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Whitney Houston Dead at 48; Interview with Chaka Khan

Aired February 12, 2012 - 08:00   ET


TED ROWLANDS, CNN ANCHOR: This morning, millions of people are waking up to find out that Whitney Houston is dead and millions of her fans are in shock and grieving the death of the pop icon. She was just 48 years old.

Here's what we know right now: Houston's body was found in her room at the Beverly Hilton Hotel. Police say there were no signs of, quote, "obvious criminal intent". The body was moved from the hotel to the morgue just a few hours ago. That's where they'll try to determine the cause of death.

A music industry executive staying in the room just above Houston's says she heard two loud booms, and a man's voice about 20 minutes before Houston was pronounced dead. It is hard to start -- know where to start to begin to describe the life of Whitney Houston.


ROWLANDS: As both an entertainer and person, she's been described as larger than life, born in 1963 to gospel singer Cissy Houston. Her voice was discovered when she was a young girl, singing at her church in Newark, New Jersey. Her debut titled, of course, "Whitney Houston," sold 12 million copies in the United States alone. She recorded a string of Billboard number one hits in the 1980s and '90s, including "Saving All My Love for you" and "How Will I Know."


ROWLANDS: Houston went on to star with Kevin Costner in the hit movie "The Bodyguard." The soundtrack is one of the top 10 biggest selling albums of all time, included a remake of Dolly Parton's "I Will Always Love You."

Her great career later stalled in subsequent years as she battled drug problems, better known for her high-profile and tumultuous 15- year marriage to R&B star Bobby Brown of New Edition. They had one child, Bobbi Kristina.

Just before her death, Houston just finished filming a remake of that 1970s movie "Sparkle." It is scheduled to be released nationwide in August, according to Sony Pictures.

A list of who's who in music is reacting to Houston's death. Here's how they're remembering the woman who will ever be remembered as the voice. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)

DIANA ROSS, SINGER: She just had an incredible voice. And, you know, she just -- she's a beautiful, beautiful face. I remember the first time I saw her face on records, just a beautiful girl.

GLADYS KNGHT, SINGER: I've known her from a little girl up, you know, and her family, of course. And I'm venturing out to say this, and may get some flak, but there will never be another voice like that.

SMOKEY ROBINSON, SINGER: Whit was one of the greatest singers to ever open her mouth to sing, and I know that Whit would want the world to remember her that way. I know that she would want people to remember her profound talent and to think of her in a positive light.

Whit was -- Whit was a sweetie pie. You know, she was -- she was a nice person. I know that she would want to be remembered that way.


ROWLANDS: We're also going to talk to singer Chaka Khan, that coming up in about 20 minutes live here on CNN.

Well, Whitney Houston was known worldwide as multi-award-winning, chart-topping superstar. But she got her start in the choir at New Hope Baptist Church in her hometown of Newark, New Jersey. The church pastor Joe Carter offers his condolences.


JOE CARTER, PASTOR, NEW HOPE BAPTIST CHURCH: The rich history that the New Hope Baptist Church has is deeply associated with the power of Whitney's voice and the influence that she's had not only in this church but across the world where we're saddened at this loss.


ROWLANDS: Our Deborah Feyerick is live outside the church during what must be a very emotional day there -- Deborah.

DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It's emotional. It's very somber, about the people here, you know, with heavy hearts clearly. The Houston family is such a big part of this. Her mom, Cissy Houston, was the choir director here for 54 years. Her dad also attended, he was an Army serviceman but also entertainment executive.

Whitney Houston got her start here. This is where she sang for God, that was her description of it. She loved gospel. She had a deep spirituality. You can hear her. You could see her there, almost unrecognizable. Take a listen.


FEYERICK: And that song "Have a Little Talk with Jesus" there, there was something about her. Everyone at church recognized that it was something special, that it was something unique. She was poised. Just the vocals were so strong.

But it was a place that she always felt at home, a place that she connected with and felt very much a part of. Later in her life, she talked about the fact she was losing the spirituality and in her darkest days, though, she would still reach for the Bible to try to find it. And it was her mom who played such a big part here at the New Hope Baptist. It's her mom who came and got her out of what was a bad situation and a bad marriage.

Right now, though, people just remembering her gift, remembering her songs, remembering the music and the kindness and the soul that was such a big part of this Newark community, Ted.

