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New Whitney Houston book recalls singer's musical magic

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.

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    Whitney Houston: 1963-2012

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    Whitney Houston, seen here at the 2009 American Music Awards in Los Angeles, has died at age 48 after an acclaimed career and a life that kept her in tabloid headlines. Stardom was in Houston's family -- mom Cissy Houston is a Grammy-winning singer, Dionne Warwick is her cousin, and Aretha Franklin was her godmother.

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    Producer Clive Davis and Houston appear onstage at the 2011 Pre-Grammy Gala and Salute To Industry Icons Honoring David Geffen at the Beverly Hilton on Feb. 12, 2011, in Beverly Hills, Calif. Nearly one year later almost to the day, Houston would be found dead at the same hotel.

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    Houston performs at the O2 Arena in London on April 25, 2010.

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    Houston, cousin Dionne Warwick and Houston's teenage daughter, Bobbi Kristina Brown, arrive at the 2011 Pre-Grammy Gala in 2011.

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    Houston speaks during the 51st Annual Grammy Awards in Los Angeles in 2009. Six Grammys were among her lifetime total of more than 400 musical honors.

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    Dionne Warwick, Houston and Natalie Cole perform together during a tour in Germany in 2009, the first time the three had ever sung together.

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    Brown and Houston perform during the "VH1 Divas" duets show in Las Vegas in 2003. They wed in 1992, and she gave birth to daughter Bobbi Kristina a year later. The couple divorced in 2007.

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    Houston holds her Grammy award for Best Female Rythm and Blues Vocal Performance for "It's Not Right But It's Okay" at the 2000 Grammy Awards.

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    Houston and Brown are seen in a Georgia court in 2002. He had been arrested on an outstanding bench warrant for a 1996 DUI.

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    Houston and Brown are seen with daughter Bobbi Kristina, then 6, in 1998.

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    Houston was honored at the 1994 Grammys, winning record of the year for "I Will Always Love You" and album of the year for the soundtrack from her movie "The Bodyguard." She is shown with producer David Foster, who shared the honors with her.

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    In the 1992 film "The Bodyguard," Kevin Costner plays a bodyguard hired to protect Houston's character, a singer, from an unknown stalker.

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    Houston's performance of the national anthem at the 1991 Super Bowl is thought by some to be one of the best versions of the song ever sung. It was released as a single and reached the Top 20.

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    Houston performing in 1988.

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    Early days -

    Houston belts out a song in 1986. Even before she became known as a singer, Houston gained fame as a model, and perennial Seventeen Magazine cover girl. She was one of the first women of color to make the teen magazine's cover.

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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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