Kevin Costner’s Full Tribute to Whitney Houston at Pre-Grammys Gala
Kevin Costner honored music executive Clive Davis at Davis’ annual pre-Grammys gala at the Beverly Hilton on Saturday evening, thanking Davis for providing guidance to Whitney Houston since their collaboration on 1992’s “The Bodyguard” and shepherding the film’s hit song “I Will Always Love You.”
Costner’s speech for Davis touched on the music exec’s long, storied career and the pair’s personal relationship. The tribute carried particular weight in the room, as Houston died on the night of Davis’ pre-Grammys gala in 2012.
“Neither one of us in the end could protect your beloved Whitney, but your fingerprints on her life are clean my friend,” Costner said. “You were a miracle in her life. Thank you for being her bodyguard, Clive.”
Later in the evening, Jennifer Hudson also paid respects to Houston, giving a stirring performance of the singer’s “Greatest Love of All.”
Read Costner’s full speech below.
The first time I was ever in this room, I was in a rented tuxedo and watched Gregory Peck receive a lifetime achievement award. I was in awe. Honesty, I remember walking the red carpet that night, and saw the blinding lights of cameras going off. They were all focused on him — Atticus Finch — I’d never seen anything like it. I don’t think a single person took my picture as I passed the same spot.
I’ve been here many times since and I don’t think I ever felt that way again — until tonight, looking out at everyone, understanding we’ve all had our journeys. And somehow,I find myself standing here at the party of parties, uncertain and unsure, if I’m worthy of introducing Clive and honoring him.
These stages we aspire to, this room, where so much and so many have been celebrate can be one of the loneliest places in the world. And sometimes, the only way we can find ourselves stepping out on them, is if someone other than ourselves believes, imbues us with magical thinking that we belong: some greater faith in ourselves that we can’t muster alone. That’s Clive.
Nobody wants to put your life in reverse when you’ve been a successful as Clive. All the world sees is this. But somehow, this guy who has meant so much to so many in this room, had to find away to move forward…. When he found himself alone too early in his young life, he had to find a way to replace the loss, the hurt. He needed to find a way to recover from that blow. No one was betting on Clive Davis except Clive. And somehow through it all he stumbled into a dream that became his yellow brick road. You should be celebrated Clive, as a man who played fair in the lives and careers he promised to build…. You never pretended that you were them. It’s that understanding, that behavior, that care and attention to details, that allowed the artists around you to flourish. That awesome promise to protect, that manifests itself in this army of music seated here tonight.
It’s important that he hears the love coming his way. It’s not so important he finds the next single tonight. No demo’s in your pocket please. There’s no single here, Clive. There’s no hook for the moment. Let this just be about you for a couple more minutes.
It might be a surprise, but I don’t know Clive as well as most of you in this room. On the surface, we didn’t have much in common at all. We certainly shared a few things without knowing it. We both loved music. I can’t dance very well and he can’t dance at all. And we were both struck by Whitney the first time we saw her. Our journey towards each other started the day Lawrence Kasdan gave me the script of ‘The Bodyguard’ and the day Clive signed Whitney Houston. Whitney would be our common ground. And from that moment, the elements were in play that would one day come together like a force of nature so powerful, that the entire world, for one period of time it seemed, was focused on this little country song.
How do any three people find each other in this world in this business? It really doesn’t matter who we are or where we begin. It’s only about the intersection, how we come together, and what we make of that fateful union. Whitney had become the most celebrated singer of her generation. But she was also an untrained actress and it was unclear if this was something that she should aspire to, or even something that was good for her career.
All three of us would take a huge leap of faith — maybe the biggest, the hardest, was for Clive. I needed to believe that I could make the movie that I was imagining. Whitney saw it as a chance to reinvent herself. But for Clive, it was a career move that had a recipe for disaster written all over it. I needed Clive. I needed his trust and his blessing. And I needed the one thing that he wasn’t use to giving up — control. All the things he’s known for, all the things he’s done for so many in this room, all the things that make him great –that would not be the ground he was standing.
We were set up to be mortal enemies if you think about it. This could only go one way and if it didn’t go right I would have never been invited. For Clive, ‘The Bodyguard’ will always be about the singer. It would be about Whitney. And that was alright with me. My mother had her own view of it, but I asked her to stay out of it. But in this instance, Clive was right. If Whitney didn’t work, the movie doesn’t.
That clarity, that single mindedness, is what I love about Clive. It’s a language I understand when it’s thoughtful and smart. It’s what we all wanted out here in this unforgiving town: someone who could see us as we are, someone who was willing to put us first. I felt that from Clive when he threw his soul into a song he was unsure of at first. His belief in me and what he heard overruled any pettiness a normal executive might have had. A lesser man would have dismissed or picked another single. But not Clive. He refused to let his ego stand in the way of his artists opportunity and single-handedly drove that song that helped carry the movie to success.
‘I Will Always Love You’ was number one in the world before the movie even came out. And thanks to the musical guidance of David Foster and the voice that came out of that little body that night in the studio, we have a performance of a lifetime. We’re all chasing dreams here, rarely crossing paths. But sometimes we do, through fate or destiny.
When we met Clive, it altered our lives for the better and, in some cases, forever. Clive’s not just a man of his time, but, maybe more importantly, a man who changed the times he lived in. He did it by listening. He did by believing in himself and never believing he was you. He believed in the special gifts his artists blessed with.
The only thing better than being one of his artists is maybe being his friend. We are an odd couple for sure, but we share an innate trust in each other. We kept our unspoken promise to each other when so much was at stake.
And now I say something I’ve never said to you before. Maybe this isn’t the room, but I don’t want to miss the moment and it’s from the heart.
Neither one of us in the end could protect your beloved Whitney, but your fingerprints on her life are clean my friend. You were a miracle in her life. Thank you for being her bodyguard, Clive. And for every person in this room you have stood behind and stood for. Everyone in this business has a mom, but not everyone gets a Clive. You need to come out here. This is your stage.