Guests: Kelly Price, Kim Burrell, Toure, Rickey Minor
LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, HOST: Tonight, we`re going to talk about the
incomparable talent of Whitney Houston.
And we`re going to see how the Santorum surge is driving Republicans
crazy, including Ann Coulter, who was for Romney before she was against
him, but now, she`s for him again.
And we look at how President Obama turned a political fumble into a
But, first, tonight, we`re going to talk with Whitney`s friends,
people who loved her and people who made musical magic with her, including
the last person who sang with her.
BRIAN WILLIAMS, NBC NEWS: The name Whitney Houston joins a long list
of thoroughly talented artists who entertained all of us who lived hard and
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Whitney Houston was discovered in her bathtub by
a member of her personal staff at about 3:30 on Saturday afternoon.
CHRIS JANSING, NBC NEWS: Though police do say the autopsy is now
complete and there`s no sign of foul play.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are all waiting for the toxicology report to
come back. That could take six to eight weeks.
TAMRON HALL, MSNBC ANCHOR: Whitney`s body will be flown to her
hometown of Newark, New Jersey.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: One of music`s shining stars has been dimmed, gone
O`DONNELL: Whitney Houston`s family is still making funeral
arrangements, but WNBC is reporting tonight that the wake will be held
Thursday and the funeral will be Friday. The body is being transported by
private plane at this hour to New Jersey. WNBC`s sources indicate the
Prudential Center in Newark could be the location of the wake and funeral.
This is video of the Prudential Center tonight. There is already a picture
of Whitney Houston in lights on the building.
Now, we`re going to talk about something unusual for this program --
the power of art. Artists, musical artists, music`s unique and sometimes
overwhelming power to move us and why the world of music, which includes
not just the people who make music but all the people who love music, that
world is reeling tonight at the loss of Whitney Houston.
Joining me now is the last person to sing with Whitney Houston, Grammy
nominated R&B singer Kelly Price.
Kelly, thank you very much for joining us tonight.
KELLY PRICE, SINGER: Thank you for having me.
O`DONNELL: Kelly, you`ve told this story before about Thursday night
in Hollywood at the nightclub. Was it prearranged? Did you know that
Whitney was coming to your Grammy party there that night?
PRICE: I did. I knew she would be in attendance. I invited her to
be my guest, and she came to support me to help celebrate my Grammy
nomination. So absolutely, yes. I was expecting her. She beat me there.
O`DONNELL: She got there before you did. That`s a reliable friend,
not just showing up but showing up before you.
O`DONNELL: And how did the evening go? How long were you together
PRICE: Oh, gosh. Well, the actual concert portion of the show
lasted, I want to say, about three or so hours, because there were a lot of
artists. I wasn`t the only one that performed that night.
But we were together in the -- in my private area prior to the show
beginning, and then she was with me throughout the entire performance time.
I sat on the steps of the stage as the other artists who performed entered
and exited, because I did a lot of performances with the other artist and
she was right it there. She stood right in the corner of stage for over
three hours on her feet all night long laughing and cheering and rooting on
the other artists that performed that night.
O`DONNELL: I want to look at the video. There`s some amateur video
maybe from a camera phone or something that someone took when Whitney got
up on the stage and sang "Yes Jesus Loves Me" with you. Let`s take a look
(VIDEO CLIP PLAYS)
O`DONNELL: Kelly, did you know she was going to do that?
PRICE: No, I didn`t. I had no idea. It was completely impromptu.
I was in the middle of talking to the audience about my relationship
with her, our friendship and how she`s been such an encouragement to me
down through the years, and she made her way to the stage. And I saw her
out of the corner of my eye. So that was totally unexpected, a complete
O`DONNELL: You now have a place in music history that you didn`t
want, no one wanted -- the last person to sing with Whitney Houston. What
did it feel like to be up there on that stage with your friend in that
PRICE: Every time I sang with Whitney, I felt honored and privileged
because I was a huge fan before becoming a colleague. And that feeling
never went away. There was always a feeling of just complete and total
respect for the artist that she was before anything else.
