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New Whitney Houston book recalls singer's musical magic

By Sue Zeidler

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - A new book on Whitney Houston by her early producer seeks to tell the story of the rise to stardom of the pop diva who died nine months ago.

Emmy and Grammy-winning producer Narada Michael Walden, who produced many of Houston's early hits, like "How Will I Know" and "I Wanna Dance With Somebody," appeared at the Grammy Museum in Los Angeles on Wednesday to discuss the book and perform some of the songs he collaborated on.

"Her death was so shocking and sudden that I wanted to create something to keep alive the beautiful aspects of her life. The media was lashing out on the addiction and ignoring her musical genius," Walden told Reuters.

Since she drowned in a bathtub on February 11 after taking cocaine, Houston's music and life have generated a TV tribute with Jennifer Hudson, Usher and others, a greatest hits CD, a coffee table book of photos and a TV reality show starring family members.

Walden's book "Whitney Houston: The Voice, the Music, the Inspiration," co-written with Richard Buskin, describes how Walden first met the singer when she was 13 and accompanied her mother to the studio. Walden was working on a record with her mom, soul and gospel singer Cissy Houston.

Walden said he all but forgot the young pretty girl until he got a call from Arista records in 1984, while working on an Aretha Franklin record, and was told to "make the time" to work on Houston's debut album.

Walden said Janet Jackson's management turned down the chance to record "How Will I Know" and that he rewrote it to make it catchier for Houston, who with her five-octave vocal range, recorded the 1985 No.1 song in only one take.

"The first take was the keeper. Instead of laboring on it for the better part of a day or even longer, we were done in a matter of minutes," he said, noting Houston always worked fast.

Walden, who also produced for Ray Charles, Stevie Wonder and Barbra Streisand, collaborated with Houston on "So Emotional," "One Moment in Time" and "I'm Every Woman" from the film, "The Bodyguard."

Walden and Houston went in different directions by the late 1990s, but he would see her at the annual pre-Grammy party hosted by her long-time mentor, record industry mogul Clive Davis.

At the 2011 Davis party, Houston sat with her daughter, Bobbi Kristina - then 17 - who exclaimed she wanted to sing and work with Walden. "But Whitney gave me a look that said 'Slow down. I've been down that road....and I'm not sure I want to curse her with that'," he said.

Walden said he would now welcome the opportunity to work with Houston's daughter, who has become a fixture of gossip blogs and tabloids.

"If she wants to, I'd love to produce her and keep alive the professional image of her mother and focus on the positive," he said.

(Reporting By Susan Zeidler, editing by Jill Serjeant and Andrew Hay)

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