When the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame announced its Class of 2020 on Wednesday (Jan. 15), it meant a wonderful morning for industry legend Clive Davis: Whitney Houston, whose career he guided on its ascent to global domination, was officially part of the Rock Hall.
“I’m delighted with the news, ecstatic,” Davis tells Billboard. Houston hardly needed the Rock Hall to establish her enduring impact, of course, but he acknowledges the “official recognition and induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame is unique, special and really cherished.”
“It’s very important to Whitney’s legacy and fully deserved. She and Aretha Franklin have influenced more young artists than any other artists I know,” he notes. And while Houston, who died in 2012, isn’t here to enjoy the honor, he thinks she would be humbled by it.
“She’d be touched, grateful. There’s no question. She never took anything for granted. I always asked her, ‘Are you pinching yourself?’ She truly would be touched by this unique and special recognition. It would be very important to her.”
In addition to notching a whopping 11 No. 1 hits on the Billboard Hot 100 throughout her career (and even earning a posthumous No. 1 on the Dance Club Songs chart last year with the Kygo-produced “Higher Love”), Davis points to the trails she blazed in addition to the records she set.
“She was more than an incredibly successful artist — she had a unique role in breaking down the barriers at MTV. She was really the first female black artist that MTV embraced and was consistent in the devotion they had to what she did.”
In addition to celebrating Houston, Davis was happy to see The Notorious B.I.G. among the Rock Hall Class of 2020 inductees as well.
“I congratulate Puffy on The Notorious B.I.G.,” he says warmly. “I vividly remember the day when we made our deal with Bad Boy Records. He played me three or four cuts of the then-unknown Notorious B.I.G. It really was on the basis of those cuts and his vision that Biggie was gonna be unique and special that it all turned out. I’m very, very happy for Biggie’s family and Puffy. There’s no question, very grateful he’s being recognized too.”
Davis plans on attending the 2020 induction ceremony, which takes place May 2 in Cleveland, with Pat Houston, the executor of Whitney’s estate.