So, again, being on the stage with her and sharing a microphone with
her that night, it was the same feeling. If you look at it, you can see it
in my face. Number one, I was so surprised. But she was just so graceful
and gracious as always.
She was always that way with me, and whenever we shared a stage or a
microphone, she did Whitney. She did her Whitney thing, but she always
pushed me to be Kelly and nothing less.
O`DONNELL: Kelly, we can see in the glow of your smile what it felt
like to have her step up there.
There`s a lot of investigative reporting going on now, which I have on
to tell you at this point I don`t care about. We`re going to get an
autopsy report in some weeks, and it`s not what`s important now. There`s
been, I think, some idiotic reporting and analysis on other networks about
what was that on Whitney`s leg? Is it -- did we see a picture -- it looked
like -- we`re not showing the picture. We`re not going to do that here.
PRICE: Thank you.
O`DONNELL: It looked like someone took a picture of her shoes that
she was wearing (AUDIO GAP) a drop of blood on her leg or is that a red
wine or anything. I actually didn`t see much there. I don`t know what
they`re talking about. That`s not where I want to go.
PRICE: Thank you.
O`DONNELL: I want to go to what it costs you emotionally and Whitney
and people who do this kind of emotional work for a living. You give us
this. You take these stages, and you open your emotions to us in a very
O`DONNELL: What price do you pay for doing that?
PRICE: It`s an extremely high price. We not only give our time, but
like you said, we give our emotions. We bear our souls. We push ourselves
to the point of extreme vulnerability. We do it while traveling the world
being away from our families, a lot of times being out of the protected
custody of those who love us unconditionally and who will cover us and
protect us and who want nothing.
Being in this business is accepting that in many cases you are a
commodity that`s being bought and sold when you`re awake and when you`re
asleep. It`s a big thing to know that something that can be so precious as
a gift like music and to be able to sing is nothing more than something
that can be bought and sold by a third party. And when they feel like the
next best thing has come along, you can be placed on a shelf and someone
else be put or try to be put in your place.
But we do it because we love what we do. I feel like that you have to
be called to do what we do. It`s a life`s calling, because you have to be
willing literally to go to the point of almost eternity or immortality in
your own self, in your own soul. You have to be willing to give up pieces
of yourself that in everyday life and in a, quote-unquote, "normal job" you
wouldn`t have to do.
We help people through our music. Music is healing. It`s a universal
language. That`s why you can go into a country where they don`t speak the
language, but the words translate through the spirit of the music.
And when we leave the stage, we leave the stage empty. We bear our
souls when we get on the stage. We do it. We`re drained physically,
And we need to be poured back into. It`s sometimes extremely
gratifying and rewarding at other times you do it depending on where we are
in the industry and what, you know, music is doing. I`ll say music
specifically because I`m a musician and a singer. Other times it`s not
gratifying at all. You feel it`s in vain.
And having a network of people around you who you can trust that can
be trusted, who will uphold you in the good times and that bad times,
that`s so important.
But even with that, because it`s so personal as a song writer, not
just a singer, to do this is so personal. You have to make a decision
every time you open your mouth in front of a crowd that you are willing to
let someone in on a little piece of your life that they otherwise wouldn`t
know about. And we do it through the music.
So, it`s pleasant when other people hear it. But we`re very aware we
are giving up pieces of our soul and telling our own secrets through the
And so, it`s not easy, but we do it. It becomes healing for us before
it goes out and heals anybody else in the world.
And so, it`s hard to do. I absolutely believe that you have to be
called to this life in order to do it and to do it successfully, because in
the words of my friend, it can and will eat you alive if you don`t have
something to go back to a strong foundation.
And that`s what I love most about Whitney. She talked to me about
that from the very, very beginning. She warned me, and she told me, you
hold yourself together. You hold your family together.
You make sure that you keep a life outside of this business, because
you`re going to need something to fall back on. You`re going to need
something to go to when this imaginary world starts crumbling. If you have
a real world to go home to, that will be the thing that helps keep you
together. And part of that foundation for the both of us was spiritual as
well as family.
