In 1990, Arista Records turned 15 years old and celebrated the occasion with a Radio City anniversary concert named for Dionne & Friends’ chart-topping “That’s What Friends Are For.” Performers and guests included Hall & Oates, Patti Smith, Carly Simon, Whoopi Goldberg and Exposé, but one of the highlights came when Whitney Houston jogged to the stage for a glorious, effortless take on her 1987 hit “I Wanna Dance With Somebody.”
The show originally aired on CBS and has long been bootlegged, but here, watch the proper, high-quality version of Houston’s spectacular performance – the version that will appear on the forthcoming Whitney Houston Live: Her Greatest Performances compilation. Out November 10th, the two-disc set spans from “Home” (recorded on The Merv Griffin Show in 1983) to “I Didn’t Know My Own Strength” (recorded on The Oprah Winfrey Show in 2009), and also includes three songs from her “Welcome Home Heroes” special and her Super Bowl XXV “Star Spangled Banner.” The full tracklist –and a pre-order link – is available here.
Last week, before a program presented by New York’s 92nd Street Y, producer Clive Davis spoke to Rolling Stone about the release, calling a 1994 American Music Awards medley his favorite track. “You look at award shows today and see a hundred people onstage and moving from one big production to another,” he said, “but this was the spotlight on one person, starting with ‘I Love You Porgy’ from Porgy and Bess, going to – well before the movie – ‘And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going’ from Dreamgirls, and ending with ‘I Have Nothing’ from The Bodyguard. It shows an incredible talent. Her voice was at its peak prime. What the impact was on the audience was so unique.”
Aretha Franklin, also participating in the event, offered her own Whitney memories, recalling meeting her through her mother, gospel singer Cissy Houston: “When I first heard her doing ‘Saving All My Love,’ I said, ‘This little girl can sing! Cissy’s baby can sing!’ She called me Aunt Ree. Her mother and I have been longtime friends. I used to go out to their home in New Jersey. After the mini-sessions that we did at Atlantic, we’d kick around and laugh and talk there. [Cissy Houston] brought Whitney to some of my sessions and of course, she had told her to be quiet – you could tell she had talked to her about it. And she was so quiet but she had a little look – I couldn’t quite put my finger on it, but a little look. She was into it.”