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"She was in my arms a few nights ago," DeBarge tells The BoomBox on the Grammy red carpet Sunday (Feb. 12). Houston took the stage to sing with Price, and was later photographed outside of the venue looking disheveled.
Throughout the week, the 48-year-old had been seen out and about, and when she ran into DeBarge, he could tell that something wasn't right. "She was telling me, 'I miss you El' and we started crying together. She wanted to talk to me about her addiction, I could tell she did, and we just didn't get our chance to."
Houston also asked Debarge to collaborate with her on new music, before going their separate ways for the night.
Like Houston, DeBarge has battled addiction in the public eye. Over the past decade, the father of 12 has made more headlines for his legal woes than his music. In 2008, he was sentenced to two years in federal prison after violating his probation by possessing crack and drug paraphernalia. After earning his freedom, the 50-year-old made his return to music by way of the Grammy-nominated album, 'Second Chance,' released in 2010.
"My 'Second Chance' album is all about everybody that wants, and is looking for, a second chance, and I just don't know if she [Houston] had that," he shares.
Almost a year ago on Valentine's Day, DeBarge checked into a rehab facility. However, he now appears to have a grip on sobriety. "Drugs are a very strong, outside aggression," says the entertainer, who was nominated for a Grammy in the Best R&B Album category at Sunday's ceremony. "That's what it is. It attacks leadership and it just attacks things and it gives you a challenge that you really don't want to have but you have to be strong and we all have the strength. I thank [former Geffen Records Chairman] Ron Fair for teaching me that."
As previously reported, Houston was found dead inside the Beverly Hilton Hotel Saturday afternoon. An autopsy was scheduled for Sunday, and according to TMZ, Houston's body has been released to her mother, Cissy, who will fly with her back to Atlanta. Toxicology reports are expected to take several weeks to determine her true cause of death, but sources close to Houston told the site that she may have died form a deadly cocktail of Xanax and alcohol.