So, I appreciate having had the opportunity to have a big sister and a
mentor and someone who cared about me the way she did throughout my time in
O`DONNELL: Kelly, I think you`ve just explained a lot about what the
life of this kind of artist is like. We`re going to come back to that.
But I want to bring in another dear friend of Whitney Houston`s in an
exclusive interview with us tonight, Grammy nominated gospel legend and
pastor, Kim Burrell.
Kim, I think you can identify with every word you just heard Kelly say
about what the price of this work is. You also shared a stage with Whitney
Houston, and it was something, I think, that happened -- it just happened
last year, wasn`t it?
KIM BURRELL, GOSPEL SINGER: Absolutely.
O`DONNELL: Let`s take a look at -- Kim, I want it to show our
audience this amazing moment that you had where Whitney Houston came out
and did a surprise performance with you that I wish we could show in full
because it is absolutely stunning. And watching the two of you work
together is just amazing. Let`s take a look at this.
(VIDEO CLIP PLAYS)
O`DONNELL: Whitney Houston, everybody. That`s a BET special that I`m
sure BET is going to be re-running. We have to see that in its entirely.
Kim, I have to tell you -- here at the show all day when we were
trying to put together these clips, we had to have the Kleenex out.
BURRELL: I hear you. I`ve had Kleenex out for the last two days
needless to say. It has moved me to know that people like you, sir, have
such a great heart and a great mindset when it comes to this phenomenal
woman, my phenomenal friend. And I thank you so much for this opportunity.
O`DONNELL: Kim, we`re going to take a break here, Kim and Kelly. And
we`re going to be joined by Reverend Al Sharpton. I want to talk more
about the life and times of Whitney Houston and what it took to deliver her
art and the prices she paid.
Coming up, we`ll also have the man who arranged some of Whitney
Houston`s greatest performances, including the national anthem that she
made all her own at the Super Bowl. He`s going to joining me. Toure who
is at the Grammys last night, of course, will be here with us tonight.
That`s all coming up next.
And, yes, we will try to get to some politics before this is over.
O`DONNELL: Still ahead -- the art of Whitney Houston. Her former
musical director produced last night`s Grammy tribute by Jennifer Hudson.
He`s going to join us.
O`DONNELL: Back with the Grammy nominated R&B singer Kelly Price and
Grammy nominated gospel legend pastor, Kim Burrell.
Kim, we just saw that amazing video of you with Whitney. I want to
read to you something that was in today`s "L.A. Times." The music critic
there Randolph Roberts -- Randall Roberts, wrote a fascinating paragraph
saying every syllable counted, I`m trying to hold up the headline for the
camera, and that`s so true talking about "I will always love you."
He has this paragraph that says, "It`s two words -- the I at the
beginning of the line and the you at the end -- held for a few beats longer
than most others could sustain, but with ironclad control that seals the
deal, a pair of one syllable words so convincing they should have won her
an Oscar and Grammy."
Kim, talk about the talent that we saw here with Whitney Houston. It
was technical. She had a technical ability to do certain things. It was
soulful. It came from everything she had it seemed.
BURRELL: Everything she had. She loved music and music loved her.
I`m telling you, we had an opportunity to sit in Germany on her last
European tour a few months back, and we sat up until about -- over four or
five hours talking strictly about music. And her heart was all about
conveying the message of music. I think that`s why the world heard it so
loudly and clearly. And she meant it, every word, from her soul. And she
loved to write music.
Whitney of a brilliant woman. And one of the only things regret today
is that the world didn`t get a chance to really see some stuff that I got a
chance to see. That was such a privilege for me, because God gave her such
an awesome ability to convey such a message.
Look at her there. Look at that, that expression on her face. That
is her soul coming out, because that wasn`t just the national anthem. That
was her letting the troops feel her love, the people in the room and her
family. And I know her heart, and she wanted them to know that. I`ll tell
you -- she was so special.
O`DONNELL: Kelly, when you would listen to Whitney Houston -- did you
find yourself sitting there saying how does she do that?
PRICE: Oh, my God. Yes. Yes, and then at times understanding. I
think Kim understands what I`m saying, too. I hope I`m getting this across
the right way.
