflective, but clearly ill at ease. “Also, a lot of young singers have planned a special evening for me and they’ve been rehearsing really hard and I didn’t want to let anybody down. But at the same time it’s just very hard to be here….I don’t think I’ll be able to enjoy it…I’ll probably think about it in a week, a month, a year from now, but right now I won’t be able to enjoy it.” She did add that she had a very good friendship with Whitney and her mum before concluding that we’d lost a lot of close people this year, including Nick Ashford. “A lot of loss, and we have to think that maybe they’re in a better place.”

With a change of dress, this time to a brighter colour from the black, Diana received her Grammy, with her children around her, including her grandson. She had regained her composure to laugh - “A lifetime achievement! To me my lifetime achievement …is my children…I always like to think of myself first as a parent, (then) as an artist. …I started in 1960…and it’s really such an honour to be here…It’s been many years and I have watched all the changes in the industry. When I started we were making 78s, then 331/3rds, then there were 45s, then 8 tracks, cassettes…so we went from analogue to digital – and it’s been such an incredible ride.“ Closing with the words that she was ready to return to the recording studio, Diana accepted the audience’s overwhelming reaction.

Whitney’s funeral on 18 February was (naturally) held at the New Hope Baptist Church, Westfield, New Jersey, where she had sung alongside her mother in the choir. Family and friends mingled with church ministers, pastors and artists who wanted pay their respects in person. Godmother Aretha Franklin was too ill to participate; Whitney’s cousin Dionne Warwick held the service together and spoke emotionally with words like “Be not burdened with sorrow, I wish you sunshine unto ‘morrow.”. While Cissy, wrote in a letter – “Rest my baby girl in peace. I never told you that when you were born, the Holy Spirit told me that you would not be with me for long. And I thank God for the beautiful flower he allowed me to raise and cherish for 48 years.” Among the several who paid tribute in song was Stevie Wonder, who admitted he’d had a ‘little crush’ on her, before adding – “I wanted to stop and give praise to God for allowing me to be in life at the same time as Whitney. Millions of people loved her so much and that won’t stop. I was so happy we were able to do a song together. She had such a love for music.” He then sang a new version of “Ribbon In The Sky” written especially for her funeral. When the service ended, Whitney’s body was taken to the Fairview Cemetary to lay next to her father John.

We’ve lost another multi-talented singer at too young an age. Now be at peace, Nippy.

Congratulations Diana, your award has been well over due, and you truly deserve to be honoured in this way.

Little Trackings...

Am so very sorry but my intention to pay tribute to The Originals’ Walter Gaines will need to be held over for next time… Rhonda, Diana’s daughter, shared a picture with me of herself, her mum and Whitney on stage. I daren’t reproduce it here because of possible copyright infringement….. Gladys Knight has signed up for US show “Dancing With The Stars”…Genuine, authentic and the very real Supreme Scherrie Payne has just completed her promotional video for the rebooted version of the trio’s Let Yourself Go with the bonus track of Hope - which is quite brilliant, let me tell you…… In the pipeline The Motown Sound:The Complete Albums & More by Earl Van Dyke. Released by Import Music Services, it should sell at under £11…..Kent plan to release Shorty Long’s “Here Comes…The Complete Stereo Masters….Very belated 72nd birthday wishes to Mr Robinson. Hey, still the man!..............The Elgins’ Yvonne Vernee Allen wants me to tell everyone – “that I send my love and hope to see you soon”. Plans are afoot, I think, for the group to perform here in September. Wouldn’t it be nice to meet up again..….ex-Motown artist Kiki Dee current has a dvd out called Under The Night Sky. Filmed at the Thames in Bray, Kiki, who sings (of course) and plays keboards, is joined by Carmelo Luggeri on vocals and guitars. Check out for more details…..New from Hallmark - Cookin’ With The Miracles; More Marv Johnson; The Great Gospel Stars; Twistin’ the World Around With The Twistin’ Kings and Tamla Special 1 featuring, among others, Barrett Strong’s Money (That’s What I Want) and Oh I Apologise, Singin’ Sammy Ward & Sherri Taylor’s That’s Why I Love You So Much, with tracks from Mary Wells and The Miracles…….Highly recommended now: Jermaine Jackson’s book You Are Not Alone: Michael – Through A Brother’s Eyes published by HarperCollins….. Expect a Cissy Houston album soon, containing the only other credible version of I Just Don’t Know What To Do With Myself. Am so glad this album is being re-issued because I’ve just about worn out the vinyl on the original release. Yes I’m that old!!! …..I’ve just remembered something. A recent magazine advertisement made me wince because it contained a quote from Berry Gordy as follows – “I told you the bitch could sing”. The ‘bitch’ in question is Ms Chris Clark. Come on guys, it’s not on, is it?............there’s a J-5 medley in the middle of Michael’s Immortal cd, created as the musical tapestry for Cirque du Soleil’s Immortal World Tour. Also included from the Motown catalogue are Dancing Machine, Ben, I’ll Be There, and an alternate take of ABC…..Yes, yes, finally caved in – am on Facebook. A blessing and a curse. But am easily contactable on…Finally, I ummed and arred about including this but my anger won out. Recently saw an advertisement for UK dates for The Sounds Of The Supremes – “featuring eighties’ Supreme Kaaren Ragland”. Tell me dear, which Supremes were these because as far as I’m aware, you were never in the official Motown trio……. That’s it. Love is all you need.

Keep the faith
Sharon Davis

From Jazz Funk & Fusion To Acid Jazz

Join the B&S Mailing List

Blues and Soul on Twitter