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Whitney & Clive: The perfect music marriage

NEED TO KNOW
  • Backup singer to chart-topper, Clive helped ignite Whitney's career
  • Rare video of a 19-year-old Whitney in a soda commercial
  • Houston called Davis 'dad,' the duo shared a rare bond
  • Farewell to Whitney: The legendary singer's death has left the world speechless. Join us for live coverage of Whitney Houston's funeral on Saturday, starting at 9 a.m. ET on HLN.
Whitney & Clive: The perfect music marriage

"That's my dad. That's my dad."

Whitney Houston would be dead within 48 hours. But on the afternoon of Thursday, February 9, that was how she greeted music mogul and personal mentor Clive Davis.

"Come say hi to your godfather," she then tells daughter Bobbi Kristina. "Come say hi to your godfather," the singer says again as her teenage daughter walks up smiling and embraces Davis.

The Grammy Week moment was possibly the last time Houston and the man she called "dad" ever saw each other, and it was captured on this video:

A unique relationship by any standard

The relationship between the star and her mentor was uniquely tight by any standard, but especially so within a cold industry of disposable pop stars and hit-makers with dubious motives.

Even those who weren't previously aware of Davis' role and influence in Houston's career can't help but have noticed his name and face all over the place this week. For the uninitiated, it's because once Davis discovered Houston in 1983 they would be inextricably linked professionally and personally from that point forward. You don't become godfather to someone's child for nothing, after all.

The pair first met when Davis received a tip in the early 80s that Cissy Houston's nightclub act featured a supremely talented teenage backup singer.

"To hear this young girl breathe such fire into this song, I mean, it really sent the proverbial tingles up my spine," the Arista Records founder told ABC's Good Morning America in 2009.

In an interview with MTV he gushed, "My introduction of Whitney was that if there's going to be one performer for the next generation who combined the beauty and lyric phrasing of a Lena Horne with those Gospel fiery roots of an Aretha Franklin, it would be Whitney Houston."

The making of a star

As chief of Arista Records, Davis took the remarkable approach of personally overseeing production of Houston's two-years-in-the-making self-titled debut.

The result? It was pretty effective we'd say. The album boasted seven consecutive number one singles, breaking a record that had been held by the Beatles -- a brand new R&B singer erasing a music milestone established by the all-time pop gods.

"When you are breaking records like that you really have to pinch yourself," Davis told GMA.

Watch: Before Clive met Whitney, she appeared in this Canada Dry commercial

Shared success

Their shared success in the years that followed cemented the legacies of each. Houston continued banging out major hits and landing that iconic spot in "The Bodyguard," while Davis added artists like TLC, Alicia Keys and Jennifer Hudson to his roster of stars. He would found Bad Boy Records with Sean "Puff Daddy" Combs and at various times led RCA Records and BMG North America.

But it was Whitney Houston with whom he remained most closely identified. On several occasions the two were each others' dates for the famous pre-Grammys bash which Davis hosted every year in Beverly Hills. They were rumored to be planning to attend together again this year.

But that of course, is where their paths forever split.

Tragic end to a beautiful friendship

Around the same time the music titan was downstairs at the Beverly Hilton making final arrangements for the party, just a few floors above, Houston's body was being discovered in her bathtub by an assistant.

Emergency personnel rushed to the hotel to try and save the star, but pronounced her dead at 3:55 p.m. PT.

Back inside, the party went on -- a decision that could not have been easy for Davis to make and has earned him a good deal of criticism. Singer Chaka Khan told CNN's Piers Morgan the choice was "complete insanity."

Davis dedicated the evening to Houston and used the occasion to honor his friend, telling the crowd of A-listers, "I am personally devastated by the loss of someone who has meant so much to me ... She loved music and she loved this night that celebrated music," he said.

"Whitney was a beautiful person and she had a talent beyond compare."

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