07.02.2019

EXCLUSIVE! “New” Whitney Houston Single Is 30 Years In The Making! Veteran Producer Narada Michael Walden Talks About Recording The Vocal Track

EXCLUSIVE! “New” Whitney Houston Single Is 30 Years In The Making!  Veteran Producer Narada Michael Walden Talks About Recording The Vocal Track

By Michael P Coleman

Whitney Houston fans got a surprise late last week when her estate released a cover of Steve Winwood’s & Chaka Khan’s “Higher Love,” featuring a new production bed by Norwegian DJ and producer Kygo.

That surprise was 30 years in the making. 

whitney waldenThe new single’s original, transcendent vocal was recorded with legendary producer and longtime Houston collaborator Narada Michael Walden in 1989, as the pair was working on songs for what was to be Houston’s third album, I’m Your Baby Tonight. Walden had worked with Houston since her debut album’s “How Will I Know” and had produced several hits for the singer by that time, including “I Wanna Dance With Somebody (Who Loves Me),” “So Emotional,” “Where Do Broken Hearts Go,” and “One Moment In Time.”

During our EXCLUSIVE conversation just after the new single’s release, Walden said he couldn’t be happier about Houston’s fans finally getting to experience the thrill he enjoyed when they recorded the song. 

“I always knew in my heart and mind that one day ‘Higher Love’ would resurface, because she sang it so great,” Walden enthused.  “Whitney and I were very close. We’d discuss music all of the time, we both loved ‘Higher Love,’ and we had a fun time discussing what we could do with it. So I decided to surprise her by cutting the track at my studio in San Rafael, with a full choir.” 

“When I played it for Whitney, she got so thrilled and excited,” Walden continued.  “She just sang like crazy! And the ending was super long. It just kept going and going and going, ‘cause she had so much spirit about it.” 

“When she heard the choir come in, she went to a whole new gear, man! That’s when it really exploded!  We were all elated in the studio. I’ll never forget it!”

If you’re a fan of Houston’s, you won’t forget the experience of hearing her version of “Higher Love” either.  She never sounded better, Kygo’s new production bed is absolute fire, and the song carries an inspirational message that we could all use today.  

Curiously, Walden’s and Houston’s original production of “Higher Love” was never released stateside, showing up only as a bonus track on the Japanese version of I’m Your Baby Tonight. I wondered whether the artistic success of the song led the pair to cover another Khan classic, “I’m Every Woman” a couple of years later.

“Chaka is Whitney’s inspiration, so there’s a thread there. But that was a Whitney call,” Walden shared. “She called me on the phone and asked if I would cut it with her for the movie she was working on, The Bodyguard.  I jumped on it and God blessed us.”

Walden told me he was commissioned to record his own update of “Higher Love” late last year.  While his unreleased 2018 production rocks, the groundbreaking producer had nothing but praise for Kygo and the new single.

“I give Kygo a lot of props, a lot of love,” Walden said. “He did a nice sample thing on it, which is very unusual, and that’s really his trademark. He stepped up and did a wonderful job.”

In addition to singing Kygo’s praises, Walden wanted to thank recording industry mogul and Houston mentor Clive Davis for his open mind with regard to preserving Houston’s legacy.

“At one time, Clive was thinking we shouldn’t do anything on Whitney right now,” Walden recalled, "but when he heard this, when he heard this heat, he said ‘I changed my mind, man!’”

And there’s more great news for Houston fans: there’s been discussion of a full album being released, featuring more vintage Houston vocals with new tracks for today’s music fans.

“Clive said if ‘Higher Love’ is successful, I should start thinking about an album,” Walden shared, “so that’s what I’m doing right now.  I would suggest we take some of the songs that we’ve done that didn’t get the single exposure, songs like ‘I Belong To You,’ take those lead vocals, which are stellar, and make them current again. Whitney’s vocals have fire and heat on them, and we could blow them up!” 

My answer to that?  BRING ME A HIGHER LOVE!

Kygo and Whitney Houston’s “Higher Love” is available at all major digital outlets.

Mike Coleman headshotonly nologo 300Click here to connect with freelance writer Michael P Coleman, click here to check out his blog, or click here to follow him on Twitter.