RRHOF2020: Whitney is in, but who will induct/accept for her at this year’s ceremony? Ten possible scenarios…

(January 18, 2020).  The iconic pop singer and late superstar Whitney Houston was announced earlier this week as having been selected for this year’s class of inductees to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.  The 35th Annual induction ceremony will occur on May 2 in Cleveland, Ohio, where Houston and five other performers (Depeche Mode, T-Rex, Doobie Brothers, Nine Inch Nails and The Notorious B.I.G.) will be honored.

The late Whitney Houston (1963-2012)

And like in previous ceremonies, nearly as much attention will be paid to who does the honor of inducting the selectees (giving speeches introducing their legacies to the audience) as will be paid to the recipients themselves.

Last year, for instance, Janet Jackson was introduced by Janelle Monáe, a longtime fan and friend of the legendary superstar.  Stevie Nicks was introduced by Harry Styles, who Nicks has since referred to as her “adopted son.”

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In past years, controversial introductions by non-musicians have also marked the event.  In 2018, for example, David Letterman (subbing for an ill Neil Young) introduced Pearl Jam, and Howard Stern presented Bon Jovi in a no-holds-barred, NSFW speech for the ages.  

That same year, Dire Straits (whose leader Mark Knopfler chose not to attend), was inducted without a presenter – the first time in the ceremony’s history that occurred.  Instead, the group’s bassist John Illsley, appeared onstage following various speeches and a short video.  

Which brings us to this year’s ceremony and the late Whitney Houston.  

As everyone knows, Houston was a tragic figure whose life intersected many others over the years.  Her family and her professional ties were so drenched with drama that they often overshadowed her artistic achievements, especially later in life as she hurdled towards her ultimate demise in 2012.

But the ties that linked Whitney to the many people in her life were palpable and strong.  Even after her death, many of those who’ve survived – her only daughter, Bobbi Kristina Brown, died in 2015 following a drug overdose in a fashion similar to Whitney – remain connected to her, albeit in a disconcerting way, as various members of her entourage have capitalized on her death by revealing details of her personal life (or her connection to theirs).  

So, given the many figures who crisscrossed Whitney’s life and career while she was alive, and the many more who’ve spoken on her behalf since her death, who will do the honors of introducing the late singer’s legacy at the RRHOF ceremony in May?  Furthermore, who will receive the induction on her behalf?

The blog explores ten possible scenarios for either or both questions…

Cissy Houston, Whitney’s mother.

Cissy Houston and Whitney in happier days, circa 1987.

The 86-year-old matriarch of the Houston family likely will not be reading any induction speeches at the RRHOF ceremony, but it’s conceivable that she could be on hand to receive the honor on her late daughter’s behalf from whoever presents it.  At the very least, the ceremony’s producers are probably going to extend her the first right of refusal, the status of which would likely depend upon who’s doing the presenting.  There are likely several people who were once close to Whitney that Cissy doesn’t trust, particularly as sordid details of her daughter’s life have been revealed posthumously.  Still, it would be a nice showing of family solidarity if Cissy appeared onstage with other family members, like Whitney’s brother and half-brother Michael and Gary, respectively. 

Bobby Brown, Whitney’s ex-husband.

Bobby Brown and Whitney, circa 1993.

Bobby and Whitney once had something in common (besides their troubled marriage, their chosen profession and their recreational drug use) and that was daughter Bobbi Kristina.  But even she’s gone now.  Bobby Brown, who was essentially kicked out of his late ex-wife’s funeral in February 2012, has since moved on with a new wife and children, so his ties to the Houston family are likely permanently severed.  Quick answer: nah.

Dionne Warwick, Whitney’s cousin.

First cousins Dionne Warwick (left) and Whitney Houston in the late 1980s

The 79-year-old singing legend Dionne Warwick still does concert tours, believe it or not, and is still a viable public presence.  She would be a respectable choice to do the honors (and represent the family) by either introducing/presenting Whitney’s legacy to the audience or accepting the induction on Whitney’s behalf, or both.  Being accompanied onstage by her aunt Cissy would be an even more poignant moment. 

Pat Houston, Whitney’s sister-in-law.

Pat Houston (left) and sister-in-law Whitney Houston.

