Jennifer Hudson performs during the 'We Will Always Love You' Grammy salute to Whitney Houston.(Photo: Cliff Lipson, CBS)
LOS ANGELES -- It starts with a
dance party and ends with tears, fitting bookends on a night devoted to
the memory of Whitney Houston.
We Will Always Love You: A Grammy Salute to Whitney Houston
(CBS, 10 ET/PT Friday) takes the late singer's fans, peers and admirers
on a nostalgic journey via live performances, testimonials, rare video
and family snapshots.
The hour-long special, taped last month in
front of a live audience at the Nokia Theater in Los Angeles, kicks off
with Jennifer Hudson (sporting big hair in homage to one of Houston's
video looks in the '80s) charging through an upbeat medley of I'm Every Woman, How Will I Know and I Wanna Dance With Somebody. Usher tackles I Believe in You and Me from The Preacher's Wife soundtrack, and Celine Dion's The Greatest Love of All is intercut with clips of a version Dion sang in 1987.
CeCe Winans and Yolanda Adams close the hour-long special with a soaring rendition of Waiting to Exhale's Count on Me, which left many audience members weeping.
Rare footage includes Houston's TV debut on The Merv Griffin Show, where her mother can be seen through the translucent curtain frantically directing the band to quicken the tempo.
of Houston's sordid chapters are referenced, in keeping with the
tribute's mission to celebrate her career achievements. Instead, video
flashbacks find her belting the National Anthem at the 1991 Super Bowl
and nailing I Will Always Love You on 1994's Grammy Awards.
singer, who died in February at 48 of accidental drowning complicated
by drug use and heart disease, is lauded by Britney Spears, LL Cool J,
Tariji P. Henson and longtime mentor Clive Davis, seated in the audience
with Houston's daughter Bobbi Kristina Brown and her fiancé Nick
Lifelong fan Halle Berry tells the crowd, "She inspired a
generation of little girls and women to believe in their own dreams and
to know that they had within themselves the greatest gift of all. I was
one of those little girls who then became a woman who never ever, ever,
stopped loving Whitney Houston."