On February 11, 2012, less than an hour before Whitney Houston died, her cousin, singer Dionne Warwick, sent an email to Gary Keys Productions. In it, she said that she had just arrived in Los Angeles for Grammy weekend and was headed to the hotel where she would ask Whitney to join her and her aunt Cissy (Whitney’s mother), to sing together for the final shoot of Keys’ new documentary celebrating the women’s musical family — the Drinkards.
Fifty five minutes later, the Associated Press broke the news of Houston’s death.
So begins Keys’ new film, WHITNEY HOUSTON & HER FAMILY: VOICES OF LOVE.
The film, which did indeed have its beginnings as a tribute to Whitney, Cissy, Dionne and the Drinkards, became something else in the wake of Houston’s passing. It became a celebration of her life within the context of her family’s musical heritage.
Keys, a longtime friend of Warwick’s since he produced her first concert at
Lincoln Center in 1967, infuses the documentary with exclusive one-on-one interviews he conducted with Whitney at her brother’s home in Atlanta; his own footage of Dionne, Cissy and the family shot at recording sessions & the Apollo Theater in the 1960s; clips from his 1979 Grammy-nominated CBS Television special, “The Original Romping, Stomping All Star Jazz Show;” and never-before-seen footage of Whitney’s memorial service at the New Hope Baptist Church in Newark, New Jersey, on February 18.
Whitney Houston & Her Family: Voices of Love tells an important, untold American story. A toe-tapping, finger-snapping homage to Whitney, the film traces her roots to the Drinkards, whose long and rich tradition of gospel, and the singers the clan produced, make them one of America’s most musically influential families. Also featuring interviews and performances by the legendary Aretha Franklin and Roberta Flack, the film celebrates the spirit and the power of gospel music to heal, to transcend and above all to entertain.