ROWLANDS: All right. Those people there were the first to hear that angelic, beautiful voice that we all of course got to know well. Deb Feyerick, thank you very much, reporting outside the church in New Jersey.

Well, Reverend Al Sharpton will call for a national prayer this morning for Houston's family during services at Second Baptist Church of Los Angeles. He released a statement saying, quote, "I am stunned at the passing of Whitney Houston whom I have known since the late 1980s. I have known her mother, the great gospel singer Cissy and her aunt Dionne Warwick, down through the years, and the world is saddened by this great loss."

There were more than 1,000 tweets a second in the hours right after the news of Whitney Houston's death. Find out what fans are saying from around the world, how they're responding online. That coming up next.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Very tragic loss. A loss to not only the R&B community but I think everyone around.



ROWLANDS: Welcome back.

People around the world are grieving the sudden death of the woman with an unforgettable voice, Whitney Houston. A medical van took Houston's body to the L.A. coroner's office a short time ago for an autopsy.

Houston was pronounced dead at Beverly Hilton Hotel yesterday at 3:55 local time. Police say there's no obvious signs of any criminal intent.

Take a look at this tribute to Whitney Houston in New York. It's a sign at the famed Apollo Theater calling her a true music icon. Houston's video for hit song, "The Greatest Love of All" was filmed at the Apollo in 1986. Well, fans have flooded social media sites with tributes to Whitney Houston. Our Josh Levs is monitoring that and CNN iReports for us.

Good morning again, Josh.

JOSH LEVS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning again to you.

Folks, you know this, when people are mourning, like you, death of an icon, the death of the public figure, people reach out to each other, and in many cases reach out to strangers, and share thoughts and memories, and in this case reach out to CNN.

And we have been hearing from people throughout the night. In fact, literally from the minute this broke, we here at CNN have been hearing from people with memories about Whitney Houston.

And, you know, music can have an incredible amount of power. You're talking to us about the effect it had on your life.

This image behind me is from her official Web site. This is, which is getting a lot of traffic today. And if you go to that Web site, you're going to see all sorts of images, videos, information, looking back at her, her life, her legacy, what she has achieved.

And all sorts of social media platforms, Facebook, Twitter, iReport, we are hearing from. Let's go to a couple of quotes I pulled that are some of the latest that we've been receiving from our iReporters, sending them in at

This first one comes from KL, "Her music always brought happiness to my mom. When I grew older, I would listen to Whitney Houston and it would make me feel better. Her music is part of my life and my mother's life. I pray for her family and friends at this time."

Here's another one now from Tamona, that's really interesting, speaking to Whitney, with a lot of quotes a long the way that you will recognize. "You were my every woman and the queen of the night. Whitney, I will always love you. Rest in peace, thank you for sharing your beautiful voice and talents with us."

Let's go to some video because as we look at here, I want to talk to you about the kinds of messages that we're seeing. A lot of people are writing us about specific memories they have of times that Whitney Houston's music affected their lives, many people writing about the amazing Super Bowl performance.

And we are hearing one message from a soldier, who remembers exactly what it was like for him at moment she sang at the Super Bowl. He said, "I stood up, placed my right hand over my heart while standing at attention, Whitney's voice soared, tears rolled down my cheeks and I got goose bumps."

And I've also mentioned, you know, the breadth of her success, earlier, I read you a message from a woman in Africa who said that Whitney helped open the door to black female performers in this new pop era, all over the world, including in Africa, which is fascinating.

I also read a message from a woman who is a very successful opera singer who said Whitney is admired and appreciated by opera singers everywhere for the passion she was able to pack into every note that she ever sang. Absolutely amazing.

If you come back here to my screen, I want to show you all some interactives you can check out during the day. A look back at Whitney Houston, her life, her legacy, and also weigh in.

This is from our partners at "TIME" magazine. They have put together a photo spread of iconic images of her throughout her career. If you go to the main page of, you'll link straight to these.

And I'm just going to show you a few of them. This is one photo of her early on. You can tell from that photo.

I'll click through a couple more. This is farther on in 1993. She was at a Kids' Choice Awards, or some point in the '90s, she's at the Kids' Choice Awards.

And I love this photo we're going to show you here. This shows her worldwide appeal. This is a shot from when Whitney was singing in the Netherlands, October 23rd, 1993, reminding how far back her really amazing success goes.

