Whitney Houston Toasted By R. Kelly, Monica On 49th Birthday

By Rob Markman

Whitney Houston‘s death was a huge blow for the industry and fans worldwide, but the iconic singer is not forgotten. Today, on what would’ve been her 49th birthday (August 9), stars remember the fallen legend.

“We challenged each other a lot in the studio from the first moment we laid eyes on each other, but it was a lot of fun,” R. Kelly told MTV News of his and Whitney’s dynamic when working on the music for the soundtrack to “Sparkle,” which opens August 17. “Whitney was a ball of fun.”

Sure, there were tragic parts of Whitney’s career. It’s impossible to examine her life and gloss over her battle with drugs and run-ins with the law, but her troubles are eclipsed by the positivity that she brought to the lives of loved ones and fellow artists.

In April, Monica, who not only idolized Whitney but formed a close relationship with the pop icon, reminisced on the Houston she knew personally. “Losing somebody that you idolize is one thing, but losing a friend is another thing,” Monica told MTV News. “I look back over many, many years of my life, and Whitney wasn’t the type of person that would call and ask if I was OK — she would actually fly to me. She would come looking for me, she would sit with me.”

For Monica, though, it’s Whitney’s musical legacy that will endure. “I really appreciate the fact that for almost three decades she gave us music that will last,” she said. “My grandchildren will know exactly who she is; my great-grandchildren will know exactly who Whitney Houston is.”

Kells described Houston as a sibling. “She reminded me of my sister, whom I used to argue with all the time over music,” he said. “And that’s what me and Whitney did: We argued over White Castles, we argued over what note she wanted to hit, what note I wanted her to hit. But it was fun; at the end of the day, we got it done.”