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Producer Jimmy Jam said her death was a “bittersweet irony” given that Davis heralded Houston as a great talent to watch when he had her perform at his party in her youth.

“The fact that it happened on this day, this event is where Clive Davis introduced Whitney to the world. We said hello to Whitney at the Clive Davis (gala), it may be appropriate we’re saying our first goodbyes to Whitney at a Clive Davis event.

“In a weird way it’s appropriate, the show must go on. I think Whitney would have wanted that to happen. … Tonight I think we begin to celebrate and remember.”

Keys was one of the last performers. She called the evening a “very special night” and, after singing a line from Houston’s “I Wanna Dance With Somebody,” noted how the late diva had inspired her.

“You think about how this person touched you,” she said. “(Then) you form a friendship, a sisterhood, a bond. You see how incredible they really are. … She was a sister to me.”

Moments later, she launched into her hit “No One,” saying: “This one’s for her. Let’s sing her into heaven.”

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AP writers Caitlin King and Ryan Pearson contributed to this report.

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Mesfin Fekadu covers entertainment for The Associated Press. Follow him at http://www.twitter.com/musicmesfin

(This version corrects typo in Keys quote.)