Whitney Houston's legacy is being celebrated this fall with a greatest hits album, a coffee-table book and TV specials, but it's the just-released duet with R. Kelly, I Look to You, that will immediately remind people why the late singer was called "The Voice."
Her career-long mentor Clive Davis says the song is a new version of the title track of her 2009 album, which its producer and songwriter Kelly passionately sang at her funeral in New Jersey in February. Davis, Sony Music's chief creative officer, says the previously unused vocal tracks were made at an unscheduled recording session while she was working on her final album. She had given up smoking for two weeks while getting dental work done in Los Angeles, and the effect on her voice was striking.
"She did two verses and a chorus, and it's just terribly sad that this incredible, unique treasure is not here anymore," says Davis, who adds that the outpouring for Kelly's performance of the inspirational ballad was so great that he asked the R&B singer to create the new version. The song will be included on the 18-track tribute album I Will Always Love You: The Best of Whitney Houston, which will be released Nov. 13.
"I really wanted the public to hear Whitney with her voice intact," he says. "Tragically, it shows what her voice could have sounded like if, as she had promised me that week she passed away, that she was going to give up cigarettes entirely."
Houston, 48, accidentally drowned in a bathtub Feb. 11 at the Beverly Hilton hotel in Los Angeles, just hours before Davis' annual pre-Grammy Awards gala there. She had struggled for years with substance abuse and was a frequent subject of tabloid reports.
The new album will include original versions of her 16 biggest-selling songs, including the title track, Saving All My Love For You, I'm Every Woman, I'm Your Baby Tonight and You Give Good Love. (Remix versions of several songs were used on 2000's Whitney: The Greatest Hits.) It will also include the previously unreleased Never Give Up, which was written by Jermaine Dupri, Bryan-Michael Cox and Junta Austin.
The album isn't the only event celebrating Houston this fall. A photo book, Whitney: Tribute to An Icon, comes out Nov. 27. The 196-page coffee-table book (Atria, $40) features the work of Randee St. Nicholas, one of 22 well-known photographers who donated 130 images to the project. St. Nicholas, Davis and Houston's sister-in-law and manager Pat Houston contribute essays.
Pat Houston says it brings to fruition something the singer had wanted to do for her fans, and the photographs, many never before published, capture some of the greatest moments of her career. It spans her beginnings as a 19-year-old ingenue and closes with a photo of Houston with her 19-year-old daughter, Bobbi Kristina.
"You can just see the glow and brilliance of her smile, and you can't hear the vocals -- but you can -- because she's putting everything she has into that moment when she's being photographed," she says.
The lives of Houston's family as they continue to cope with their loss will be chronicled in The Houstons: On Our Own, which premieres Oct. 24 on Lifetime with back-to-back half-hour episodes (9 p.m. ET/PT). Pat Houston is one of the show's executive producers. Lifetime will also air a one-hour special, Remembering Whitney, Oct. 17 (9 p.m. ET/PT), that will feature home videos and interviews with the singer's mother Cissy, brother Gary, and Bobbi Kristina and Pat.
On Nov. 5, Home Shopping Network devotes its HSN Live show to Houston, with Davis, producer David Foster (I Will Always Love You) and others talking about the stories behind many of the singer's biggest hits. An exclusive pre-order version of the greatest hits album will include a bonus CD with five duets: Hold Me (Teddy Pendergrass); If You Say My Eyes Are Beautiful (Jermaine Jackson); I Know Him So Well (Cissy Houston); It Isn't, It Wasn't, It Isn't Never Gonna Be (Aretha Franklin); and Count on Me (CeCe Winans).
Davis says he thinks that history will treat Houston kindly despite the swirl of negative publicity that surrounded her lifestyle and death.
"Her legacy is based on what she was able to accomplish and the impact that she and her records had," Davis says. "The fact that she was not able to deal with the lethal power of drugs is so sad. She was trying so hard to overcome this disease, and she had the hearts of so many hoping and praying for her."