At the moment, I can’t think about anything other than Whitney Houston, and because I am sure many of you have similar memories, I wanted to share some of mine.
My mom tells me I was obsessed with Michael Jackson when I was about 3 (I would walk around the house pretending to be him, wearing one white sock on my hand). But I was so young, I don’t really remember. Whitney, I remember. Listening to her sing was learning what a voice could, and should, sound like. At the age of 5 or 6 I loved all her songs, ate up all her videos. I’d look at the way she moved and sang and then dance around my room singing “How Will I Know.”
And she really was everyone’s darling at that time. At my kindergarten graduation, we sang “The Greatest Love of All.” I thought that my music teacher was pretty awesome for having picked that song. I was very shy and a few years away from my first solo, but I have vivid memories of just belting that song out in the choir room under protective cover of the other voices (it must have been hilarious: a 5-year-old deciding long ago never to walk in anyone’s shadow. Inspired by Whitney, I felt it fervently – I might not have gotten the concept, but I could hear her conviction).
In first grade, I participated in the “Book-It” program. I’d get stickers for each book I read until it filled up this button, then I’d take that button to Pizza Hut and get a free “personal pan pizza.” I don’t think my mom had to buy me a pizza until that program ended some years later, because I loved pizza AND books with equal passion. But what I loved the most about those outings was that the Pizza Hut was the only place I ever went that had a jukebox, and that meant that I could get some change from my mom and play Whitney Houston songs. To this day when I hear the first notes of “I Wanna Dance With Somebody” I feel the exact same 6-year-old joy that I felt when I heard them come through that jukebox. My song.
My heart just aches for Whitney and her family. And I really don’t care how good or bad she sounded when she sang the night before she died (not gonna watch that video) or for however many years before that. I don’t think anyone’s come close to Whitney at her best. Certainly not in my heart. Good-bye, Whitney – I can never thank you enough.