Aretha Franklin: "I Was Always Rooting" for Whitney Houston

A longtime friend of the Houston family, the Queen of Soul opened up to People admitting, "We were all aware of her challenges"

Whitney Houston may have had her share of difficult circumstances, but despite all of her troubles one person remained the late singer's constant fan: Aretha Franklin.

"We were all aware of her challenges," Franklin, 69, tells People. "And I was always rooting for her."

The Queen of Soul, who is a dear friend of the Houston family, explains how excited she was about Whitney's return to the big screen in the upcoming film Sparkle.

"Seeing previews for the new Sparkle movie I thought, boy she looks good, healthy, fresh and has that twinkle in her eyes!"

Houston, who died Feb. 11 at the Beverly Hilton Hotel, wasn't able to sustain the success she enjoyed in the '80s and '90s, but Franklin, who is scheduled to perform at Whitney's funeral in New Jersey, on Feb. 18, recalls being impressed with her determination even in the last decade. 

"[L]ooking back now, I recall her European tour: Still exciting, but unable to sing what she wanted to had to be disheartening," says Franklin. "And yet she stood night after night and endured unappreciative audiences with the heart of a champion."

On Monday night, during a private concert in Charlotte, N.C., Franklin sang an emotional version of "I Will Always Love You" at the piano, stopping to give a shout out to Houston by paying respect to "One of the greatest singers that has ever stepped before a microphone."

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