Whitney Houston Hits Hot 100 With a Remake of a Record of the Year Grammy Winner -- Just How Rare Is That?
It's fairly unusual to cover a record of the year winner, since that award is a strong indicator that a song has been recorded definitively.
As Billboard's Gary Trust has reported, Kygo X Whitney Houston's remake of Steve Winwood's "Higher Love" enters the Billboard Hot 100 this week at No. 63. Winwood's original version of the song won the 1986 Grammy Award for record of the year -- beating Houston's "Greatest Love of All" and three other hits.
Houston recorded "Higher Love" in the late '80s, though it was released only in Japan, as a bonus track on the physical version of her 1990 album I'm Your Baby Tonight.
It's fairly unusual for an artist to cover a Grammy-winning record of the year. That award, after all, is a strong indicator that a song has been recorded definitively. The winning version is going to be hard to follow -- and almost impossible to top. But over the years, numerous covers of record of the year winners have achieved Hot 100 success. (These are covers that charted after the earlier version won record of the year.)
The closest parallel to Houston covering "Higher Love" is probably Aretha Franklin covering Simon & Garfunkel's pop hymn "Bridge over Troubled Water," the 1970 winner for record and song of the year. Franklin's version reached No. 6 on the Hot 100 in 1971. It won a Grammy for best R&B vocal performance, female -- one of the few times a cover of a record of the year winner has won a Grammy of its own.
(Franklin attempted to do this again in 2014, when she covered Adele's "Rolling in the Deep," the 2011 winner for record and song of the year. "Rolling in the Deep [The Aretha Version]" failed to crack the Hot 100, but it reached No. 47 on Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs.)
Four other covers of "Bridge" have made the Hot 100 over the years. Linda Clifford took a disco version to No. 41 in 1979. A Glee version reached No. 73 in 2010. A live version by Mary J. Blige and Andrea Bocelli, taken from the Grammy Awards telecast and designed to raise money for Haiti earthquake relief efforts, reached No. 75 in 2010. Tessanne Chin, The Voice season 5 winner, took the song to No. 64 in 2013.
Fugees recorded a hip-hop update of the Roberta Flack classic "Killing Me Softly with His Song," the 1973 winner for record and song of the year. Fugees' version, with the title shortened to "Killing Me Softly," reached No. 2 on the Hot 100 Airplay chart in 1996. It won a Grammy for best R&B performance by a duo or group with vocal. Another version of the song by Al B. Sure! reached No. 80 on the Hot 100 in 1988.
Artists for Haiti's "We Are the World 25: For Haiti" reached No. 2 on the Hot 100 in 2010, a generation after the original version by USA for Africa won the 1985 Grammys for record and song of the year.
Bobby Rydell's "Volare" reached No. 4 on the Hot 100 in 1960, two years after Domenico Modguno's version of the lounge classic, titled "Nel Blu Dipinto di Blu (Volare)," won the 1958 awards for record and song of the year. In 1975, another version of the song by Al Martino reached No. 33 on the Hot 100.
The Lettermen's vocal version of Percy Faith's instrumental smash "Theme from a Summer Place," the 1960 record of the year champ, reached No. 16 on the Hot 100 in 1965. Dick Roman and The Ventures also charted separately with the pretty tune.
Ella Fitzgerald's version of Bobby Darin's "Mack the Knife," the 1959 record of the year winner, reached No. 27 on the Hot 100 in 1960. Fitzgerald's version was nominated for record of the year, the only time that a cover of a record of the year winner has been nominated in that top category. Fitzgerald's version received two other noms. It won for best vocal performance, single record or track, female.
Warren G featuring Adina Howard had a hit with Tina Turner's "What's Love Got to Do with It," the 1984 winner for record and song of the year. Their version, from the Jackie Chan movie Supercop, reached No. 32 on the Hot 100 in 1996.
Booker T & the MG's' instrumental version of Simon & Garfunkel's "Mrs. Robinson," the 1968 record of the year winner, reached No. 37 on the Hot 100 in 1969.
In addition, TV shows have boosted several remakes of record of the year winners. Lee DeWyze, the season 9 champ on American Idol, reached No. 24 on the Hot 100 in 2010 with a version of U2's exhilarating "Beautiful Day," the 2000 winner for record and song of the year. Christina Grimmie, a season 6 contestant on The Voice, reached No. 64 on the Hot 100 in 2014 in a duet with coach Adam Levine on the Gotye/Kimbra song "Somebody That I Used to Know," the 2012 record of the year winner.
Glee cast versions of Flack's "The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face" (1972), Sheryl Crow's "All I Wanna Do" (1994), Amy Winehouse's "Rehab" (2007) and Lady Antebellum's "Need You Now" (2010) also made the Hot 100.