As Whitney’s former manager, Pat Houston (who is married to brother Gary) considered herself the intermediary between the late singer and everyone else.  Even in Whitney’s death, Pat was the executor of her estate, which gave her the platform to give documentarian Kevin MacDonald unprecedented access to Whitney’s archives.  The 2018 film that resulted included a bombshell allegation of child abuse suffered by Whitney and brother Gary at the hands of older cousin and singer Dee Dee Warwick (Dionne’s sister).  Pat’s decision to allow the film to go forward reportedly caused further division in a family already troubled by details of Whitney’s life and death.  The likelihood that Pat would appear onstage on Whitney’s behalf is slim given that backdrop. 

Gary Houston, Whitney’s half-brother.

Whitney Houston singing with brother Gary

Gary once sang background for Whitney, and his wife Pat became his little sister’s longtime manager.  Given Pat’s helming of a revelatory documentary (see immediately above), and its accounts of childhood abuse that Gary confirmed (and has cited as the cause of his own drug addiction), there is likely still enough tension in the Houston family to make any appearance by Gary (or Pat) unlikely.  However, an induction to the Rock Hall of Fame – even for a deceased family member – doesn’t happen everyday, and the family could rise above the drama and conceivably come together for this major event. 

Clive Davis, Whitney’s mentor and label boss.

Clive Davis and Whitney Houston sign papers back in 1984.

Davis is credited with bringing Whitney to prominence in 1985.  At the time, he helmed Arista Records – Whitney’s longtime label – and largely served as her mentor and confidante.  Davis is himself a member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (as a non-performer) and he has both the professional credentials as well as the personal connection to Whitney to be a natural choice to present the honor to members of Whitney’s family.  

Mariah Carey, Whitney’s one-time collaborator and respected chart rival.

Mariah Carey and Whitney Houston, circa 1999

Mariah, who’s been on a role lately after having achieved a No. 1 song over the holidays, was Columbia Records’ answer to Whitney Houston and the two often battled it out on the charts in the early ‘90s.  But they were respected rivals and they even teamed up for a duet on 1998’s Oscar-winning “When You Believe,” from the movie The Prince of Egypt.  Mariah, who is also a potential Hall of Fame contender (she’s been eligible since 2015), would be a very reasonable choice to represent a fellow iconic singer at this year’s ceremony.  

BeBe and CeCe Winans, Whitney’s close friends and gospel music legends.

From left: CeCe Winans, Whitney Houston and BeBe Winans

BeBe found “instant family” with Whitney when they met many years ago.  BeBe and CeCe sang “I Miss You” at Whitney’s funeral and BeBe penned a book about her titled, The Whitney I Knew, in which he sang the singer’s praises.  Never a bad word has been uttered by the Winans siblings about Whitney Houston, either in her life or death. They would be a safe choice to pay tribute to their friend at the ceremony.

Robyn Crawford, Whitney’s one-time employee and romantic partner (according to Robyn’s recent revelation).

Whitney Houston and Robyn Crawford

Although the family likely won’t be having it, especially given Crawford’s longtime estrangement and her recent revelation about her and Whitney’s pre-fame romance, Crawford being invited to at least present the award to the family would be a gracious showing, particularly by Cissy who alternately denied and disapproved of a possible same-sex relationship involving her daughter.  In this era of more LGBTQ acceptance – a stance that has always been championed by the music industry – Robyn’s involvement in the ceremony would be a big statement.  

Jennifer Hudson and/or others influenced by Whitney.

Jennifer Hudson and Whitney Houston in her later years

Any number of today’s popular singers who claim Whitney Houston as an influence could also do the honors of presenting the induction to her family.  Jennifer Hudson, Alicia Keys, Beyoncé, Brandy, Lady Gaga, and Celine Dion all have claimed her an inspiration.  Hudson, the more likely choice, sang a tribute to Whitney at the 2012 Grammys the day after Whitney’s death.  She could easily be tapped not only to read a speech on Whitney’s behalf, but also give a post-induction performance of the late singer’s hits.  As a star of two of this year’s highest-profile motion pictures, Cats and Respect (the Aretha Franklin biopic), expect another high-profile showing by Hudson at this year’s RRHOF ceremony.  

Those are DJROBBLOG’s ten scenarios.  Who do readers think will represent the late great Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Whitney Houston at this year’s ceremony in Cleveland?

Feel free to provide comments with your opinion in our comment section below or on any of the blog’s social media feeds.

DJRob

Whitney Houston

DJRob is a freelance blogger who covers R&B, hip-hop, pop and rock genres – plus lots of music news and current stuff!  You can follow him on Twitter @djrobblog.

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