How does she do that, and then taking a beat and reminding myself that
I`m supposed to do that as well. It`s so intense.
BURRELL: That`s right.
PRICE: It`s so, so, so intense.
You know what? I love what you just read by the writer at the "L.A.
Times." That was so eloquently said. Every syllable did count, every
syllable whether put in place or already a part of the word counted because
there was something special about that millisecond when it was put out of
And, yes, there were times that I said how in God`s name did she do
that? Because understanding that there are days when you got to push past
yourself to deliver, to get the job done, and so that the people who are
supposed to receive from you get what they`re supposed to get out of it.
You do wonder how, how in the world, how in God`s name did she do that --
yes, I do.
O`DONNELL: I want to apologize to the audience for showing these
little short clips of Whitney singing, but we`re going to let Whitney
Houston sing us out at the end of the show tonight and we`re going to do
that with her teenage video of when she was singing at her church in
But I just want to show a little piece of that now, because this is
the video we have that I think tells us where all this began. Let`s take a
look at that.
(VIDEO CLIP PLAYS)
O`DONNELL: Kim, as you`ve sung gospel for so long, you can`t sing
gospel in a church like that and not be singing to extremely high
expectations in that audience. They`ve heard a lot gospel before you show
And here you have this teenager whose holding that audience, who has
that. You can -- you can feel that grip already. She`s got that audience
in her grip.
BURRELL: You know what? She told me that during those times her
mother would tell her, this is the challenge for the day. When you stand
before these people, you make your heart sing. Make them know that you
understand what you`re singing about. She and I were discussing that.
That`s amazing you would show this footage. I`m so grateful for this,
because she meant every bit of that. She was very aware of what she was
saying but she had a promise to keep on to her mom and to those people
there. It`s a privilege to know that she knew where her help came from and
she was able to convey that.
That`s why I`m so glad her and Kelly sang "Yes Jesus Loves Me." What
a wonderful way to remember here, her last song, singing about who she
loves so much, who was Jesus Christ.
O`DONNELL: Kelly, I can`t imagine in a certain kind of way a tougher
audience to have to prove yourself to than the gospel audience in church.
But also, I can`t imagine a better training.
If you can do that -- I mean, talk about if you can make it here, you
can make i0 t anywhere, that seems to be the place. If you can make it
there, you can make it anywhere.
PRICE: Oh, absolutely. You couldn`t have been more right when you
said that there`s a lot of people that stood before the congregation before
that. You know, growing up in church and singing in church and going to
the church conventions, and I grew up a Pentecostal Church of God and
Christ Kid (ph).
I would go to conventions, so at the conventions you had Daryl Coley,
you had the Clark sisters, you had the Winnons (ph), you had all of these
people singing on one program.
So if you found yourself with the opportunity to get in what available
slot there was in those midnight musicals or back home hours -- you know
what I`m talking about, Kim, you better come correct. I promise you there
is not a more scrutinizing audience than a church audience. Honestly,
they`ll let you know if you don`t have it together --
BURRELL: They will put two fingers up. They put two fingers up like
you have two minutes to prove whoever you are.
BURRELL: That`s the truth. That`s the truth. Yes.
O`DONNELL: Well, I`ve got to tell you, the control room put up two
fingers to me several minutes ago, but we`re going to stay with this.
We`re going to junk some other parts of our show and stay with this if you
Kim and Kelly, please stay with us.
O`DONNELL: We`re going to be joined by the Reverend Al Sharpton as I
promised we would and Toure is going to join us.
Ricky Minor who worked with Whitney Houston, who is the "Tonight Show"
musical director, he`s going to also join us to talk more about the life
and achievements of Whitney Houston.
Please stay with us.
O`DONNELL: Thirty-nine million people watched the Grammy Awards last
night, a 50 percent increase over last year`s Grammy audience. That huge
television audience showed up simply to see this.
(VIDEO CLIP PLAYS)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Back with me now is Grammy-nominated R&B singer Kelly
Price and Grammy nominated gospel legend and pastor Kim Burrell, both of
whom have sung with Whitney Houston. And joining me now for an exclusive
interview is the man who worked with Jennifer Hudson to produce the tribute
to Whitney Houston last night, Rickey Minor.