And across the screen for a second, just to show you our iReport assignment, and then I'll get out of the way. This is where you go during the day.

If you go to main page of, you can join our social media system, iReport, weigh in with your thoughts, your memories. You can send us videos, you can send us stories, whatever it is you'd like to share about the way that Whitney Houston and her music might have affected your life.

I'll be here throughout the day. I'll be checking them out, and we'll be bringing some more to you right here.

Ted, back to you.

ROWLANDS: All right. Thanks, Josh. Up next, 10-time Grammy award singer Chaka Khan will join us to share some of her memories of Whitney Houston.

Also ahead on the political front, Mitt Romney had a pretty good weekend, winning two key contests. We'll have more on that as well.

Stay with us.


ROWLANDS: A special tribute is planned at tonight's Grammy Awards for Whitney Houston. R&B star Chaka Khan has been tapped to perform among others.

Chaka Khan joins me now live from Los Angeles by phone.

Chaka, before Whitney became a pop superstar you knew her. She sang backup for you, called her your little sister.

Give us a little insight about, first, your relationship with her over the years.

CHAKA KHAN, SINGER (via telephone): OK. I'm still in shock, trying to wrap my head around the whole thing. Her mother, during the '80s when I was living in New York, we used to record background with me a lot when I was -- when Arif Mardin was my producer.

And one person -- she told me she had a daughter who was a great singer. I said, really? She said, yes. She's a teenager. I said, bring her down tomorrow, have her sing some stuff with us.

So she did. You know, she was a tall, thin, little girl -- a teenager but really a very girlish, sweet quality about her. I immediately fell in love with her. We both fell in love. We were very tight. We've known each other forever and we -- we sang on about three, four numbers.

And through the years, she got her record deal and she started moving up in the ranks and handling and holding her own so beautifully.

I was always there to support her. We saw each other a lot. We spoke on the phone a lot. We'd bump into each other on the road a lot. We always spend time together.

ROWLANDS: We just -- we're watching her covering your song "I'm Every Woman" and you in that. What was that like to hear your song sung by Whitney Houston who had the voice of an angel?

KHAN: You know, I've been covered by a couple of artists, Whitney being the -- without -- hands down the best. I -- in fact, when I heard her rendition, I had to really listen hard because it was perfect. It's as if I sung in the background on the song. I was like -- I asked her, I said did you sing the background on that as well? She said, yes. I sang all of the backgrounds. I couldn't believe it.

And she -- she said I sang it because of you. I sing and I wanted to make it a tribute to you, would you come and be on the video with me? Of course.

So that's with Bobbi Kristina that time.

ROWLANDS: You knew her when she was so young, before any of us had ever heard of her. You, like everybody, watched her rise and through her troubled years, heartbreaking years with everybody watched in heartbreak. What was it like for you during her struggles?

KHAN: Well, it was particularly painful for me because I went through a similar struggle pretty much almost the same struggle as she did with the drugs. Many of our conversations, of course, were about, you know, when I got sober, where I was helping that, you know, wishing for her to follow my lead and let's do this, be sober together and the whole thing. You know --

ROWLANDS: Was she on path to recovery?

KHAN: Sorry?

ROWLANDS: Was she on the path to recovery?

KHAN: It -- it appeared that she was. I just -- I was with her mother about three weeks ago, we did a show together. And her mother informed me that she got this part in the movie and she's going to Canada. I said, wow, I said that looks like it. I said we've got to stay behind her, stay on it. Stay behind her on this and we'll both, you know, back her up.

We had every -- every -- every hope that everything was going to be great and that she was -- this is going to be, you know, her ticket away, you know, from that lifestyle. So, you know --

ROWLANDS: All right. Chaka Khan joining us live from Los Angeles, where tonight she will be part of a tribute at the Grammys in L.A.

Chaka Khan, thank you very much for joining us this morning.

KHAN: Yes. Pray, everybody. Thank you. Bye.

ROWLANDS: All right.

Whitney Houston burst on to the music scene in the 1980s as one of her generation's greatest voices. She was in the midst of a comeback before her death with a role in an upcoming movie. We'll take a look back at her life and her career, coming up. Stay with us.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Whitney definitely left a legacy. She definitely left her presence felt on people. She left a lot.



ROWLANDS: Whitney Houston died on the eve of music's biggest night, the 54th Annual Grammy Awards. She will be honored tonight at a live tribute with performances from stars with likes of Jennifer Hudson and Chaka Khan, who we just talked to moments ago.

