11 Aug Throwback Thursday: Dionne Warrick, Stevie Wonder, Luther Vandross and Whitney Houston – “That’s What Friends Are For” (Live at 1987 Soul Train Awards)
“That’s What Friends Are For” is a song written by Burt Bacharach and Carole Bayer Sager, and originally recorded by Rod Stewart for the Night Shift soundtrack, which was released in 1982. That version of the song was never released as a single, so unless you’re Rod Stewart stan, there’s a huge probability you weren’t aware of its existence.
Dionne Warwick, Elton John, Gladys Knight and Stevie Wonder released a cover of “That’s What Friends Are For” in October 1985, just three years after the original. It was recorded to raise money for the American Foundation for AIDS Research, and helped raise $3 million. The song was a huge hit, topping the Billboard Hot 100 for four weeks and becoming the biggest single of 1986. It would also win two Grammys, including Song of the Year, which lets you know that the Recording Academy enforces its “no covers” rule for that award when it feels like it. But I digress.
On March 23, 1987, Ms. Warwick performed the song live at the Soul Train Awards with Luther Vandross, Stevie Wonder, and her baby cousin, Whitney Houston, who would’ve been 59 years old this week. The recorded version is great, but this performance right here? Magical.