Here in New York in the studio is pop culture critic and Time.com
writer Toure, and another family friend of Whitney Houston and her mother,
host of MSNBC`s "POLITICS NATION", Reverend Al Sharpton. Thank you all for
Al, you`ve been listening to Kelly and Kim talk. There`s a bunch of
questions I could ask, but I think there`s enough on the table for you to
react to. Go ahead.
REV. AL SHARPTON, MSNBC ANCHOR: Let me say this, you know, I grew up
a boy preacher in the Church of God in Christ.
O`DONNELL: You got your voice in the church.
SHARPTON: Yes. So Cissy Houston was always a hero to us. When I was
nine, I toured with Mahalia Jackson. So I would preach in the
O`DONNELL: What does a nine-year-old have to tell the world by way of
SHARPTON: I`m sure that Kelly and Jim could probably tell you.
O`DONNELL: -- from a nine-year-old?
SHARPTON: I preach let not your heart be troubled.
SHARPTON: The difference with Whitney -- I met Whitney in the `80s.
There was a conflict reporters and all. When I learned she was Cissy`s
daughter, it meant something to me. Over the years, we would see each
other. I wasn`t nearly as close as Kelly and Kim. But I got to know her.
She came and sang at our National Action Network dinner. She was
involved in movements at our foundation. She was anointed. There`s a
difference between those that are appointed by record companies and those
that are anointed with a gift.
Nothing she went through interfered with that anointing. I remember I
happened to be in Los Angeles over the weekend, doing other things with my
civil rights work. And then I had to preach at a church yesterday. When I
heard she had died, I was only a few blocks away.
What I kept remembering is I ran into her a couple of times last year.
And she said to me -- she said, I thank you Reverend Sharpton for praying
for me. I said, what do you mean? Her mother had participated with her
local radio station, Kiss FM had a healing session for not only Whitney but
all the young people that had gone through something.
We all came. I spoke that night among others. She knew about it. I
said, well, you know, I know you`d be all right, because I know where you
come from. The Bible said train up a child and the way she goes -- when
they`re old, they would not depart. Your mother believed in you.
No one, to me, has given enough credit for Cissy Houston, who stood by
her daughter through ups and downs, all of the mess they would write. That
woman stood like a rock and so did her cousin Dionne. I said to her -- I
said, you know what touched me? He never knew about her singing with the -
- "Yes Jesus Loved Me."
I said what stood with me, Whitney, is that when you came back in `09
with a comeback album, you sung "I Look to You." It was like a gospel pop
song, where she sun about out of all that I`ve been through, I look to you,
to God. I said I love this song. I put it on my iPad. I travel with it.
She busts out laughing. I said why are you laughing? I always liked
your music. She said I`m laughing, reverend, because I didn`t know you
knew what an iPad was. That`s how -- that`s how we were.
She never lost her spirituality. And I think what sustained her,
which the media will not talk about, is she was grounded. I talked to the
pastor of that church she grew up with today who preached there yesterday.
Her mother was an organist. I remember, many years later, after I was
known, I went to preach at the Church of New Hope.
And Cissy was on the organ. I was almost too nervous to preach. This
is Cissy Houston. And she was grounded in that. And she came back to
that. I don`t care what anyone says, that`s brought her through. Rather
than talk about her fall, they should talk about how she got up.
Because every one of us have fell. It`s the getting up that takes a
different kind of strength. And Whitney Houston`s real story is, no matter
how many times she fell, she got up and she learned how to get up at places
like New Hope Baptist Church and at the knee of Cissy Houston.
O`DONNELL: Well, you cannot judge a fall if you don`t know how hard
the road is.
Toure, talk to us about where she fits in our musical history. Or say
anything you want.
TOURE, POP CULTURE CRITIC: I had some things that I wanted to say. I
had some things I wanted to say. And then the thing that Kelly Price said
at the top of the show raised the level of television discourse far beyond
what we normally get. So Kelly forced me to rethink everything that I was
going to talk about.
