Deborah Cox Discusses Special Bond With Whitney Houston and Her Sage Advice [EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW]
Three years have passed since the world bid farewell to Whitney Houston, but that hasn't stopped fans from pining for the New Jersey native's timeless voice. In fact, to help fans and colleagues remember the music royalty that she was while helping a new generation become familiar with her hits, the Lifetime network put together a 90-minute biopic revisiting some of Houston's most memorable life events. Yaya DaCosta may have been the star of the Angela Bassett-directed flick Whitney, but it's Deborah Cox who served up the vocals for the film, singing Houston's classics.
Since there aren't many people that can pull off a proper representation of Houston's polished vocals, Cox was more than honored to assist, using her perfect pitch to help the Lifetime production move along. She had mixed feelings about taking on such a feat, but she pushed them to the side for the bigger picture.
"I think it’s serendipity: when things happen and you don’t even know the impact they’re going to have," Cox tells The Boombox. "When I was first approached about doing it I had mixed feelings for probably one minute, and then I was like,'Okay, yes!' I was nervous; I was scared, but I knew I had to rise to the challenge because I knew she had to be represented in a way for us to be reminded of what her gift was to the world."
The singer, whose new album, Work of Art, arrives Aug. 14, feels like the "I Will Always Love You" creator was supporting her in spirit. "When you think of Whitney Houston, you think of that voice. We didn’t have a lot of time to do it either. It was a great, great honor to be a part of that, and I can only hope that I did her well," she states. "And I can just hear her in my ear, 'Girl... [laughs].' I think the piece was to conjure up and reintroduce people to the style and essence of [Whitney Houston] because who’s really doing that these days? Who’s really giving you class and elegance and style and voice?"
Watch Yaya DaCosta Sing Deborah Cox's Version of Whitney Houston's "I Will Always Love You"
While 4.5 million viewers tuned in to watch Whitney in January, don't think the decision to utilize Cox's voice was made at random. The two soul singers lived under the tutelage of legendary music executive Clive Davis. Five years after joining the Arista Records roster, Houston and Cox hit the studio and recorded a one-off radio single, "Same Script, Different Cast." But that wasn't the first time they collaborated. The six-time Grammy winner was a good friend and mentor to Cox, often telling her to put family first -- even in this business.
"I remember our conversation in Miami when we were recording our duet," says Cox. "She took me and my husband aside, and was like, 'When are y'all gonna have a family?' Bobby [Brown] was there; Bobbi Kristina was 9 years old, running around. [Whitney] had just gotten off the Disney Cruise with her, and we had to reschedule the session twice because she was like, 'I’m still on the cruise, chile. I’m still on the cruise with Bobbi Kristina.' She really was dedicated to her family, and wanted to share her time with her family."
The "Nobody's Supposed to Be Here" chanteuse looks back on that chat with Houston as an important moment in her life. "At that time, I was like a hamster in a wheel," she admits. "I was in between albums, and I was just trying to figure out [if I] should stop and have the family or [if] should I continue and try to juggle it [all]. But me -- the crazy woman that I am -- decided I’m gonna just do it all. But I really cherish those conversations because had I not stepped aside and stepped away and had my family, I don’t know where I would be.
"My kids are so important to me, and I don’t know what I would do if I didn’t have my family. But it was her bringing me to reality and everything, like, this is all cool and everything, this recording business is cool, but this is important too. Those were little signs that she was giving me tips ahead [of time]."
She's gone but never forgotten according to Cox, who doesn't think Houston will ever leave her side in the spiritual sense. In fact, during a recent interview with Sirius XM, she reveals an incident in which she felt Houston was actually trying to speak to her before she went on air.
"Literally, I was doing a Sirius interview, and her song kept popping up on my phone," Cox explains. "[But] I wasn’t listening to it. As I get into Sirius, it’s blasting on my headphones, and it’s from this latest live album. All I hear is 'One moment in time…' and it’s blasting. I finally had to say, 'Okay, you need to stop this [laughs]!' [My team was saying], 'Whitney’s trying to tell you something, girl.'"
When it comes to Whitney Houston, you should always listen.
Listen to Whitney Houston's "Same Script Different Cast" Feat. Deborah Cox
See 20 Nightmares for People Who Love R&B