If you've read WHATEVERLAND or listened to my radio show, you probably already know that I grew up with a dad in the music business. I spent many a day in a recording studio, met many recording artists, vacationed with Barbra Streisand, spent time with Dolly Parton, sat on stage with Elton John, and hung out back stage with I can't recall how many performers. But really no performer sang my emotions and my thoughts like Whitney Houston did. I did get to meet her once. Briefly. It was surreal.
In 1985 when Whitney released her debut album "Whitney Houston," I remember singing along to "Saving All My Love" with my best friend Leslie. And I remember giggling at the part "...we'll be making love the whole night through..." It was exciting to hear her sing that line. And to sing along with her. Boys were on my brain of course! But they were NOT in my pants. Making love! Ha! But dreaming about the who and when... you betcha.
And when I was feeling down, insecure and like a loser with no crushes liking me back... "Greatest Love of All" became my anthem. In 1986 I recorded my (shoddy) karaoke version of it in a sound booth in a Florida amusement park (have to search my attic to see if I can find it!). I had longed to be a singer back then, and I didn't sound a thing like Whitney. But I was certain I felt like her.
As a 17-year-old experiencing heartache, I listened to "All at Once" dozens of times, in a row. She captured completely what I was feeling in a three-minute song. "All at once, I'm drifting on a lonely sea, hoping you'd come back to me... and it hurts me more than you know, so much more than it shows, all at once." I still hear that song in my head when I am sad about something. Or I have a pang of longing for what used to be.
My friend Leslie and I would be goofy in 1987 -- still listening to that same tape from 1985 -- while we danced along to "How Will I Know"... I think we'd scream when it came on at a party and jump on the dance floor and do our best Whitney impression... she was NOT known for her dancing.
Whitney Houston's rendition of "The Star Spangled Banner" at 1991 Super Bowl was unforgettable. We all learned the lyrics to that song finally because it was played on the radio constantly. And as much as we tried to sing along to her version, none of us could belt it like Whitney did.
Soon came The Bodyguard. And Whitney Houston's freaking amazing cover of "I Will Always Love You." Mind blowing. Insane. Incredible.
When Whitney married Bobby Brown in 1992 after meeting him in 1989, I remember the hubbub -- she was such a glorious princess... remarkably beautiful on the outside and talented beyond all rational understanding. And she was marrying a punk. It felt disappointing in a way. And incredibly humanizing in another -- she, like us, could make bad choices, too.
And sadly her bad choices continued. Addiction became her new career.
It seemed like a reprieve from the drugs and darkness when Whitney released "I'm every Woman" in 1993. And a true Whitney Houston fan can admit this was the only time Whitney showed dance ability and rhythm in a video.
I'm convinced it was because she was pregnant with her daughter and full of hope and excitement. Whitney's joy was infectious. Her hope was contagious.
The late 90s and up until now Whitney Houston has been in and out of the press. And mostly for stories unrelated to her musical ability.
But tonight, we are talking about her music and her talent.
Because she's gone.