NEW YORK — Aretha Franklin believed Whitney Houston had overcome her demons and was primed for a comeback, which made learning of the troubled singer's death all the more shocking.
Franklin said she was watching TV in her hotel room in Charlotte, N.C., when she learned of Houston's death in a hotel suite across the country in Beverly Hills, Calif.
"I was sitting on the side of the bed," she said in an interview on NBC's "Today" show Friday. "I just jumped up off the side of the bed: `What?! This could not be!'"
Franklin said she had seen recent video of Houston, "and she looked fresh, she looked healthy and she looked gorgeous. And I thought, `Yes, she has conquered her challenges and she's on the way.'"
Now her fans should remember Houston for her artistry, Franklin said, and not focus on the challenges she faced with substance abuse.
Recalling how Houston's smile made her eyes twinkle, Franklin then recited a poem she wrote in Houston's memory:
"Twinkle, twinkle superstar,
We don't wonder where you are.
Up above the world so bright,
Like a diamond in the night.
Twinkle, twinkle, she stood alone.
I can't believe that she's gone."
The Queen of Soul had long been a friend and mentor to Houston, who died last Saturday at the age of 48. She will sing at Houston's funeral Saturday in Newark, N.J.