Growing up, it wasn't easy for Jully Black to find companionship on Canadian radio. Seven years old and living in a Pentecostal Christian household in Toronto's Jane-and-Finch neighbourhood, the Juno-nominated R&B singer says Whitney Houston was her entranceway into the music world.
"To be hearing a black woman, let alone black music, resonated within every bone of my body and I held onto Whitney with both hands," says Black, 34, who tearfully describes receiving the news that on Saturday afternoon her idol was gone. "For me, show-and-tell wasn't dolls, it was singing a Whitney Houston song and I say this very truthfully: without Whitney Houston, there is no Jully Black."
Black, however, describes having a difficult relationship with her hero, and mentions that, like with Michael Jackson, the Whitney Houston that she chose to hold onto wasn't the singer in her later years - the one dogged by whispers of drug abuse, eating disorders and public arrests.
"It was like I had to preserve her and compartmentalize, same as with Michael," says Black, who recently took to YouTube to find clips of Houston singing All at Once and Greatest Love of All to rekindle her drive after feeling frustrated by the response to her latest disc. "I wanted to go back to being six or seven and find something that inspired me. You see Whitney and it looks effortless, just a bead of sweat on the top of her lip and this incredibly big sound."
Houston's sound, captured most famously on the Clive Davis-produced self-titled record in 1985, would go on to be the recipient of six Grammy Awards, and it's been viewed as ironic by some that Ms. Houston passed away at the Beverly Hilton only a day before the music industry's biggest night.
Melanie Fiona, a 28-yearold R&B singer from Toronto nominated last night for two Grammy Awards, is currently in Los Angeles with her family for the ceremony, and says that Houston is the only topic of conversation.
"It's everywhere, it's on the streets, in the bars, all over the news - television crews are camped outside the Beverly Hilton," says Fiona, who calls Houston her single biggest influence. "That this happened the day before the biggest night in music, there's something very significant about that. We know what she contributed to the music industry, I hope her contributions are what we remember and what's given justice, honour and respect."
Credit: Postmedia News
Copyright CanWest Digital Media Feb 14, 2012