Pastor Donnie McClurkin of Freeport's Perfecting Faith Church remembers being pulled into his friend Whitney Houston's dressing room at a recent awards show.
“She was shaking,” McClurkin remembers. “She was nervous. She said, 'Oh Donnie, pray for me. I have people saying I'm doing this, I'm doing that. I haven't done anything in months. But if I go out there and sing and my voice cracks, they're going to say that it's because of what I've been doing.'”
“I can't deal with this,” Houston told him.
McClurkin said he sat with her and held her hand.
“First of all, you're going to calm down,” he told her. “Everybody that's judging you is made out of the same thing that I'm holding in my hand – flesh.”
Then, they prayed.
“We prayed until she calmed down,” McClurkin said this afternoon. “Then, she went out there and was the quintessential Whitney Houston. But nobody knows the pressures that she's had to go under – having to live out her marriage in the public's eye, having to become a mother in the public's eye. The whole iconic issue added more pressure to what was already there. That's part and parcel of celebrity, but it's also so unfair.”
McClurkin will be one of several singers, including Stevie Wonder, paying tribute to Houston at her private funeral tomorrow at the New Hope Baptist Church in Newark. He will perform his song “Stand” during the service, which features the lines, “When there's nothing left to do, you just stand, watch the Lord see you through... Yes, after you done all you can, you just stand.”
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“It's a song I wrote a while ago – Whitney loved it, Dr. Cissy [Houston, Whitney's mother] loved it,” McClurkin said. “That's what they asked me to sing.”
McClurkin said he has been close to Houston for years, getting to know her through his late sister, Olivia, who was one of Houston's backing vocalists.
“Whenever she would see you, she would grab you by your face, kiss on you and then just catch up on everything,” McClurkin said. “It was that kind of genuine love that really made her family... No matter when you saw Whitney, she was always going to be full of life, even if she was going through hell herself. She always made it about you. This is not just romanticizing Whitney. This is the real Whitney. She was never going to get into what she was going through. Her concern was about you more than anybody else.”
McClurkin said he didn't see much of Houston in recent years, their meetings confined usually to airports and awards shows. He was shocked when he learned of her death while he was on tour in Nigeria.
“I don't know the demons Whitney had to fight with,” he said. “I don't know the pressures she was under, the pressures of a whole globe that knows you, of a whole globe that expects something from you and how critical people are... There's no fault here. It was just a horrific loss of life.”