But in the greater scheme of things, that is of minimal importance. What counts most is that Whitney Houston was a great artist whose impact will be felt for decades.
No performance could be more effective than Houston’s on her biggest hit, “I Will Always Love You,” a remake of the No. 1 country hit of its composer, Dolly Parton. It was No. 1 on the national charts for a remarkable 14 weeks.
There is only one word to describe Houston’s performance on this song: extraordinary. At its peak, you could “radio surf” and hear it on an array of stations, ranging from pop and urban to easy listening and current hits. It was omnipresent.
The song was from “The Bodyguard,” co-starring Kevin Costner, one of Houston’s highly successful movies that proved, unequivocally, that she was also a top-notch actress. The other two films were “Waiting to Exhale” (with Angela Bassett, Loretta Devine and Lela Rochon) and “The Preacher’s Wife” (co-starring Denzel Washington).
HOUSTON WAS in Detroit last year, filming “Sparkle,” a remake of the 1976 movie. When it is released this summer it will certainly be strange watching Houston on the big screen.
Whitney Houston had singing and show business in her blood. She was the daughter of R&B and gospel artist Cissy Houston, lead singer of the Sweet Inspirations, the group that did background vocals for hundreds of artists and had a big hit of their own in 1968 with the gospel- inflected “Sweet Inspiration,” and the second cousin of legendary pop songstress Dionne Warwick.
Clive Davis, then president of Arista Records, was astounded when he first heard Whitney Houston. He instinctively knew that she had everything it took for superstardom. However, he bided his time. The campaign was carefully and methodically planned, and it worked to perfection.
Houston’s debut al-bum, simply and wisely titled “Whitney Houston,” was a monster seller, producing a string of major hits, including “You Give Good Love,” “Saving All My Love For You,” “How Will I Know?” and the remake of George Benson’s “Greatest Love of All.” The follow-up, “Whitney,” was equally as successful, yielding “I Wanna Dance With Somebody (Who Loves Me),” “Didn’t We Almost Have It All?” and “Where Do Broken Hearts Go?”
IRONICALLY, THE pop success of these songs and others made some in the Black community skeptical. They felt that Houston (aided and abetted by her record company) was going the extra mile to appeal to the White audience. Perhaps in response to that accusation, Houston went pure R&B in 1990 with “I’m Your Baby Tonight” that powered its way into the No. 1 position on the national R&B charts and No. 1 Pop as well.
It was also during this period that Houston married Bobby Brown, whom she had met at a music awards ceremony.
To say the least, their marriage was turbulent much of the time. They were constantly in the tabloids. However, it was clear that the two had very much in common which, in fact, enabled their marriage to endure from 1992 to 2007. They have a daughter, Bobbi Kristina, who is now 18.
In so many ways Brown and Houston were kindred spirits. Unfortunately, one of the things they had in common was a proclivity for drug use. Brown has reportedly cleaned up his act.
Absolutely nothing, however, can take away from the fact that Whitney Houston provided some of the greatest moments in popular music history.
SHE CAME very close to the living legend status of Aretha Franklin, with whom she recorded the hit “It Isn’t, It Wasn’t, It’s Never Gonna Be,” Diana Ross, Patti LaBelle, Dionne Warwick, Gladys Knight, Tina Turner and Chaka Khan, but, sadly, she got sidetracked.
Whitney Houston made a well-publicized comeback in 2009 with a very successful album titled “I Look to You.” Most people were happy for her, even though it was hard to not notice that her remarkable voice was far from being the jewel it had been. A live performance on “Good Morning America” to promote the album confirmed this new reality.
Nevertheless, her past achievements were nothing less than remarkable. According to Guinness World Records, she is the most awarded female artist of all time, including six Grammy Awards, 22 American Music Awards and two Emmys.
Whitney Houston, “The Voice,” left us way too soon. However, she made an indelible mark on music history. The Grammy Awards tribute was 100 percent appropriate, and the music world is a better place for her having been here.