"I owe this to my mother," she said, before launching into an emotional rendition of "I Look to You," the title track of her new album, which was released Monday.
Houston was joined by Sawyer and Roberts for her encore -- fan favorite "I'm Every Woman."
The crowd loved every minute of the performance. "It's like a dream come true," one fan said. "I can die happy."
Legendary music producer Clive Davis remembers Houston as the young girl who first gave us her remarkable sound, made famous in songs such as "The Greatest Love of All" and "I Will Always Love You."
Just the name Whitney Houston brings to mind that voice: the musical range, the enormous range of emotion, and a kind of power that can make a perfect arrow out of just one note.
"The time that I first saw her singing in her mother's act in a club called Sweetwater's right here in Manhattan ... it was such a stunning impact," Davis told Sawyer earlier this year. "To hear this young girl breathe such fire into this song. I mean, it really sent the proverbial tingles up my spine."
Houston's first single, "You Give Good Love," went to No. 1 on the Billboard charts. Then came a string of No 1 hits -- seven in all -- breaking the record set by the Beatles.
And now, more than seven years since her fans last heard from Houston, she has released a new album.
The man who discovered her says he wants to show that Houston "still stands for the best of songwriting, the best of singing -- and we know the public wants it."
"You won't forget it after you hear it," Davis said, calling the album a labor of love for all involved. "There is a song on this album which is called 'I Didn't Know My Own Strength' and it really speaks for Whitney. She tumbled but she didn't crumble."
Kevin Costner, her co-star from the 1992 film "The Bodyguard," told "GMA" earlier this year that we'll be glad she's back.
"I knew this day was coming for her," he said.
CLICK HERE to visit Whitney Houston's official Web site for more information about her new album.