Saturday, February 18, 2012

Remembering Whitney Houston

The passing of Whitney Houston is a tremendous loss to popular music. She was a star, she was an icon, she had true singing talent. Although her career got off-track near the end, there were times she was the biggest thing in the music business. From 1985 through 1988, her first two albums were both massively successful, earning Grammy Award nominations for Album of the Year and spawning seven U.S. #1 hits. Then in 1992-1993, she sat on top of the music world again with The Bodyguard Soundtrack and its massive hit single "I Will Always Love You."

She has always been on my personal favorites and I have many fond memories of her music. Here are a few of them.

Greatest Love of All (1986). This was the first Whitney Houston song I ever knew. My music teacher selected it for us as one of the few pop songs she let us sing in fourth grade. A little later, this was one of the few songs I learned to play on the piano (during my very brief stint playing piano).

I Wanna Dance with Somebody (Who Loves Me) (1987). The summer of 1987 was the summer I began to listen to popular music. This was a #1 hit at that time, making Whitney Houston one of the first pop musicians I really got into (along with Madonna, Debbie Gibson and Michael Jackson). Whitney was one of the first pop albums I owned, and I listened to it obsessively. I got to know that album in a way I rarely get to know albums these days, learning to appreciate every song on it. This, though, was its highlight and it remains one of my favorite songs by her.

I Will Always Love You (1992). Like many people, I fell in love with this song instantly. It was so amazing, becoming a bigger hit than any song ever had been (a then record 14 weeks at #1). I loved how she sang the first verse a cappella, smartly riding the trend of recent hits by Boyz II Men to introduce what is otherwise a pretty traditional AC pop ballad. I remember getting The Bodyguard Soundtrack for Christmas in 1992 and being so excited to listen to it Christmas Eve.

It's Not Right, But It's Okay (Thunderpuss Remix) (1999). The summer of 1999 was the year I graduated from college and moved to Washington, D.C. to begin the adult phase of my life. It was a major time of transition, as I learned to navigate a new city, get used to the working life and make new friends. Of course, that time also involved a significant amount of time in gay bars and clubs (something I rarely do now). This was basically the soundtrack of my nightlife that summer.

Million Dollar Bill (2009). I was disappointed that Just Whitney was not a success and troubled by what happened to Whitney during this period. So I was very happy for her when she managed to pull herself together to make one more decent album, I Look to You, which included this fantastic upbeat single.

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