Whitney Houston Did Her First Studio Session at Age 14 With This Diva

Whitney Houston remains regarded by many to be one of the greatest singers of all time. The Grammy-winning artist and actor was destined for greatness from a young age, and she worked with many of music’s biggest legends throughout her career.

Whitney Houston speaks onstage at the Songwriters Hall of Fame Awards
Whitney Houston speaks onstage at the Songwriters Hall of Fame Awards | Scott Gries/ImageDirect

Whitney Houston started singing at a young age

Everyone in Whitney Houston’s orbit knew at a young age that she possessed a talent that had never been seen before. Her mother, Cissy Houston, was a gospel singer and got her daughter into singing herself. Houston started performing as a soloist at their church at 11 years old.

Houston was a member of the group The Sweet Inspirations, who opened for and sang backup for rock ‘n roll icon Elvis Presley. As a teenager, she sometimes went with her mother to the venues where she’d perform and sometimes would join her on stage.

Whitney Houston Performs In Paris Bercy On May 18th, 1988 In Paris, France | Frederic Reglain/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images
Whitney Houston Performs In Paris Bercy On May 18th, 1988 In Paris, France | Frederic Reglain/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images

Whitney Houston had an experienced guide for her first studio session

When it came time for Houston’s first studio session, she had a little guidance from someone who was experienced in the music business: R&B icon Chaka Khan. Khan spoke about the experience in an interview with VladTV.

“I was actually the first person she recorded with in the studio. She was 14,” Khan said. “Her mother was my main background woman when I did studio work. Cissy sang background on all my ’80s stuff.”

It wasn’t long before Cissy Houston wanted to get Whitney involved. “One day, she says to me, ‘You know, I got a daughter,'” Khan recalled. “I said, ‘Can she sing?’ She said, ‘She can really sing.'” Khan invited them both to the studio and she became one of her backup singers along with her mother.

Chaka Khan performs during the 2019 New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival 50th Anniversary
Chaka Khan performs during the 2019 New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival 50th Anniversary | Tim Mosenfelder/WireImage

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Whitney Houston had a famous godmother

While Khan was new to Houston’s talent, another diva was already familiar with the child prodigy. The Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin, first met Houston when she was just 9 years old, and eventually became her godmother.

“I met Whitney when her mother, Cissy, who was singing with me, brought her to one of my recording sessions,” Franklin told Rolling Stone after her goddaughter’s death in 2012, recalling her “little red pigtails and her hair parted in the middle.”

Houston would later become a godmother herself, but on the screen instead. She personally asked Brandy to star in the 1997 film version of Cinderella, and the young R&B singer only agreed to do the project if Houston, her musical idol, appeared in the movie as her fairy godmother.

“By the time she was a young lady, Luther Vandross and I were talking about her,” Franklin remembered about Houston. “She knew how to be glamorous and graceful. She had class. She knew where she was going. It was clear her and her mother both had a similar quality to their voices — the genetics were just unbelievable. Just like her mom, she was one of the great sopranos.”