CNN also talked to the Grammy's executive producer. Take a listen.


KEN ENRLICH, GRAMMY'S EXECUTIVE PRODUCER: We're very saddened and, you know, we don't want -- we don't want to rush to anything that wouldn't be respectful. So, our plan, at this point, is we do -- I've asked Jennifer Hudson to come and we're really at this moment, you know, talking about what she's going to do.

But it will be something respectful. It's not going to be a full-blown tribute. To me, that feels like it's too early, it's too fresh at this moment.

So, we're working on something that will be really respectful and appropriate to Whitney's memory.


ROWLANDS: Throughout the morning, we've been bringing you personal stories about Whitney Houston from people who knew her well.

Joining me now from Los Angeles is Allison Samuels. She's a contributor for "The Daily Beast".

Allison, you refer to Whitney Houston as your sister/girlfriend. What did she mean to you?

ALLISON SAMUELS, THE DAILY BEAST: She was just this incredible iconic force that even though she was a huge major star, I met her at height of her career, she still sort of welcomed me into her world and sort of asking me, how are you doing? Where are you from? Why aren't you married? I'm going to help you find a man.

She was just comfortable with who she was and meeting new people. I was sort of shocked by that being as I said, I met her at the height of her career. You know, she didn't have any walls up. She was very comfortable with her fame.

And I think for me that meant so much being that I sort of grew up watching her and seeing her in "Seventeen" magazine. A lot of people don't remember this, she was a model first. And I remember seeing a short-haired girl, chocolate girl, in the pages of "Seventeen" when I was like in junior high school.

So, to meet her when she was this iconic sort of singer was amazing to me. And I never -- you know, I never thought that she would welcome me in so freely as she did.

ROWLANDS: Were you at the Beverly Hilton when he you heard that she was dead?

SAMUELS: Yes. I was actually doing a VH1 interview. She was coming right after me to do an interview for "Behind the Music." And they were setting up for her. They were saying, OK, we got to speed this up because Whitney's coming.

And then, probably about 30 minutes, in the middle of my interview, someone kept knocking on door saying, OK, Whitney can't come. She can't make it. And then eventually, they're like Whitney's dead. And we were all -- just shocked because we just -- you know, they were setting up. They're like she's going to be here in 30 minutes, she's going to give us this interview and they were so excited. And the air just went out of the room when we heard she passed away.

It was -- we almost were like, are you sure? Because we sort of didn't believe it because it was so surreal.

ROWLANDS: Incredible.

You wrote this morning that you had actually written an obituary for Whitney five years ago. Tell me about what prompted that and whether you saw things change in her life since -- since that time.

SAMUELS: I wrote it -- I wrote the obituary for her the last time that I had a major interview with her. She was really not herself. I had gone to dinner with her the night before, and she was not herself. The next day when I did an interview with her, she was sort of not there.

And I had this feeling that if she didn't get it together, there was going to be an unfortunate end to this incredible life. And I just felt like ok, I need to put this into words, I need to sort of let people know how amazing, how funny, how generous this woman was and how she had, you know demons that a lot of people had and seemed to not be able to fight them.

And at a certain point I thought she was going to get over this and that, you know, she would sort of live this fool life. And so yesterday was just so incredibly sad for me because it sort of brought to life what I always feared that she would die early.

ROWLANDS: Do you still have that obituary that you wrote five years ago? Did you keep it?

SAMUELS: You know, I've been looking for it. You know we sort of put it aside because we felt like ok, she's back on track. I really felt that in the last couple of years. I saw her about a year and a half ago at Mr. Chow and she was great, she was happy, she gave me this big hug. And I'm thinking ok she's on track to do better things, she's really feeling good.

So I sort of forgot about it. And so now I do have to sort of go and find it and sort of remember some of the things that I had said. But I really had hoped it wouldn't come to this. I really prayed that it wouldn't come to this.

ROWLANDS: All right, Allison Samuels who is joining us live this morning from Los Angeles. Thank you, Allison.

SAMUELS: Thank you.

ROWLANDS: Well, on the political front, Mitt Romney has had a pretty good weekend, winning two contests.

We'll have more on Whitney Houston and more ahead on that. Stay with us. You're watching CNN.


ROWLANDS: Here are some other stories making news this morning.

