Monday, December 2, 2019

Whitney Houston: Learning to Love Yourself

I can remember, in the autumn of 1985, hearing a swooningly romantic song on the radio called "Saving All My Love for You," which swung without losing any of its yearning, and erupted into lust at the end. It was by a fresh young singer named Whitney Houston - her first hit, the relatively generic "You Give Good Love," had escaped my notice - who was clearly headed for a substantial career.

Her string of hit singles may not have lived up to the promise of her voice, but her hitmaking career was long and fertile, and that voice was always a wonder.

What Makes Her Different Whitney Houston simply had one of the greatest voices anyone had ever heard. "When I first heard her," Tony Bennett said, "I called Clive Davis and said, 'You finally found the greatest singer I've ever heard in my life.'"

Whitney opened her Number One cover of Dolly Parton's "I Will Always Love You" with 45 seconds of pure a cappella vocalizing. "I will always be grateful and in awe of the wonderful performance she did on my song," Dolly said. That single stayed at Number One for 14 weeks.

Whitney had a knack for encapsulating a moment. Her "One Moment in Time" became the theme song for the 1988 Olympics (and was yet another Top Ten hit). In 2001, she went to the Top Ten with the freaking "Star-Spangled Banner."

With all her personal and drug issues, you might have expected Whitney to become a waiflike, self-pitying Judy Garland figure, but her vocal performances never stopped projecting toughness. "Learning to love yourself," from "Greatest Love of All," appears to be a lesson she could never fully accept, but she sure could sell it.

By the Numbers According to the Guinness Book of World Records, Whitney was the most awarded female musical artist of all time, with two Emmy Awards, six Grammy Awards, 30 Billboard Music Awards, and 22 American Music Awards, for a total of 415 career awards.

She had 31 Top Forty hits, an amazing 24 of which reached the Top Ten. She had ten Number Ones, and let's name them:

  • Saving All My Love for You
  • How Will I Know
  • Greatest Love of All
  • I Wanna Dance With Somebody (Who Loves Me)
  • Didn't We Almost Have It All
  • So Emotional
  • Where Do Broken Hearts Go
  • I'm Your Baby Tonight
  • All the Man That I Need
  • I Will Always Love You
  • Exhale (Shoop Shoop)

Will She Go In? The only question about Whitney is whether she is "rock & roll" enough for a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. She is arguably less rock & roll than Janet Jackson, who is more of an R&B singer. But hey, they put Joan Baez in, and Joan didn't have ten Number One hits.

Should She Go In? C'mon, it's Whitney Houston. I vote YES.

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