American Dispatch: Mourning Whitney Houston On Music’s Biggest Night

By: FOX News Radio Entertainment Correspondent Sabrina Sabbagh in Los Angeles

Less than 24 hours after Whitney Houston’s death, celebrities were walking the red carpet at the Grammys, making a point to talk about the impact the iconic singer had on their lives, whether it was true, or not.  They gave their condolences to Houston’s family while smiling for the camera.  It was a strange environment, to say the least.

But that was to be expected since just the night before; a pre-Grammy party was in full swing at the Beverly Hilton, only a few floors away from Whitney Houston’s body, which still lay in her hotel room.  But as I was told by many of her celebrity friends, the show must go on.  “That’s what Whitney would have wanted,” they’d say before walking into the Staples Center for the show.

Oh yeah, the show.  There was one, after all.  However, it felt more like I was covering a memorial than an awards show. Host LL Cool J kicked the night off with a prayer for Whitney Houston where LL asked a room full of Atheists, Scientologists, Kabbalists, and whatever other religion is currently trending on twitter, to bow their heads, and they did. He even got a rousing “Amen!” at the end.

And just like that, we were off and running.  I sat in the press room watching the winners parade through.  They were smiling and waving and of course many were talking about Whitney.  Her voice, her influence, her everything.  It started to get to be a little much for my taste.

I mean, I was there to report on the Grammys, to ask artists what projects they were working on, to ask what music fans would be hearing this year and I could tell they wanted to talk about it, but dare to say something not Whitney related?  Not likely.  It was clear that the publicists had been hard at work, briefing their stars on Whitney-isms and coaching them on how to appear as heartbroken as their peers.

Fast forward a few hours and enter Jennifer Hudson, who was magnificent.  Let me let you in on a little secret: when you picture me or any other reporter covering the Grammys, Oscars, or any other major awards show, it is not AT ALL what you imagine.  It’s loud and crowded with little work space.  We watch the show on monitors so we can interview the winners as they come backstage, reporters talk amongst themselves or take frantic calls from their editors about this or that. Getting any work done in the media room is harder than herding cats.  But when Jennifer Hudson took the stage, when that one single spotlight focused on her, in that elegant black dress and she let out that first note, the room fell silent.

Jennifer has an amazing voice, that’s a given, but it was the emotion attached to her performance that made it so moving. All of us in the media room knew why she was so heartbroken by the loss of the singing legend.  Whitney Houston was truly her Idol.  When Hudson won her first Grammy in 2009, Houston was the one who presented her with the award. During her rendition of “I will always love you,” Hudson took a breath, choked back some tears and ended the song with the lyrics, “Whitney, we will always love you.”

In a room full of sometimes jaded, always frantic reporters, it is hard to make us stop and absorb what is happening in front of us, because it usually isn’t anything real.  This tribute was so refreshingly sincere that it was impossible not to get caught up in it.  It was finally, an appropriate response to the loss of one of the truly great vocalists of our time.  If the show must go on, Jennifer Hudson is living proof.

Listen to some of Sabrina Sabbagh’s reporting from the Grammy Awards HERE: