As we look back on the life of the late Whitney Houston, who died at the age of 48 on Feb. 11, it’s nearly impossible to choose her best performance. But in the video above, take a look at her first.
On April 29, 1985, a teenage Houston made her national television debut on “The Merv Griffin Show.” In an off-the-shoulder gown, she stepped onto the stage with clenched hands to sing a cover of “Home” from “The Wiz.”
Then-Arista Records head Clive Davis introduced Houston to world on the late night show. He’d seen her at a New York nightclub, signed her and helped her become one of the biggest selling artists in music history.
Before she belted the song — which was originally sung on the stage by Stephanie Mills and Diana Ross in the 1978 film adaptation — Davis sung Houston’s praises to Griffin before anyone knew her name.
“There was Lena Horne. There is Dionne Warwick. But if the mantle is to pass to somebody who’s 19, who’s elegant, who’s sensuous, who’s innocent, who’s got an incredible range of talent, but guts and soul at the same time, it will be Whitney Houston in my opinion,” Davis said. “It’s her natural charm. You either got it or you don’t have it. She’s got it.”
Of course, it was just the first of many impressive performances from Houston, who flashed her signature smile and blew kisses to the crowd after hitting her final note.
“We won’t forget that name,” Griffin said after the singer wowed Griffin, the studio audiences and all of America watching. “Whitney Houston.”