My Whitney Houston memory is not what one might think.
MPR, my Nashville, Tennessee-based public relations firm represented many Southern Gospel music artists, including Gaither Music. I loved everyone we represented and always wanted the most significant media possible. National television was the goal. After all, WHO in their right mind would not want Bill Gaither & Co. on their show? They were selling more videos than any mainstream artist on the planet and consistently one of the top grossing concerts annually.
September, 2001, Gaither et al ascends on NYC to film “God Bless America” at Carnegie Hall. We had taken over the Parker Meridian. Paul Simon was to be a surprise guest for the show. Gaither showman Jessy Dixon toured with Paul in Africa, and they remained friends. It was fun to have him there, but the audience was pure Gaither, and that’s who they came to see.
The show was sold out, but “Good Morning America” was booked for the morning of the show. George Beverly Shea would sing “How Great Thou Art,” and Bill Gaither would accompany him on piano. The Vocal Band had done GMA before. Everything went beautifully, but it was always a very tough sell; this time no different. Scheduled for the last 30 minutes of the show: 8:30 a.m. We were still waiting fifteen minutes later when Diane and crew came downstairs, where a grand piano had been set up in the window so fans not lucky enough to be inside could watch too. After the obligatory photos, the now very brief segment began. Diane introduced Bev Shea but not Bill! She said, “these men have sold out Carnegie Hall tonight!” On our ride back to the hotel, Bill laughingly said, “I’ll bet everyone wondered who those two old men were that sold out Carnegie Hall.” (Bill always took everything in stride; he knows the bigger picture.) Little did Sawyer know these musical giants were living legends…but Gospel music was not cool, and we were always appreciative of any little breakthrough into the mainstream. That day was no exception, even for these legends.
Segue Whitney Houston GMA concert: post Diane interview. Whitney turned to the audience and began singing “Jesus Loves Me.” Whitney owned the camera. It was a mainstream artist, also a living legend, who was brave enough to move the mountains that day. Whitney. Was. Glorious. And, YES! Whitney, Jesus Loves You.