The BET Awards gathered some of the biggest stars in music on one stage. But Cissy Houston’s emotional tribute to her late daughter, Whitney, moved the awards show audience to a realm that transcended music.

One-time rival Mariah Carey opened up the tribute, her voice quivering with emotion. She told stories about her time out on the road with Houston in the late ’90s during promotion for their duet for The Prince of Egypt film.

“I miss my friend,” Carey said. “I miss hearing her voice and laughter.”

R&B vocalist Monica delivered a heartfelt version of “I Love The Lord,” a gospel song sang by Houston. Brandy tackled the diva’s more upbeat material on spirited renditions of “I Wanna Dance With Somebody” and “I’m Your Baby Tonight.” And Chaka Khan performed her mammoth hit “I’m Every Woman,” a song that was brilliantly covered by Houston for The Bodyguard soundtrack.

But it was Cissy Houston’s heartbreaking performance that brought the audience to its feet following an introduction by Whitney’s brother Gary Houston. Cissy’s heartfelt performance of “Bridge Over Troubled Water” left many in the audience in tears, including Beyonce.

“This is for you, Nip,” Cissy said, referring to Whitney’s family nickname. Judging by the emotional audience response, it was also for many who felt the loss.

Kanye West and Jay-Z were the night’s biggest award winners as The Throne won the trophy for Best Group and Video of the Year. Jay joined Kanye onstage. “Excuse me, Kanye,” he interrupted, “I’m a let you continue, but … ”

His joke was a reference to West’s infamous stage bumrush of Taylor Swift in defense of Beyonce at the 2009 MTV Video Music Awards. Kanye shot back, “I was trying to defend your girl.”

Of course Bey did not leave empty handed. The multi-talented singer picked up awards for Best Female R&B Artist and Video Director of the Year, which she shared with Alan Ferguson

– Keith Murphy, CBS Local


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