Whitney Houston's skills as an R&B and pop singer made her a blockbuster act in the '80s and '90s, but the late singer had a deep, familial passion for gospel that she only partially explored during her too-brief career. A new compilation and documentary due in March will change that.
I Go to the Rock: The Gospel Music of Whitney Houston is a new 14-track collection featuring hymns and spirituals Houston recorded throughout her time as a professional singer. Most of the songs stem from soundtracks, one of the few places she flexed her muscles within the genre (on 1992's juggernaut The Bodyguard and more notably on 1996's The Preacher's Wife); six of the tracks are previously unreleased, and at least one was recorded in 1981, before Houston signed a deal with Clive Davis' Arista Records. The unreleased "Testimony" can be heard below; the set also includes a stirring cover of Simon & Garfunkel's "Bridge Over Troubled Water" performed live on VH1 in the mid-'90s alongside gospel icon CeCe Winans.
Singing was of course in Whitney's blood, but so was gospel music: her mother Cissy was a member of The Drinkard Singers and The Gospelaires (who later changed their name to The Sweet Inspirations and were renowned for touring with Elvis Presley). It was at the New Hope Baptist Church in her native Newark where Whitney discovered her voice as a choir member and later soloist. Pat Houston, Whitney's sister-in-law and the executor of her estate, in a statement calls this gospel collection "a testament of Whitney's heart...her love for gospel music permeates through every song with love, compassion and conviction."
An accompanying documentary of the same name will dive deeper into Whitney's gospel roots, with commentary from host CeCe Winans and even more live spiritual performances listed below. The special will air on the UPtv and AspireTV networks and will also receive a DVD release on an unconfirmed date.
Both the album and the documentary will premiere Friday, March 24. Full track listings and pre-order links are below.
* previously unreleased
- I Go to the Rock (with The Georgia Mass Choir)
- Jesus Loves Me (The Bodyguard Soundtrack)
- He Can Use Me *
- Joy to the World (with The Georgia Mass Choir)
- Bridge Over Troubled Water (Live on VH1 Honors, 1995) - Whitney Houston & CeCe Winans *
- Testimony *
- I Look to You
- His Eye is on the Sparrow (Sparkle soundtrack)
- Hold On, Help Is on the Way (with The Georgia Mass Choir)
- This Day (VH1 Honors) *
- I Found a Wonderful Way *
- I Love the Lord (with The Georgia Mass Choir)
- He/I Believe *
Tracks 1, 4, 9, 12 and 13 released on The Preacher's Wife (Original Soundtrack Album) - Arista 07822 18951-2, 1996
Track 2 released on The Bodyguard (Original Soundtrack Album) - Arista ARCD 8699, 1992
Track 7 released on I Look to You - Arista 88697 10033-2, 2009
Track 8 released on Sparkle (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack) - RCA 88725 42046-2, 2012
Performances featured in the documentary
- I Go to the Rock (with The Georgia Mass Choir) (Saturday Night Live, 1996)
- Guide Me O Thou, Great Jehovah (The Arsenio Hall Show, 1990)
- This Day (VH1 Honors, 1995)
- Jesus Loves Me (Live in Santiago, Chile, 1994)
- Wonderful Counselor - Whitney, Cissy, & Gary Houston (American Music Awards, 1988)
- Hold Up the Light - Whitney Houston and Bebe & Cece Winans (21st NAACP Image Awards, 1989)
- Bridge Over Troubled Water - Whitney Houston and Cece Winans (VH1 Honors, 1995)
- I Look to You (2009)
- I Love the Lord (with The Georgia Mass Choir) (50th Anniversary of Ebony Magazine TV Special, 1996)
- Joy to the World (with The Georgia Mass Choir) (50th Anniversary of Ebony Magazine TV Special, 1996)