Whitney Houston (Getty Images / ABC)
Last night's Grammy awards came at a sad and shocking time for the music world: just one day before the award ceremony, Whitney Houston died at 48.
There was much speculation on whether the ceremony would be cancelled or postponed in honor of one of the greatest pop divas of our time, but the show did go on. Writers scrambled to rework much of the night's content, including many references and tributes to the six-time Grammy winner. From an opening prayer led by host LL Cool J to mentions sprinkled throughout to a moving musical tribute by Jennifer Hudson, Houston was very much a part of the ceremony.
Hudson's tribute came at the end of the annual nod to those from the music world who have died in the past year. After a slideshow of notables such as Heavy D, Amy Winehouse and Clarence Clemons, Hudson took the stage to sing Houston's classic, "I Will Always Love You." The emotional tribute was made all the more touching by the fact that Hudson appeared to be holding back tears.
"I Will Always Love You" was first released in 1973 by Dolly Parton, who wrote the song in response to her professional split with singing partner Porter Wagoner. Parton's recording is simple and clean, focusing on her friendly voice and the background string section.
Parton's recording reached No. 1 on the Billboard Hot Country Singles chart and was one of the top-selling singles of 1974. Other artists have released covers in the years since, including Linda Ronstadt and John Doe, but it wasn't until 1992 that the song became a true sensation. That was when Houston recorded it as the lead single for The Bodyguard, her film debut.
Houston's version of the song is the gold standard, from the a cappella intro to the unmatchable crescendo. When we are missing Whitney Houston – as we have been doing these past days and will surely continue to do – it's this song we can turn to and hear her at her absolute best.
When Houston won the Grammy for record of the year for "I Will Always Love You" – as was almost inevitable after the record-breaking song dominated the charts for months – Dolly Parton presented the award to her. And Parton again honored Houston upon hearing of her death, stating, "Mine is only one of the millions of hearts broken over the death of Whitney Houston, I will always be grateful and in awe of the wonderful performance she did on my song and I can truly say from the bottom of my heart, 'Whitney, I will always love you. You will be missed.'"
We can't say it any better. Whitney, we will always love you.
Whitney Houston performs onstage at the 37th Annual American Music Awards in Los Angeles in 2009. Houston died Saturday, Feb. 11, 2012. She was 48. (AP Photo / Matt Sayles)
Written by Linnea Crowther