After 10 years of eligibility, Whitney Houston received her first nomination for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame this week. While there’s no guarantee that nomination will make her a part of the Rock Hall Class of 2020 when the induction ceremony goes down May 2 in Cleveland, Ohio, you can’t deny the indelible impact the once-in-a-generation vocal dynamo left on culture in her all-too-brief lifetime.
With 11 No. 1s and 23 top 10 hits on the Billboard Hot 100, Houston was a hitmaker whose art elevated pop, R&B, gospel and influenced artists across a wide swath of genres. Following her nomination, Clive Davis — the industry legend who helped make Houston one of the best-selling artists in history and is himself a Rock Hall inductee — spoke to Billboard about her chances and why it “defies logic” that it’s taken her this long to get nominated.
Was Whitney’s Rock Hall nomination something you’ve been working for, or did it come as a surprise?
I didn’t do any work for Whitney’s nomination nor did it come as a surprise. Purely and simply, she deserves it as one of the, if not the, best singers of all time.
Naturally, there’s a segment of Rock Hall voters beholden to the idea of inductees being strictly rock (although that myopic mindset is slowly changing). What would you say to those who say a ‘pop’ artist like Whitney doesn’t belong in the Rock Hall?
Whitney is no more pop star than Darlene Love, Donna Summer, Janet Jackson, all of whom are in The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Moreover, Whitney is an all-time trendsetter. It was she who broke the MTV barrier for female black artists and was consistently among the most played MTV artists. Her debut album is one of Rolling Stone magazine’s 500 Greatest Albums of All Time as well as The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s Definitive 200 list. She is up there with Aretha as influencing more young artists starting out than anyone else ever.
Whitney has been eligible since 2009. Why do you think it’s taken this long for her to get her first nomination?
It defies any logic. She’s earned it and deserves it.
Are you optimistic about her chances?
I’m never optimistic. I’m a worrier but it is time for justice to be done.