Whitney Houston’s ‘I Go to the Rock’ brings singer’s faith front and center



Music icon would have turned 60 this year.

On Aug. 9, Whitney Houston, the iconic singer who never shied away from her musical roots in the church, would have turned 60.

So, perhaps it’s only fitting that the first posthumous CD project takes fans back to the six-time Grammy-winning singer’s roots.

“I Go To The Rock: The Gospel Music Of Whitney Houston,” is a well-rounded 14-track collection of gospel music, including six previously unreleased recordings by Houston, who died 11 years ago.

It’s no coincidence that the project and a related documentary about her life are happening this year in observance of her 60th year.

“I thought it would be something very special to do for her,” said Pat Houston, her sister-in-law and executor of her estate. “She loved birthdays. She loved Easter and, of course, gospel has always been the center of her gravity.”

Pat Houston said Houston had a vision about a gospel show in the Holy Land that would have aired around Easter. Houston traveled to Israel around 2003 with then-husband Bobby Brown.



Houston was one of three children of Cissy Houston, a soul and gospel singer who sang backup for the likes of Aretha Franklin and Dionne Warwick and also had her own solo career.

The family’s home was always filled with gospel music.

“This is not her first rodeo in terms of introduction to ... gospel,” said Gary Houston, the singer’s brother, who lives in north Fulton County. “She’s been doing this for a long time. Ever since she was a teenager she was singing gospel and listening to gospel, hearing the word of God around our home when we were growing up. The Drinkard Singers. My mother, Cissy Houston, was the founder of the Drinkard Singers. ... They rehearsed in our home night and day. So we grew up with that energy, that vibration, that spirit. Just knowing what our connection with the creator was about.”

That upbringing is magnified through this project, said Gary Houston, a former NBA player who also toured with his sister.

“It’s just genuine,” he said, adding he wants his sister’s fans and music lovers to know what was really important to her.



Sure, she was an iconic singer who sold over 200 million records worldwide with a string of No. 1 hits and albums, but faith gave her spiritual grounding. Even in her live performances, Houston would tone it down to include a gospel song.

She would tell audiences that “God loves you, like he loves me,” he said.

Gospel fans flocked to buy the 1996 soundtrack to the film “The Preacher’s Wife,” which included “Joy” and “I Go to the Rock” (the title of Whitney Houston’s new CD). The soundtrack became an instant hit, climbing to the top of the charts.

Pat Houston said they wanted to bring back some of that music, but they also knew that fans wanted to hear new material.

With a project of this magnitude, “we had to come with something very special,” said Pat Houston.

If the blues and gospel music had a child, it would be “He Can Use Me,” one of the standouts on the project.

“Testimony” was recorded when Whitney Houston was 17 years old. It simultaneously demonstrates her raw vocal power and innocence.

Music executive Steven Abdul Khan Brown told The Hollywood Reporter he remembers being captivated by a young Houston while listening to her belt out a song in her church in Newark, New Jersey.

“Lord, I’ve died and went to heaven,” Khan Brown told the publication. “I thought my ears were going through something. She started hitting notes. People were laying on the floor and caught up in the spirit. I’m still in a state of shock.”

In “Bridge Over Trouble Waters,” Houston is joined by longtime friend and gospel performer CeCe Winans, which the two women performed live in 1995 at the VH1 Honors telecast and it was an unreleased single. The duo had a Top 10 hit in 1996 with “Count on Me.”

There are also several tracks recorded with the Georgia Mass Choir.

The accompanying TV documentary and DVD of the same name, hosted by Winans and produced by Barry Jennings, follows Houston’s gospel journey.

This is really testament to how God used her when she was alive and now in death, said Gary Houston.

“That impact, that energy, that love ... it’s still in effect today.”