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5 religious facts about Whitney Houston, who should be inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame

(RNS) – Whitney Houston, one of pop music’s most famous names, will be posthumously inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame this weekend.

While perhaps best known for hits like “Greatest Love of All” and “How Will I Know,” Houston continues to have another claim to fame: her 1996 soundtrack “The Preacher’s Wife.” remains the best-selling gospel album by a black woman, even eight years after Houston’s death at age 48.

She will be officially inducted into the Hall of Fame at a ceremony premiering at 8 p.m. EST Saturday, Nov. 7 on HBO and HBO Max, featuring multiple artists including Depeche Mode, The Doobie Brothers, Nine Inch Nails, The Notorious BIG and T. Rex.

In a video on its website, the Hall of Famer notes that religious music is among the amalgamation of songs Houston has performed to the delight of fans for years.

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“Houston’s voice was as versatile as it was powerful,” the narrator said in the short tribute video. “And its catalog shows a unique ability to incorporate a range of stylistic elements, spanning pop, rock, gospel, R&B, funk, soul and hip hop.”

Here are five faith-related facets of the woman often simply known as “Whitney”:

She started singing in church.

Houston, daughter of gospel singer Cissy Houston and cousin of pop singer Dionne Warwick, grew up with gospel music in her childhood church.

“Gospel taught me to know what I was singing about and to feel everything you sing about,” she said in a 1997 video tribute to the Essence Awards. “My mom always told me you can’t sing something you don’t feel.”

Longtime friend BeBe Winans described how much Houston’s hometown church, New Hope Baptist Church in Newark, New Jersey, meant to her in an interview with Religion News Service after publishing her 2012 book, “The Whitney I Know”.

“It was her foundation, where she learned to sing,” he said. “That’s where she learned to trust God. It meant everything to her.

He said as his star rose it may have “strayed” to the church, but not his religious beliefs.

“She did not lose her understanding of who God was and of his existence. She clung to faith and grace even in the midst of sometimes being far away,” Winans said during this 2012 RNS interview.

She brought outsized stardom to the 1998 Dove Awards.

Houston attended the Gospel Music Association awards ceremony in person and closed it with a performance with the Georgia Mass Choir of “I Go to the Rock,” which was featured on the soundtrack of “The Preacher’s Wife “. She and songwriter Dottie Rambo also won in the Traditional Gospel Recorded Song of the Year category.

“On any stage I stand on, I praise the Lord; I claim it everywhere I go,” Houston said during her acceptance speech. “I have to thank my husband and my daughter for abandoning me for all the time I had to devote to ‘The Preacher’s Wife’ because they gave me so much.”

Bil Carpenter, author of ‘Uncloudy Days: The Gospel Music Encyclopedia’, was in attendance and recalls his celebrity status lighting up the then lesser-known Dove Awards.

“It was electric,” said Carpenter, who was there as CeCe Winans’ publicist. “There was all this excitement that Whitney was in the building.”

She pushed for a gospel album.

Courtesy of whitneyhouston.com

“Obviously she loved it,” Carpenter said of Houston’s take on gospel music. “’The Preacher’s Wife’ could have been a love song album. She was looking for an angle, an opportunity to sing gospel songs.

The album — the soundtrack to the movie in which she starred and Denzel Washington played an angel — contains songs Houston wanted to sing and popular tunes she knew from the 1970s such as “I Love the Lord” by Richard Smallwood.

Carpenter, also a music historian, said it was unusual for her to successfully achieve this goal with Arista Records.

“At the time, especially, record companies were always afraid of their main artists making gospel records,” he said. “The feeling was that you would lose your career.”

But, as with Aretha Franklin, a gospel album proved to be a huge hit for Houston.

She still plays on gospel radio.

“Gospel radio depends on black people going to church but also listening to R&B music,” Carpenter said. “And Whitney, because of his fame, was able to give gospel radio a name to attract audiences.”

Listen to stations playing gospel music and you will always hear tracks from “The Preacher’s Wife” such as “Hold on, Help Is on the Way”, “I Love the Lord” and occasionally “I Believe in You and Me” and “Somebody Bigger than You and I” (which features then-husband Bobby Brown).

And as is the case with some songs, “I Believe in You and Me” was interpreted as a love song to God, even if that’s not how it was always imagined.

“It’s a Four Tops song,” Carpenter said. “When the Four Tops did it, they did it as a love song to their homies.”

She performed with gospel singers BeBe and CeCe Winans.

Houston recorded “Count on Me” with CeCe Winans for the 1995 “Waiting to Exhale” soundtrack and sang backup vocals on “Heaven,” the Winans siblings’ 1988 album.

She also relished less public performances with members of the Winans family and other musical luminaries. In his book, BeBe Winans recalled how his friend showed up to support him at an event in the Bahamas – along with his brother Marvin Winans and Stevie Wonder – and they all took the stage and sang together.

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“Stevie played and led us; Whitney, Marvin and I sang backup. It was Whitney at her best. We sang songs we didn’t even know, telling each other the lyrics just before we had to sing them! he wrote.

In 1997, when Houston received the Essence Awards’ Triumphant Spirit Award for her charitable work, CeCe Winans sang “You Were Loved” in tribute to her friend, who unexpectedly couldn’t attend the ceremony.

“I think maybe that’s something Whitney didn’t really realize was how much she was loved,” Carpenter said. “And despite all the negative that followed her in the last years of her life, with marital problems and drugs and all that, the way people talk about her now shows that deep down they loved her. really.”