Mitt Romney has another notch in his belt with last night's win in the Maine caucus. You can see the numbers there. Romney barely beat Ron Paul. Paul had spent a lot of time campaigning with that good finish in Maine. The win ends the three-contest winning streak that Rick Santorum had.

But Maine voters weren't the only ones to give Romney a victory. He also won the straw poll at the Conservative Political Action Conference. CPAC is the annual gathering of conservative activists. Here are those numbers. Santorum finished a close second in the poll. Romney, Santorum and Newt Gingrich all addressed the conference on Friday.

In Syria, we are now hearing that the military is actually putting civilians on their tanks to act as human shields. One opposition activist says it's happening in the city of Homs which has been the epicenter of the uprising. Syria's military has been bombing opposition forces and civilians in Homs. Nearly 700 people, including children, died in Syria just last week. Arab League members are meeting in Cairo today to discuss options for dealing with the worsening situation there in Syria.

The U.S. Embassy is following the case of two American women who have been arrested during a demonstration in Bahrain. This is one of the women, Huwaida Arraf, she and another woman were there on tourist visas. They were picked up for being at an illegal gathering. Reports say the women are human rights attorneys who wanted to help monitor the situation in Bahrain. This week marks the one-year anniversary of protests aimed at forcing democratic reforms in that country.

Meteorologist Reynolds Wolf is in our Weather Center now for a check at the weather. Reynolds, good morning to you again.


We're watching some pretty interesting situations towards parts of the Great Lakes. Right now, it's something that normally happens this time of the year but it's taken a while for it to really get under way. We're talking about of course, lake-effect snow fall. If you look very carefully at the snow that's forming across parts of Michigan, back over to New York, even into Pennsylvania and parts of Ohio you can notice that everything is moving from the northwest right across the Great Lakes.

What's interesting is if these were happening in the Northern Plains and this wind was moving across say parts of Kansas it really wouldn't mean a whole lot. However, because it's moving across a body of water it is picking up some of that moisture, mixing it with cool air aloft and the result is going to be snow. If you happen to be in the spot like say Cleveland, Ohio you, might say hey, no big deal because I'm thawing out. Good luck because it will -- it will really be a kind of tough plain for you especially by -- I'll say later on this afternoon.

One of the things we're watching is going to be the (INAUDIBLE), the backups you might have in a spot like Cleveland, because of the delays right now we estimate will be under an hour. But if that snow continues to come down, you have issues on the runways, at the tarmac, you might have problems with de-icing; it could give you a few headaches.

Same deal in New York but not because of snow rather the winds. Philadelphia, wind could be an issue. Chicago, wind sounds like were of the same song, second actually third verse. Let's say at a fourth verse in Miami, delays under an hour, yes, because of the wind. But you might have some pop-up thunderstorms in the afternoon to Miami that give you a whole different little taste to deal with, some issues on the roadways also at the airport.

Now in terms of the rough weather we're going to see up towards the east, towards the west we've got something building. Notice that area of low pressure over parts of California. We expect that to make its way across the plains. The snow that we're seeing there towards the east appears that some places could get two to four inches, one to three but afterwards the west the snow could be a little bit more extreme in the mountains maybe even into what we're going to see over towards the Great Lakes, eight to 12. But out to west that system, as it makes its way up towards parts of the Northern Plains, we're going to have right ahead of it some advisories.

Watch what happens when that low kicks out. When it does, it's going to tap into moisture. First in the Gulf of California, loses that moisture but then picks up everything from the Gulf of Mexico. That's going to be key player that's going to give you thunderstorms, mainly Dallas southward from Austin along 35 all the way into San Antonio. Even Houston is going to get on the mix.

But on the other side of the frontal boundary, we've got all of that cold air that's going to be in place, again the same recipe, overrunning (ph) moisture, that shallow layer of cold air, as we could have that icy mix around Oklahoma City, but points north into Wichita back over to even say Kansas City. It's all going to be snow.

We'll have more on that coming up during our next weather update moments away -- Ted.

ROWLANDS: All right, thanks Reynolds.

Republican presidential hopeful Rick Santorum is coming off a strong week of victories in several states. He is a guest on "STATE OF THE UNION" this morning. Host Candy Crowley joins us with a preview coming up next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) ROWLANDS: "STATE OF THE UNION" with Candy Crowley is coming up right here at top of the hour. Candy joins us now live with a preview.

Candy, Republican presidential hopeful Rick Santorum, of course, on your show this morning. And he is coming off a very good week.

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN HOST, "STATE OF THE UNION": Well, he had a better first of the week than end of the week. You know, Ted there was a big CPAC convention and CPAC is conservatives; it's a collection, an umbrella group, for leading conservative organizations across the country. They were meeting here in Washington.

They had a straw poll on Saturday. And it was a straw poll of the people who came. It was a very large group, into the thousands, and then they had a straw poll of conservative leadership of self- identified conservatives across the country.

But guess who won both times? Remember, this is Rick Santorum's group or the group that he says he's the conservative alternative to Mitt Romney. But Mitt Romney won.


ROWLANDS: So was it --

CROWLEY: And Mitt Romney -- I don't know, I was just going to say, Mitt Romney also won the Maine caucus Saturday.


CROWLEY: So he had kind of a, you know, a hit kind of a double on Saturday for Mitt Romney.

So as I say, you know, as we saw on Tuesday, Rick Santorum won, swept all three states on Tuesday. So that -- that's still major bragging rights.

ROWLANDS: But when you -- when you bring up the CPAC vote, is this an indication that conservatives, although aren't happy with necessarily backing Romney that the bottom line is, in the end, they know they will be?

CROWLEY: Oh, sure. I haven't talked to a conservative yet who has said flatly, I'll never support Mitt Romney if he becomes the nominee because the driving force behind any election when it is -- when at stake is the re-election of a party of the opposite party, is to defeat that person. And that person right now is President Obama; for Republicans, whether they are conservatives or moderates, Independents leaning Republican, the most important thing to the Republican Party at this point and that involves especially the conservative base, is the defeat of President Obama.

So they'll get behind the nominee. I think it'll take a while, but come November, they'll be at the voting booths. ROWLANDS: The -- we've heard some rumblings of a brokered convention, possibly a long shot but people are starting to talk about it. What's your take, I'm interested.

CROWLEY: You know, I think we talked about that because it might be kind of cool. I think we -- we sort of you know, envision this, you know, let's all get in the smoke-filled room and find out how this works. It's feasible. I just don't think it's probable.

I -- it's just and you know and maybe it's just -- there hasn't been one in decades and decades, so I can't imagine that it's going to happen. But for now what do you have? You've got four people gathering up delegates, some more delegates than others but nonetheless, they are continuing forward.

So until somebody hits the magic number of 1,144 delegates, all things are possible.

ROWLANDS: It's possible. All right.


ROWLANDS: Thanks, Candy. We'll look forward to you at top of the hour.

CROWLEY: Sure, thanks.

ROWLANDS: Keep it right here "STATE OF THE UNION" does start at the top of the hour at 9:00 Eastern and 6:00 a.m. Pacific. Right here on CNN.

Well, many people know of Whitney Houston, the Grammy-winning singer, Houston was also a devout friend. Her close colleague Jennifer Holliday tells CNN about how Houston helped her when she most needed it. That's coming up.





ROWLANDS: Those who are close to Whitney Houston are mourning the loss of not just a singer but also a friend this morning. I spoke to Tony-Award winning actress and singer Jennifer Holliday earlier about her memories of Houston.


JENNIFER HOLLIDAY, TONY-AWARD WINNING ACTRESS (via telephone): Whitney was one of most down, just so down home and just nice and kind-hearted. And I had met her early on because I knew so many of the same people that she knew, Michael Jackson, all of these people that I knew, of course, through "Dream Girls" and then Aretha Franklin and singers and staff.

So I got to know her just as a nice person and she was always very kind-hearted. When I had fallen upon hard times and had lost my home and trying to get my career back together, she kind of stepped in to try to figure out, ok, so how are you going to get work, how are you going to do? She would offer me jobs.

One time she had a birthday party and said I can book you to sing for that. She and I were label mates briefly. I was with Arista where I did one album for them and I also sang for the Clive Davis which she was always at and she personally took me around to people, introduced me and personally saw after. She was always just trying to show that she cared about people.

She was also that same way with her musicians early on. I learned from her how to treat musicians, you know, just in terms her piano player who was a musical director, she loved them and his death was one of her first tragic deaths of the loss of the piano player and how she cared for them and the family.

