Every now and then, a talent emerges that brings the world to its knees. These talents are far and few between - and too often, they shine brightly for a short while before burning out and becoming a face upon an “In Memorium” segment during an awards show.
The list of these legends is a hefty one, and is filled with magnificent talent of which the world will forever be deprived. Legends like Michael Jackson, Jimi Hendrix, Freddie Mercury, Janis Joplin, Bradley Nowell, Cory Monteith, and last, but certainly not least, Whitney Houston.
Whitney was a once-in-a-lifetime juggernaut of talent. She took the world by storm when her debut album, Whitney Houston, hit shelves in 1985. She was immediately hailed as one the world’s greatest new superstars, with a voice that wouldn’t quit, and a smile that shone with hopefulness and light. She was young, she was beautiful, and she had a voice that made you feel like you were communing with angels.
On what would have been her 50th birthday, we at PopWrapped would like to celebrate the life and career of Whitney Houson.
After the debut of her freshman album, Rolling Stone magazine celebrated Houston, dubbing her “one of the most exciting new voices in years.” The timeless ballad “Saving All My Love For You” would become Whitney’s first number one hit in the US and the UK, and would officially put her on the map.
But, if you’re a Whitney fan, you already know all of these things. Whitney’s influence in the music world is legendary. She paved the way for black female solo artists, broke boundaries, and demolished that glass ceiling in a way that most female professionals would only dream of. She was on top of the world. And she brought joy to the masses.
She inspired constantly; whether it be a housewife, a career woman, or a three-year-old girl shaking her tiny rump and singing along to “I Wanna Dance With Somebody,” the love for Whitney was universal. In fact, there may still be some incriminating videos floating around in the universe of said little girl getting down to Whitney’s finest.
She was honestly the first musical act that I remember adoring. When I first saw the video for “I Wanna Dance With Somebody,” I remember feeling awed. That big hair and 80s-tastic video had me transfixed. When the confetti started falling, I would tear up, because I knew it was almost over. I believe that I can attribute that video in particular, and Whitney in general, for my adoration of music.
Whitney’s rise to the top continued to gain momentum. In 1992, she landed her first acting gig as the star of the classic film The Bodyguard, alongside Kevin Costner. With this film, Whitney proved that she not only had possibly the greatest voice in the history of voices, but that she was no slouch when it came to acting either. She held her own along Kevin Costner, who by that point was a veteran actor. Of course, Whitney handled the soundtrack, giving us such tracks as “I Have Nothing,” “Queen of the Night,” “I’m Every Woman,” and the best-selling single by a female artist in music history, “I Will Always Love You,” written and originally performed by Dolly Parton.
This movie blew my mind. When it was released in 1992, I was the tender age of 7. My parents knew that it probably wasn’t the best film to take their seven-year-old daughter to, but they knew how much I loved her, and I’m pretty sure they just took me to shut me up. I can still watch it from start to finish, and the magic is still there. The soundtrack, the story, the love affair, Whitney’s character, Rachel Marron’s, strength and perseverance, all of it changed me, and only made me love her more. The soundtrack would go on to win the 1994 Grammy Award for Album of the Year; just one of her many accolades.
Whitney’s version of “I Will Always Love You” is arguably one of the best covers in the history of covers. While Dolly’s version is fine, it simply does not have the magic, the luster, that Whitney infused into it. Many have tried to recapture this magic. All have failed.
One cannot write a tribute to Whitney without mentioning her performance of the “The Star Spangled Banner” at Super Bowl XXV in Tampa, Florida in 1991. In this writer’s opinion, there has never been a better version of our country’s National Anthem, nor will there ever be. I can watch the video an entire twelve years later and still be brought to tears as my flesh erupts into goosebumps. She moves me. Always has, always will.
Her voice commanded attention. When Whitney sang, you listened. Period. Because if you lost focus for even one moment, there was the possibility that you could miss a run or a high-note, and what a tragedy that would be.
Obviously, I am not the only person that felt this way about Ms. Houston. Along with inspiring little girls to get their groove on, she was critically acclaimed and hailed by music professionals everywhere. In fact, according to the Guinness World Records, in 2009 Whitney was named the most awarded female act of all time.
Whitney is also the only artist (male or female, black or white, of any genre) to have seven consecutive Billboard Hot 100 hits; and the second, behind only Elton John, to have two Billboard 200 Album awards hit number one on the Billboard magazine end-of-the-year charts. Her sophomore album, Whitney, became the first album by a female artist to debut on Billboard’s 200 albums charts at number one. Bottom line? She was a spectacular, stupendous, astonishing, breathtaking, out-of-this-world talent, the likes of which the world will never see again.
I mourn the death of my childhood idol, but I find solace in her music, her voice, her message. I find that venturing to YouTube to watch her videos and hear that unparalleled voice is balm to my soul. And I am grateful every day that she left us with that legacy to remember her by.
On this day, August 9, 2013, Whitney Elizabeth Houston would have turned 50. We should be celebrating half a century of brilliance, of music and a voice that changed the industry forever. I do mourn for the loss, but I am forever grateful to have had the woman, the voice, and the legend that is Whitney Houston in my life. There will never be another like her in our lifetime.
Happy birthday, Whitney. I sincerely hope that you have finally found the peace that you sought and that you feel all of the love that your fans still have for you. You will forever be the Queen Of My Night.
Rest in peace, Madam Houston.