The music stopped for a moment at Clive Davis' annual, star-packed Pre-Grammy Gala on Saturday at the Beverly Hilton -- where, just a few hours before, Whitney Houston was pronounced dead at age 48.
The founder and former president of Arista Records, Davis, 79, discovered Houston at an NYC nightclub when she was just 20 years old, was instrumental in her record-breaking, chart-topping career, and stood by the star as she struggled with drug and alcohol addiction.
Davis reluctantly went ahead with the gala, co-hosted by the Recording Academy, but the star-studded affair -- Britney Spears, Miranda Lambert, Brandy, Tom Hanks, P Diddy, Kim Kardashian, Mary J. Blige, Jon Voight and Dr. Dre were just a few of the attendees -- had a noticeably somber tone.
"I have never seen a group of people so blank," an event staffer told Us Weekly. "Everyone is just walking around looking at each other but no one knows what to do. I am told the show must go on."
Davis himself opened the evening of performances, visibly crying onstage.
"So, by now sadly, we have all learned of the unspeakably tragic news of our beloved Whitney's passing. I don't have to mask my emotions. Not in front of this room full of so many dear friends," Davis' tearful opening began.
"I do have a very heavy heart and I am personally devastated by the loss of someone who has meant so much to me for so many years. Whitney was so full of life."
The music impresario added that his annual bash was one of Houston's favorites. "She was so looking forward to tonight...She loved music and she loved this night that celebrates music."
After extending his condolences to Houston's 18-year-old daughter Bobbi Kristina, mother Cissy Houston and other family members, he added, "Whitney was a beautiful person and she had a talent beyond compare. She graced this stage with her regal presence so many times, giving so many memorable performances here over the years. So simply put, Whitney would have wanted the music to go on and her family asked that we carry on. I ask you now to join me in a moment of silence as we dedicate this evening to Whitney."
After a moment of silence, the show continued with heart-wrenching performances by Diana Krall, Tony Bennett and Alicia Keys, among others.