She's always been a very caring person. And I think that it got all mixed up because she didn't have a lot to say about a lot of things, meaning like I'm very deep and analytical about a lot of stuff. You didn't feel darkness from her.

You know you can get that from some people, some artists. They feel dark, they feel secretive and whatever. You didn't feel that. You always felt a light from her. She was always uplifting and trying to help people, you know, by connecting them.


ROWLANDS: Whitney Houston's impact wasn't limited to Americans. People all around the world have been reacting to her sudden death.

Our very own Nadia Bilchik joins me now.

You, of course, are from South Africa and you say she made quite an impression in your country.

NADIA BILCHIK, CNN EDITORIAL PRODUCER: Absolutely. 1994 was the year that Nelson Mandela became the president of South Africa and I remember well Whitney Houston was the first major musician to come in November of 1994 and to a concert that she called the concert for the new South Africa.

There you're seeing her with Mandela, in fact 2001, a few years later -- they had a very special relationship. He referred to her as his daughter.

This morning I spoke to the Mandela family, they said, "Whitney Houston was an extension of our family. We are bereft," and they feel for Bobbi Kristina. But a very special relationship.

All of the money from her concert in 1994 went to South African charities; so a huge impact on that country. And when I spoke to David Manoway (ph), who's Nelson Mandela's grandson-in-law this morning, I could hear "I Will Always Love You" playing in the background. They were having a family lunch singing to Whitney Houston in memory of this beautiful woman, beautiful singer.

But it's not only South Africa. China, front page, speaks about a U.S. singer dying at age 48. The BBC Telegraph says, "Terrible trajectory of modern fame". South Africa's Mail and Guardian says, "Whitney Houston's brilliant and tragic life". And Australians speak about the "majestic diva ravaged by drugs, dies at 48".

So, Ted from Ann Arbor to Amsterdam, from Durbin to Dubai, we will always love you, Whitney Houston.

ROWLANDS: All right. Nadia, thank you.

There are some winter storm warnings out there today; Reynolds Wolf will be back -- up next, in two minutes with the forecast. Stay with us.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Her voice was absolutely amazing. When you heard her voice, you knew exactly who it was.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I will always remember her performance of the national anthem the year after 9/11.



ROWLANDS: Here are some other stories making news this morning.

Mitt Romney has another notch in his belt with last night's win in the Maine caucus. You can see the numbers, Romney barely beat Ron Paul. Paul has spent a lot of time campaigning for a good finish in Maine. The win ends a three-contest winning streak that Rick Santorum had.

Maine wasn't the only place where voters were giving Romney a victory. He also won the straw poll at the Conservative Political Action Conference, CPAC, of course, the annual gathering of conservative activists. Here are the numbers there. Santorum did finish in a close second in that poll. Romney, Santorum and Newt Gingrich, all addressed the conference on Friday.

There were actually more voters in the CPAC poll than in the Maine caucus.

In Syria, we are now hearing that the military is actually putting civilians on their tanks to act as human shields. One opposition activist says it's happening in the city of Homs where, of course, it's been the epicenter of the uprising. Syria's military has been bombing opposition forces and civilians in Homs. Nearly 700 people including children died in Syria just last week. Arab League members are meeting in Cairo today to discuss options for dealing with the worsening situation there in Syria.

The U.S. embassy's following the case of two American women who have been arrested during a demonstration in Bahrain. This is one of the women, Huwaida Arraf. She and another woman were there on tourist visas. They were picked up for being at an illegal gathering. Reports say the women are human rights attorneys who wanted to be there to help monitor the situation in Bahrain. This week marks the one-year anniversary of protests aimed at forcing democratic reforms there in Bahrain.

Well, Reynolds Wolf here is with us for another look at our weather this morning. Reynolds, good morning again to you.

REYNOLDS WOLF, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Good morning, Ted. We're watching the Great Lakes for some snow that we see there. Not unusual at all to get lake effect snowfall. I mean it's part of what you deal with when you call the Great Lakes your home or at least the communities along the Great Lakes in places like Buffalo, Erie, Cleveland.

Even over towards Detroit, you're seeing a little bit of snow shower activity, somewhat towards the Boyne Highlands, great news for people. They've been waiting for the snow there, too. It's been coming in.

