The scramble to honor Whitney Houston at Grammys

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by CBS News

khou.com

Posted on February 13, 2012 at 12:27 PM

(CBS News) -- Word that superstar Whitney Houston had died came the day before the music world’s biggest night - the Grammy Awards telecast.

Executive Producer Ken Ehrlich is the man who pulled it off.

“What we needed to do was find a balance,” he told “CBS This Morning” co-host Gayle King Monday. “ ... I had worked with Whitney any number of times, and so, basically, had a lot of people that work on the show. We work these kind of shows. We work specials and music shows. So it was pretty devastating, basically, to most of our staff. But we realized that, while we really needed to do something and needed to do something appropriate, we felt that we didn’t—we couldn’t lose sight of what the Grammys are all about: celebrating great music. And so many other acts had worked so hard to get to that night and had these years that had brought them to us that we really didn’t want to let this one thing overtake the whole show.

“Interestingly enough, I didn’t think we had to start over. What I really thought was we needed to find those spots where we could do something. We needed to respond, script-wise, to what LL (Cool J) would say when he came out. (The prayer he did) was definitely his idea. It was pretty wonderful.

“From the beginning, if you set a tone, you can carry that tone through. With Jennifer (Hudson, who was flown in at the last minute and performed Houston’s signature “I Will Always Love You”), I don’t think it was a half-hour, 45 minutes after we learned what had happened that I called ... Jennifer’s manager and said, ‘We’d love to have you as a part of this. Is Jennifer up for it?’ He said ‘absolutely.’ Then I called ... Whitney’s first musical director ... a longtime friend of ours ... and I said ... “I need you to help.”

Having Bruce Springsteen start the broadcast with his new song, “We Take Care of Our Own” worked, Ehrlich says. “It’s endemic. It’s unbelievable. As LL (Cool J) said in his opening after that, you know, Bruce is one of the few people in our business who is the conscience of our business. ... He speaks for us. That was why I wanted him to open with that.”

In the end, says Ehrlich, “We knew as that show was going along how well it was going. What a vibe it had. The right tone of Whitney. Everything really worked together.”

 

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