And one of the things that I was getting at was that yesterday at the
Grammys, it was subdued. And a lot of people were talking about doing
soul-searching. I had a talk with Quest Love from the Roots, who talked
about the soul-searching that he`s doing.
He talked about there`s an epidemic of death that`s tragic among
prematurely dying massive black singers. Michael Jackson was just 50. Now
Whitney at 48. Heavy D was 44. Nate Dogg was 41. Why are so many of
these people dying early?
He talked about that there`s an extraordinary pressure and stress on
them to continue to succeed, year after year, because it is embarrassing to
fall. But they also have a fear of going back to poverty, which would seem
strange to people.
O`DONNELL: I don`t want to interrupt you. But I just want to point
out that on the video screen with you right now is the plane landing at
Teeterboro Airport in New Jersey, that is carrying the body of Whitney
Houston on a private aircraft. But go ahead.
TOURE: There`s an irrational fear of poverty in a lot of people who
even have reached this level of fame and success, that they will fall back
to that. You wonder why is a Michael Jackson and some other people dealing
with sedatives? Because they are dealing with an extraordinary amount of
stress and anxiety.
Quest Love said something to me that was really deep, that he was a
little nervous to say, but then he said it anyway. For Whitney Houston,
would you rather be this, what she is or Melba Moore? That`s not to slight
Melba in any way. But Melba Moore was a singer who is very popular, very
successful, and then ended up back in the projects through several
mistakes, some no fault of her own.
And for an artist who chases success and achieves success, the level
of desire is so high that to fall back to that, where you came from, and to
be embarrassed by other people taking your spot is massively painful. I
mean, you think about the level that a Michael Jordan gets to. You don`t
think about that same thing with these artists.
Whitney Houston definitely had it, because she got to the top, because
she had to be at the top. She started at the top. There`s a significant
emotional pain that goes through with this a lot.
O`DONNELL: Rickey, I want to get you in here. You, of course,
arranged the National Anthem performance at the Super Bowl and many other
of Whitney Houston`s most memorable performances. Tell us what it was like
to work in a collaborative way with an artist like this, trying to find
exactly the right way to deliver a song.
RICKEY MINOR, "THE TONIGHT SHOW WITH JAY LENO": Working with Whitney
was amazing. But our relationship goes back. I mean, I was 22 and she was
18. I was called to put together a band for a showcase to try to get a
record deal for this young girl who sings at church. No one showed up. We
were amazed that no one showed up, but at the same time, 1982, there were
There was Blondie. There was Shalamar. There was Heart. There was
Whispers. It was all a group. Put a girl with a group -- Rolls-Royce.
Put the girl out front, have the band. And that`s what -- so a girl just
standing up singing, no one really was interested.
A year later, Clive Davis calls me and says, they tell me you`re the
guy that put the band together. I want to do it again. I`ve signed her.
We want to showcase her to the world. She -- he wanted to showcase her to
the top producers and top song writers of that time.
We sat and talked. And working with Whitney was, you know -- there
was such a creative energy. The two of us together, I feel like she was my
gift and I was hers. We really had this collaborative thing that happened.
And really, we were set to take on take on and set this music business on
fire. And we did.
O`DONNELL: And so when you`re faced with a challenge like, OK, it`s
Super Bowl time, and you`re going to sing a song that everybody in the
world has sung before you, and everyone in the world knows, how do you
bring something creative, something new to that?
MINOR: Well, I mean, I produced this record, this performance. And I
talked to her about it. We sat. We went over everyone who had ever
performed the National Anthem. At that time, computers weren`t such a big
thing. So it was hard for us to find.
She loved Marvin Gaye`s version of it, which was a little more open
and free, and gave more time for expression. So we changed the meter from
a standard three/four meter waltz thing, "oh say can you see." Don`t judge
me on my singing. Don`t judge me on that.
But we change that to a four/four meter, where she could have a little
more time. We wanted to put in gospel chords and gospel movement with a
jazz sensibility and a classical or more orchestral layout. And it was
totally different. No one had done that.
She gave me the green light to do it. So I did it. I produced it and
John Clayton Jr. did the arrangement. I flew with the arrangement in my
arm to Florida. We recorded it. And no one liked it.
The orchestra didn`t like it. CBS hated it. I get a call from John
Houston, her family and manager and said, Rickey, we worked really hard to
make this happen. Don`t go down there and mess it up. They said, there`s
a call for you. And I thought maybe it was a call saying John Houston
telling me congratulations, great job.
But it wasn`t that. So there was a definite push to not do this
version. They said, well, we reserve the right to have a standard version
of the National Anthem.
Mind you, this is after Roseanne Barr, so people were doing the
National Anthem. So people were a little, you know, you can`t really
change it. But Whitney came into the fray and said, look, Rickey does the
music. Let him do it.
And I sent it to her. I said here, Whitney. Here`s the arrangement.
I mailed it to her. A week later, we were set to record in L.A. She was a
half hour late. And I said, hey, did you listen to it? She said, no, I
haven`t had had a chance to listen to it yet. I just did a screen test for
Kevin Costner. And I want to be an actress. He says I`m good. So maybe
I`ll get this part.
She came in the studio, sang it one time, left out of the booth and
said how`s that? I said, how was that? That was great. I said, let`s do
one more for safety. And 90 percent of what you hear is from that first
O`DONNELL: Wow. That`s fantastic.
MINOR: The only thing I used on the second tape was just "and the
rocket`s red glare," because she was a little -- it was a lot more power
there because she did it once.
There was no like, OK, you need to do this and do this. She just
listened to the arrangement one time and said OK, I got it.
O`DONNELL: I want us all to try to take a listen to that when we come
back from a break. We`ve been watching video of the plane landing at
Teeterboro Airport in New Jersey, bearing the body of Whitney Houston.
We`re going to keep all of our guests and we`re going to come back to talk
more about Whitney Houston right here on THE LAST WORD.
O`DONNELL: OK, it`s official, we`re junking all that politics stuff
we were going to do in the second half of the show tonight. Politics will
be here tomorrow. The world of politics didn`t change today. That`s all
you really have to know.
Back with me now is Grammy nominated R&B singer Kelly Price, Rickey
Minor, "the Tonight Show With Jay Leno" musical director, who worked
frequently with Whitney Houston. Also with us, Grammy nominated gospel
legend and pastor Kim Burrell.
And in the studio here in New York, Toure and the Reverend Al
Rickey, I want to go -- we just talked about how you put together the
National Anthem with Whitney for the Super Bowl. I want to listen to a
little bit of it now.
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O`DONNELL: Kelly Price, when you heard Whitney was going to do the
National Anthem, what were you expecting to hear?
PRICE: That. That. And it was so much better than I could have even
imagined. That moment is stamped in history. We already know it`s stamped
in history. There was such a -- even in the orchestration -- and Rickey --
because of Whitney, I had the opportunity -- I`ve had the opportunity to
work with Rickey, which has been a pleasure and a privilege.
It was so regal. It had -- there was something so regal about it. It
almost sounded like coronation music.
MINOR: All the way to the ending. I mean, that ending is a
traditional gospel ending. So we just borrowed from everywhere and tried
to make it. But we were young. We didn`t know what we were doing. We
were just trying to make an impact.
I don`t think we ever in our collaborative work of Whitney and I --
never really set to -- to necessarily -- necessarily put ourselves out
there and try to make history. Our goal was excellence, a commitment to
excellence every time we hit the stage, and to make no two performances the
same, that we would create once in a lifetime performances.
O`DONNELL: Toure, there was something triumphant in that, the way her
hands go up in the end, in victory it seems.
TOURE: Yes. There was definitely something triumphant. When Kelly
talked earlier about giving all her spirit to the troops in a moment --
difficult moment for America. I`m also taken by that ending. Just the
technical ability to hold that note for such an extraordinary period. And
it`s held so beautifully and so steadily and so powerfully.
You can hear so much. It`s like deep resonance in that one note.
It`s extraordinary. And I kept thinking, well, now we`re to the end, no.
Now we`re to the end, no, no. It was like an extraordinary long jump that
goes just further and further and further than you can even imagine, to
where she is like taking flight.
