With statewide politics a vast wasteland right now, I thought I’d jot down some things about Whitney Houston. When I heard of Whitney Houston’s untimely death, I must admit it shook me more than I thought it would or should. My reasons for this are many, but I was not a die-hard Whitney fan. However I was part of the radio industry that helped her career skyrocket into superstardom in the 1980’s
I first heard of Whitney Houston while working as an on-air personality for a hit radio station. One Wednesday our record shipments arrived. Yes RECORDS! Once upon a time record companies would ship new releases to arrive each Wednesday for review so they could be added by Friday if they passed muster. I was minding my own business when our Program Director called me into a studio to listen to something. Now, I’m the first to admit, I’m not a big fan of female singers. Just not my favorite thing in the world and I can’t sing along in the car. BUT when I heard the first shimmering notes of “You Give Good Love” from Whitney’s debut album, I was impressed. So impressed that I pushed the PD to add it right away-which he did. It immediately became our most requested song. Then a few days later we got the album and when we saw the cover we were awestruck. THIS is the girl singing the song? Yes and she was a knockout! First thing I did was take the entire album into a studio and listen to it from beginning to end. I expected some clunkers but every track was strong.
Within months Whitney Houston was all over the place. It was a unique experience to hear an artists very first track, and to also be around at the end. Along the way I saw Whitney live once and it was amazing. Only Aretha Franklin and Barbra Streisand ever had the power to sing like she did and not be submerged in heavy orchestrations. No band ever drowned her out unless she wanted it to, and that rarely happened. Whitney was so fresh-faced and talented, that superstardom was inevitable.
Just when we thought Whitney had done it all, she did something I’ve never seen before or since. She made “The Star-Spangled Banner” a top 40 hit. For those unfamiliar, she sang it at the Super Bowl at the height of Desert Storm. Even though the vocal was pre-recorded, she hit it so well, no one even suspected it for several days–and frankly no one cared. It was a version so incredible–so definitive–that radio stations–(including ours) began to play it at noon each day while the war was still going on. I hope you read that all correctly. SHE CHARTED THE NATIONAL ANTHEM! No one does that! Whitney did.
No need to relive her down years or her downward spiral. Just recall the fresh-faced mega-talent that just tore it up for a decade and a half. See ya Whitney.