I remember getting to know Whitney at one of Clive Davis' pre-Grammy parties, around 2007. She came right over to my table, pulled up a chair next to me and said, "I want us to work together!" She was very bold and extremely direct – she did not pull any punches. From then on, it was like we were reunited sisters. We got each other.
People were always shocked at how funny she was. But she was a woman from the streets of Newark – she had that energy and brashness, that laughter and silliness. She'd crack a joke at anything. When we made "Million Dollar Bill" in 2009, she was doing a hundred thousand jokes. I had to reel the session in, like, "Okay, if we keep joking like this we are never going to get anything done!"
After that, we called each other all the time. We'd talk about what she was about to do, or how she was tired – I know what it is to have to gear up and get your tour together and do, like, fifty million TV shows. And she'd play me these amazing gospel records – "You gotta hear this!" I guess something in my spirit recognized something in her spirit and we connected. We were just instant sisters.
as told to Simon Vozick-Levinson