I go back again to that Michael Jordan where he takes off from the
foul line and he just floats through the air. She took off from half
O`DONNELL: Al Sharpton, you`ve been around artists like Whitney
Houston, if there is an artist for Whitney Houston, for a long time. What
I began with, this question of the price of this kind of art, it -- the
artist`s sensibility is very sensitive. It must be very sensitive. It
must be very open to the flow of emotion, both in to the person, taking it
in from other, and putting it out.
I just want to -- Toure, to frame a little wider what you were talking
about, the early deaths that we see of people in this business. I just up
want to tell you that in the creative arts that I`ve been in, the writing
business, I can rattle off for you a bunch of Ivy League educated crack
addicts who are white, who have survived it so far, but might not, in the
writing business. Others who are alcoholics.
Having nothing to do with race, having nothing to do with class, but
possibly having something to do with the vulnerability of the artistic
SHARPTON: I think it has a lot to do with the vulnerability. I also
think that you`ve got to remember many artists come out of a background
that is not acclimated for the entertainment world, that is full of --
O`DONNELL: How to handle what`s coming.
SHARPTON: And full of a lot of people that don`t come from a pure
place. They`re vulnerable, because they are sensitive. They are giving.
O`DONNELL: Too trusting?
SHARPTON: Too trusting, and people exploit that. I was listening as
Reverend Burrell and Kelly were talking and then when Toure came. I
preached James Brown`s funeral, who was like a father to me. I did the
eulogy for Michael Jackson. I just did Etta James. I stood over them and
thought of the miles I traveled with James Brown, how they could give every
night and then go back to empty dressing rooms.
People don`t understood, you could go all over the world, all you see
is the airport, the hotel, the gig, the airport, the hotel, the gig. These
people don`t have a life. Their life is giving. And no one ever gives
back to the em.
So it makes them vulnerable to a lot of things. It`s not justify it.
But it means unless you have people -- and thank God Whitney, at some
point, had her mother and she had Kim Burrell and others that would come
in, that understood that. Because only people that have been there can
minister to that, because ordinary people see the glamour.
They don`t see the life you have to live. They were the only ones
that could help her reconnect.
The other thing I must say, though, that we must say when you play
that song, America needed to hear that. She brought the soul of this
country back at a very opportune time that only she could have done. That
wasn`t just a regular Super Bowl.
O`DONNELL: Kim Burrell, tell you a story, I texted recently a friend
of mine, a singer who is giving tremendous performances every night. And
someone wanted tickets to her show. She texted me back immediately right
after the show. I said wow, that`s amazing that you could do that. I
would just be in a lump after what you do every night.
She said, I am in a lump. That`s where I am after this show every
BURRELL: Indeed. That makes sense. You know, I had the opportunity,
as I said earlier, to be on this last European tour with Whitney. I just
went out to be strength to her and not to perform, but to be there as her
sister and pray for her. Every single night, I saw that lady give her
heart and leave it there on that stage to those people. She loved them.
She talked about them at least two or three hours after the show, because
that was her life. That was her love. And she meant every bit of it.
O`DONNELL: It`s that after show time that`s the difficult one for
performers to deal with. What do I do after what I`ve just done?
BURRELL: That`s right. She chose to pray. She chose to sing even
more and do recaps of the show and to reminisce, as a matter of fact. As
Reverend Sharpton was saying, her favorite gospel singer was Cissy Houston.
We had to sit and listen to Cissy Houston sing songs from the `60s and
O`DONNELL: I beg your forgiveness for interrupting you. But We`re
going to sit and listen to Whitney Houston right after this break, if we
get to the break fast enough. So I want to thank all of my guests, Kim
Burrell, Grammy nominated singer, Rickey Minor, the musical director, Kelly
Price, the Grammy nominated R&B singer, Toure and the Reverend Al Sharpton.
I can`t thank you all enough for being with me tonight. We just blew
out the whole show and did much more than we planned to.
SHARPTON: It`s THE LAST WORD.
O`DONNELL: But we needed to. Thank you very much. THE LAST WORD on
Whitney Houston. And we will give THE LAST WORD tonight to Whitney Houston
when we come back.
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