Now, as we take a look at this, we're wondering -- you might wonder -- how much snow are we going to see? Well, the answer to that we turn to -- quick look at this computer model shows anywhere from 8 to 10 or 8 to 12 rather, in some of the heaviest spots, mainly a band right along parts of 90 in New York where we could see the heaviest precipitation. The gusts are going to be strong too -- up to 30 miles per hour.

You'd be surprised making your way down the road way. If you have some snow on the surface and you have a gust around 30, it can give you whiteout conditions. So it might be tough out there. Just take it easy.

I know you folks in parts of New York and almost any place near the Great Lakes you know how to drive in this condition, I got that. But still the wind can make a big difference.

Also any flights out of small airports or regionals towards perhaps Syracuse, maybe even back over towards Watertown or even Rochester, for that matter, you might have some delays. But the bigger airports, you're going to have some delays there too, near the Great Lakes.

Cleveland, the snow and the wind can give you a delay under an hour. New York, non snow but wind; Philadelphia, wind could be a problem; also wind for Chicago and Miami, so backups can be expected.

You know that's not the only place we're going to see the rough weather in parts of the northeast. We're having a developing system that's going to take place, well, right now, near the Four Corners. This area of low pressure, it's going to grow a pair of legs and hop its way into parts of the Central Plains and Texas.

Right now, what we have are some winter storm watches, advisories and even some warnings. There warnings actually were we want them to be, in parts of the northern Rockies, really central Rockies in parts of Sangre De Cristo's, too. You're going to get some snow in places like Breckenridge. They need more snow, this is great for them.

But for anyone trying to travel on Monday, that area of low pressure's going to be a difference maker. A wider (ph) cold air that we were talking about in parts of the Central Plains, 36 for Kansas City, 46 in Dallas, 51 in Houston; it will be in the Central Plains, where you're going to see that area of low pressure bring snowfall.

Some places could see anywhere from I'd say two to four inches of snowfall, maybe a few more in places like Oklahoma City. That's going on Monday and into Tuesday event. Certainly not as high as what you'll see in parts of the Great Lakes.

Ted, that's a quick snapshot of your forecast. Your turn again, man.

ROWLANDS: All right. Thanks Reynolds.

Dolly Parton who wrote one of Whitney Houston's biggest hits, "I Will Always Love You" says her heart is, quote, "one of the millions that are broken by Houston's death."

Rick Vincent now looks back at the life that was marked by great success and some very difficult times.



RICK VINCENT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hers was a voice instantly recognized by millions worldwide. Recording artist, Whitney Houston sold more than 170 million albums with hits including "Saving All My Love For You" and "The Greatest Love of All".


VINCENT: But perhaps her crowning achievement was her 1992 cover of Dolly Parton's "I Will Always Love You" from her film "The Bodyguard" with Kevin Costner.

Whitney Houston was born into a musical family in Newark, New Jersey in 1963. Her incredible talent was discovered at an early age and she was signed by Arista Records in 1983. Her first two albums brought seven consecutive number one hits surpassing a record set by the Beatles and the Beegees.

She went on to become music's most awarded female artist of all of time according to the Guinness Book of World Records. She won six Grammys, two Emmys, 16 Billboard Music Awards and 23 American Music Awards and was named "Female Artist of the Decade" at the Soul Train Music Awards in 2000. But her career stalled as she struggled with drugs and alcohol. And her stormy relationship with Bobby Brown became tabloid fodder. She filed for divorce in 2006.

In 2009 a comeback; Houston released he first studio album in seven years. It debuted at number one on the Billboard charts.

WHITNEY HOUSTON, SINGER: It humbled me and it kind of like -- kind of like said ok, I think want to do this just one more time.

VINCENT: But her tour was reportedly plagued with vocal difficulties. Her reps explained an upper respiratory infection.

In 2011, her publicist said Houston was seeking help for her addiction. The performer was set to appear in the upcoming film "Sparkle", her first movie role since "The Preacher's Wife" in 1996. Her sudden death shocked fans and musicians across the world.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm absolutely devastated by this news. I am so sad for her. She was I mean undoubtedly one of the greatest superstars of all time, one of the greatest voices, you know, in our lifetime we're likely ever to hear.

VINCENT: Whitney Houston, dead at age 48.

I'm Rick Vincent, reporting.


ROWLANDS: And I'm Ted Rowlands. Candy Crowley is up next with "STATE OF THE UNION". And be sure to stay with CNN for continuing coverage of the death of Whitney Houston.