Elton John, Whitney Houston, Frank Sinatra & More: Stories From Adult Contemporary's Biggest Stars & Songs
Elton John, Whitney Houston, Frank Sinatra & More: Stories From Adult Contemporary's Biggest Stars & Songs

whitney houstonWhitney Houston

She's had 31 AC hits, including 10 No. 1s.

Producer/singer/songwriter Kenneth "Babyface" Edmonds:

"Forest Whitaker gave me a call because he was directing [1995's] "Waiting to Exhale" and was interested in me scoring the film, as well as writing songs. Knowing it was a Whitney film, it was kind of expected that she'd sing, but it wasn't a guarantee. But she did have rights to decide who would be a part of the soundtrack. Everyone was chosen or agreed to by Whitney. I can't remember any of the names we crossed off-and I wouldn't say them anyway [laughs]. But I remember she really wanted to do something with CeCe [Winans]. That's how the song "Count on Me" happened.

"Whitney laughed when I handed her the "Shoop Shoop" song-because it was simple-but she loved it. The soundtrack ended up being a very special project. The more time goes by, the more important it becomes.

"Whitney had a soul about her voice that went beyond being black. It spoke to everyone, no matter what color.

"I wish I could say I produced [1992's] "I Will Always Love You" [produced by David Foster]. The first time I heard it, I was floored. We hadn't experienced anything like that before on the radio. I hate to call it pop music. It was just music that everyone loved."

As told to Gail Mitchell

Johnny MathisJohnny Mathis

He has 49 AC chart hits between 1962 and 2003. It's the fifth-highest sum in the chart's history.

Mathis: "Every time I try to tell people things about my career, I wonder if that's the truth or something I'm fantasizing about. I have no way of knowing why my career has lasted so long other than the fact that people like the sound of my voice and fortunately I've been able to maintain it.
I think of myself as John. Other people call me Johnny and I think it's a sign of affection-I hope [laughs]-when they add the "-ny." I can't think of myself as other than someone who is in transition and constantly changing. I never thought of myself as being anything other than someone who performs other people's compositions. And I never get tired of discovering new music.

"'Single-minded' is a good word when it comes to what my life is like musically. I've never stopped discovering music. My first vocal teacher was adamant about my learning a little bit about classical music. I fell in love with people like Leontyne Price, Beverly Sills and Richard Tucker. Those voices still resound in my head. I still play them constantly, discovering what the human voice can do and how it can persuade people to change their lives.

"People have told me that my music has meant extraordinary things to them. Sometimes you even think there might be a responsibility involved in terms of being given certain gifts. You just don't get over that. That's indelible in your life."

As told to Gail Mitchell

Debby BooneDebby Boone

Her "You Light Up My Life" topped the Billboard Hot 100 for 10 weeks in 1977 and the AC chart for one week that same year. "Life" lived on in the charts, as LeAnn Rimes' cover reached No. 34 on the Hot 100 in 1997 and was the title cut of her second No. 1 Billboard 200 album.

Boone: "It was my first solo record. I went to New York to record this song thinking it was the beginning of the long, hard climb to success. When it got to No. 1, I was just shocked. I've had a nice 30-plus-year career based on the strength of one hit record and a couple of contemporary Christian and country records that did well in their own areas, but nothing, of course, like 'You Light Up My Life.'

"Usually remakes happen a little further after the fact than when LeAnn had her hit with it. Whitney Houston also recorded it, and Patti Smith, believe it or not, recorded it. That was odd. LeAnn and Whitney are huge, big voices, big belters. They both sang it so well.

"There was a time when I thought, 'Is this all anybody wants to hear from me?' But now, with some maturity, I'm grateful to have a song that means something to so many people."

As told to Ray Waddell