The moment I found out that one of the most celebrated female Pop vocalists of our generation had passed away, I went into utter shock and disbelief. Saturday February 11, 2012 will be a day forever etched in my mind. I was on twitter that evening tweeting away as usual then suddenly the number one trending topic immediately changed to “R.I.P Whitney Houston”. At first, I thought it was a joke because in recent weeks, twitter had been and is still killing celebrities (metaphorically) using the trends “RIP” so initially I thought it was a joke. Still unconvinced, I immediately switched on CNN and there it was, Whitney Elizabeth Houston had died and was found submerged in the bathtub of her hotel room, the Beverly Hilton Hotel in California. She was staying at that hotel in preparation for the usual pre-Grammy party put on by her mentor Clive Davis.
I was devastated! One of the voices that nurtured and inspired me throughout my childhood had gone and will never be returning. Just the thought of that was too much to bear. I will never forget the countless times I played and still to this very day continue to play Whitney’s songs. What Whitney’s music means to me cannot be adequately described. I vividly remember as I child, hearing her sing “The Greatest Love of All”. That song means so much to me growing up, and still does, not only because her vocals sound exceptional but also because of the lyrical content and how convincing she sounds. Hearing the lines :
“I decided long ago, never to walk in anyone’s shadows
If I fail, if I succeed
At least I’ll live as I believe
No matter what they take from me
They can’t take away my dignity
Because the greatest love of all
Is happening to me”
was enough to get me in a mood that I’m invincible and that no one can stop me from accomplishing my dreams. Even to this day, “The Greatest Love of All” continues to inspire millions around the world. What’s even more striking about this song is that it was not originally recorded by Whitney. It was a cover of George Benson’s song which he recorded for the 1977 Muhammad Ali biopic. That to me is magnificent; to be able to sing a song and give it meaning and to be able to have an impact on people’s lives. This is one of the reasons I love Whitney so much. She’s one of the few singers that re-records someone’s song and sings it much better than the original; Mariah Carey being another singer who does that amazingly well.
Whitney also covered ”I Will Always Love You”, originally recorded and written by Dolly Parton. With all due respect to Ms.Parton, her version of this song is completely flat and meaningless in comparison to Whitney’s. If it were not for Houston’s cover of this song, I would not have known it existed and it would not have such meaning and impact as it did throughout the world. ”I Will Always Love You” was recorded for the soundtrack of the 1992 movie, The Bodyguard, which was Whitney’s first acting debut. To date it is her most successful single, spending 14 weeks at number 1 on the U.S Billboard Hot 100, 2 Grammy awards in 1994 for Best Pop Vocal Performance (Female) and Record of the Year among numerous other awards and to top it all off, it is the best selling single by a female artiste in the history of recorded music. In my estimation, that is an enormous accomplishment which placed Whitney ahead, if she already was not, of every other female artiste at that time and cemented her place in the music industry that she was here to stay. This iconic song, which heavily incorporated the use of melisma (the singing of a single syllable of text while moving between several different notes in succession), paved the way for numerous female singers of this generation. Whitney and Mariah in the early 1990’s popularized the melismatic singing style with their songs.
It was very difficult but I complied my 15 most favorite songs of Whitney. (In order of year of release)
You Give Good Love (1985)
Saving All My Love For You (1985)
How Will I Know (1985)
The Greatest Love of All (1986)
I Wanna Dance With Somebody (Who Loves Me) (1987)
Where Do Broken Hearts Go? (1988)
One Moment In Time (1988)
I Will Always Love You (1992)
I’m Every Woman (1993)
I Have Nothing (1993)
Exhale(Shoop Shoop) (1995)
When You Believe (duet with Mariah Carey) (1998)
Try It On My Own (2003)
I Look To You (2009)
Clearly this was no easy task but when you have a singer of Whitney’s calibre it’s almost impossible to have one favorite song. Almost every song she did was sung to perfection. The world may never ever find another singer with such great vocal technique and prowess, songs with such deep lyrical and inspiring content. Every female singer today in the music industry was influenced by Whitney in some way and that is undeniable. I deliberately have not spoken about Whitney’s personal life in this blog post because I want us to remember her for what she did best – making timeless music. We know her name, not her story. We never lived a day in the life of Whitney Elizabeth Houston therefore we have no right to judge her for the decisions she made. Only God has the moral authority to do that as such I will refrain from commenting on her personal life. Nevertheless, I would like to wish her beloved daughter Bobby Kristina and her beloved mother Cissy Houston all the best. It must be very painful living without such a precious gem. To Whitney, I know you are in heaven singing on the choir. I hope that you can finally get an eternal rest and find peace and serenity which you could not have achieved on this Earth. Rest in eternal peace, Whitney Elizabeth Houston, the ultimate vocal goddess.