Nearly 25 years ago, her self-titled debut album “Whitney Houston” unleashed a career the likes of which had never before been seen nor heard. With three Number One singles (Saving All My Love For You, How Will I Know, Greatest Love Of All) her first record would spawn a follow-up, “Whitney” which debuted at Number One on the Billboard 200 chart, the first album by a female artist to begin its run at the summit – ever. Her second LP would extend her record of Number One singles to an astonishing seven in-a-row (I Wanna Dance With Somebody, Didn’t We Almost Have It All, So Emotional, Where Do Broken Hearts Go) – a feat no artist (white/black/male/female) had ever achieved – not even the Beatles.
As a young disk jockey I recall playing her records and marveling at her voice and amazing range. Her album covers and MTV videos also revealed an incredibly beautiful young woman who seemed equal parts romantic and sensual while also “girl next door” sweet and fun. She couldn’t miss – and for more than ten years was, indeed, unstoppable. So what happened, exactly? How is it that just when she seemed clean of drugs and demons and poised for a meaningful comeback she is, in an instant, inexplicably gone at the much too young age of 48?
Unfortunately, in describing her tragic death, one must use the term instant rather than suddenly as we all witnessed her sad decline, sometimes painfully and publicly, into darkness. She blamed cocaine and a bad marriage. It was, at the time, unconscionable – how could our lovely song bird marry a bad boy and not a “Mr. America?” Why was she making a fool of herself on reality TV? And so the voice began to fail her, the hits stopped coming and Houston became a new chapter in the book of celebrity “remember whens.”
Today as we mourn her passing, we are left to contemplate whether it is sad or, ultimately, comforting that her untimely exit may well move her detractors and former fans to once again celebrate her talents and appreciate her accomplishments and what an important role she played in our lives and emotions. Perhaps they will even dust off their old albums and CDS to listen once again – when they wanna dance with somebody or remember one moment in time.