The 700 Club with Pat Robertson


Whitney Houston's Mother on Faith and Loss

By Cheryl Wilcox with Scott Ross
The 700 Club - Cissy Houston, mother of deceased superstar Whitney Houston, shares her faith, career and grief journey with 700 Club Special Correspondent, Scott Ross.

Two-time Grammy Winner Cissy Houston is a Gospel music great.

She is now, perhaps, best known as the mother of deceased superstar, Whitney Houston.
Scott: “Whitney’s death, did you see that coming? Did you…?”

Cissy: “No, I didn’t.”

Scott: “You had no idea it was that bad?”

Cissy: “No.”

On the eve of Grammy Awards in 2012, Whitney’s assistant found her submerged in the bath of her suite at the Beverly Hilton. Whitney was 48. Later, the coroner ruled Whitney’s death an accidental drowning ‘due to the effects of atherosclerotic heart disease and cocaine use.’ The singer’s longtime battle with addiction was well publicized.

Scott: “What’s your response? I mean, how can you even…”

Cissy: “Well, you know, I can’t – I can’t go through that.”

Scott: “No.”

Cissy “No, I can’t.

Scott: “When this happened, did you question God? Did you get angry at God?”

Cissy: “No, I did not. I never question Him. Never question Him about it cause I
know that’s His business, and I have nothing to do with it.”

Scott: “He’s sovereign.”

Cissy: “Um hm. Young people are so different today. They don’t believe anything.
Everybody thinks, ‘Not me.’ She did drugs like everybody else in this business do, and it’s awful. But you hope that they make good decisions. Sometimes they do. Sometimes they don’t.”

Scott: “Right.”

Cissy: “Children get to a certain age, you can’t tell them what to do and who to see and who…”

Scott: “Right.”

Cissy: “All you can do is pray. But it wasn’t like that when I was out there.”

Scott: “Right”

Cissy: “It was a different time. It’s a different era.” 

Cissy, a minister of music, and renowned Gospel artist also made cultural history in 1951 by backing up Mahalia Jackson’s groundbreaking Gospel performance at Carnegie Hall.

Scott: “When you evolved into Gospel music, how did that come about?”

Cissy: “I started with Gospel, but I didn’t evolve. It started – it’s been my life since
I was five years old. I found Christ when I was 14 years old.”

Scott: “Whoa.”   

Cissy: “I was in church at a revival actually. We had a visiting minister. We were
African Methodist Episcopal, you know. They have people who come in at different times you know, and do revivals and what not. This guy’s name was Reverend Odom. He was powerful and it hit me and I haven’t been the same ever since. I knew what it was to serve God.”

Scott: “Right.”

Cissy: “But to really feel it like I felt it then, I had not felt that then. But the power of Him always travels with me… Always.”

Scott: “How did it get from church into recording in the music world?”
Cissy: “Well, RCA heard us, and they wanted to record us. And they did.”

Scott: “Mahalia was only one of a number of people that you recorded with that
were well-known singers.”

Cissy: “Uh-huh”

Scott: “Aretha, right?” 

Cissy: “Aretha, yeah.”

Scott: “Uh Dusty Springfield?”

Cissy: “Uh-huh”

Scott: “Luther Vandross?”

Cissy: “Uh-huh.”

Scott: “Now, you don’t have to tell me this or not, but I heard a story that Elvis had a crush on you.”

Cissy: “I think that’s a story.”

Scott: “You think so?”

Scott: “Singing with people like that, how did that affect your life? How did affect
your thinking?” 

Cissy: “You do what you do to make a living so I got into the business of singing
whatever, except, you know, that really low-down stuff. We didn’t do that.  But we sang for everybody. We back grounded everyone mostly in this business. Wilson Pickett, you know - all those people. What I really liked to do is Gospel and all the rest of it, you know?”

Scott: “You created a unique background sound. I mean, it was very revolutionary for the time, right?”

Cissy: “Uh-huh”

Scott: “What was that?”

Cissy: “(We) Had four voices rather than three.”

Scott: “And there was a way that you kind would synch up with the lead singer and emphasize different parts of the music that brought something to it that no one else could do.”

Cissy: “Well, I don’t know whether they could do, but they didn’t. I did it and – because that’s the way I – and church makes you do that.”

Scott: “Right.”

Cissy: “You know, you going all kinds of ways in the church and the Spirit hit you in a lot of ways and that’s what we let it do. We let it hit us whenever we were singing.”
Scott: “So when you sing, it’s not just words on a piece –

Cissy: “No, no, no.”

Scott: “ -- of paper, its coming from your heart, and coming from your soul.”

Cissy: “Ah, yeah.”

Scott: “It’s the real deal.”

Cissy: “Yeah. It’s the real deal.”

When Cissy’s talented and beautiful daughter Whitney rocketed to superstardom it didn’t surprise anyone inside the music industry. It seemed natural for Whitney to follow in her songstress mother’s footsteps. How Whitney finally broke into music after refusing her first lucrative music contract is just one of the stories Cissy tells in her memoir, Remembering Whitney.

Scott: “Everyone wanted to sign her up.”

Cissy: “Uh-huh”

Scott: “What did you do with that?”

Cissy: “I didn’t. I said she was too young and she didn’t sign until she was about
18, 19, something like that, she was signed up.”

Scott: “Was there a moment in time where you said, ‘This girl’s got it? She's good.’”

Cissy: “Well, at 11years-old she had a very good start on it.”

Scott: “Did she?”

Cissy: “Oh yes, she did.”

Scott: “Did she enjoy it?”

Cissy: “I taught her. She loved to sing. That’s all she wanted to do was sing.” 

Scott: “Did you tutor her? Mentor her?”

Cissy: “Uh-huh. Every-everything she knew.”

Scott: “Did she like Gospel music?”

Cissy: “She liked – she loved Gospel music.”    

Cissy’s deep faith in God sustained her through the grief of Whitney’s tragic death. The superstar’s turbulent years never overshadowed Cissy’s love for her daughter.

Cissy: “God lives in your heart. And that’s Who you deal with most of the time. Me, I do. He guides me. And she learned to let Him guide her up to a point where she wouldn’t let Him guide her no more. So then you get in something that you may not – you know, that isn’t right for you.”

Cissy and Scott look at photographs together.

Scott: “This is, the cover of the book is a great photograph of you two here. But the shot that really, really hit me was this one on the back.”

Cissy: “Uh-huh. That’s the one I love.”

Scott: “I love this shot.”

Cissy: “That was in Europe and it was all people out there and I came to see her.  She didn’t know I was coming. And I showed up and she was singing and I came, went on stage. And they snapped a picture.”

Scott: “Mother and daughter”

Scott: “And now here you are with your daughter...

Cissy: “Ya, my baby.”

Scott:   “…singing together.”

Cissy: “At rehearsal.”

Scott: “Oh really?”

Cissy: “I think that’s rehearsal. Ya. We didn’t dress like that. It was rehearsal… All grown up.”

Scott: “Yep”

Cissy: “Yep, being a lady.”

Scott: “Well, she was.”

Scott: “Here she is with her baby.”

Cissy: “That’s where she is.”

Scott: “That’s a great shot.”

Cissy: “Isn’t that a great shot? Yep. So, you see, she was full of love too.”   

Scott: “The night before she died, her last public appearance she sang, Jesus Loves Me, This I Know.” 

Cissy: “That’s right.”

Scott: “That was the last performance, if you could call that a performance.”

Cissy: “I don’t know what it was, but that’s what was in her heart.”

Scott: “Right.”

Cissy: “That’s what it was.”

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