At the Fontainebleau this past Saturday, Whitney Houston superfans gathered alongside members of the late singer's family and estate to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the release of The Bodyguard soundtrack. Rickey Minor, Houston's longtime musical director and collaborator, hosted the festivities, which included a listening party for songs from I Wish You Love: More From the Bodyguard, a collection of alternate takes of the groundbreaking soundtrack's songs, set for release November 17.
The listening party and subsequent screening of The Bodyguard took place in the hotel's Fontaine Ballroom, where the film's performance scenes were originally shot. The listening party was preceded by remarks from Clive Davis, the storied producer and music executive largely credited with discovering Houston. Pat Houston, Whitney's sister-in-law and executor of her estate, also spoke. Davis shared his reflections on the anniversary and Houston's life via a video message, adding he was unable to attend because of studio recording obligations.
Davis recounted a story about watching an early rough cut of The Bodyguard and feeling distressed about the lack of music in the film. At the time, he said, Houston (who died in 2012 after drowning in the bathtub of a Beverly Hills hotel room) was slated to perform only one song for the movie. Davis thought the thriller about an obsessed fan's threats would be unconvincing if Houston's powerhouse vocals were not shown more prominently. The filmmakers acquiesced, and the soundtrack went on to win three Grammys, including Album of the Year. It remains the best-selling movie soundtrack of all time. At the end of the night, Houston's estate was presented with a plaque commemorating 18 million copies sold.
Minor walked fans through selections from the forthcoming outtakes collection while telling stories about the recording of songs such as "Run to You" and "I'm Every Woman" and revealing Houston to be a one-take wonder. There were tears during "I Will Always Love You" and "Jesus Love Me," followed by a full-on dance party during "Queen of the Night." Minor, whose credits as a band director include Jay Leno's Tonight Show and American Idol, met Houston when she was only 18 and he was 22. He went on to become her band director, touring bassist, collaborator, and confidant.
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Minor toured with Houston during the Bodyguard Tour, when she was at the peak of her powers and popularity. He also arranged her instantly iconic take on the National Anthem for Super Bowl XXV in 1991. Minor spoke with New Times about the experience and of his years working with Houston.
"When we went in to record the National Anthem, she was late to the recording session because she was doing a screen test for The Bodyguard," Minor remembers. "So we did that performance still not knowing [whether she would get the part]. She did that in one take. She had never heard it; she never got a chance to listen to it. We did a second take just for safety, and the only thing I used on the second take was 'rockets' red glare,' 'cause she was warmed up and it had a little more power, but other than that, it's the first take."
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Less than a year later, playing on the same stage he spoke from this past Saturday night, Minor was band director for her performance of the film's timeless single, "I Will Always Love You." Filmmakers had a backing track ready for Houston to sing over, but she asked to have her live band play so she could hold notes out to her liking and perform the ballad in a more organic way. "We do a take, we do one more for safety, and what reverberated around the world is that first take," says Minor, still noticeably in awe of Houston's raw talent.
Being in that same room and listening to the tracks for the first time in years naturally evoked powerful emotions for Minor. He played the tracks in his hotel room in preparation for the event, and the memories came flooding back. "I just had a moment with myself," he says. "All of the feelings of love for her and loss that we all experience in life still come back... It gets easier every day as time goes on; it's a healer, but you never forget. It always stays with you, that loss, especially when it's that impactful in your life, whoever it is — your mother or father or a close friend — and we were friends for 30 years."
Closing out the listening party, Minor thanked fans for their support, tears, and dancing. In spite of the well-documented highs and lows of Houston's musical career and personal life, her fans' enthusiasm is a testament to the world that, as he simply put it, "Whitney mattered."