Sunday, February 12, 2012

Oh, Whitney.

I got home from being out (with Joshua, for dinner and drinks in Cambridge) at 1:22 this morning, and had just hopped online for a good-night chat with MSF.
Karin: Hola.  Thanks for waiting.
MSF: Hey hey
K:  I had to read a few minutes about Whitney Houston dying...
MSF:  What does that mean?
K: Whitney Houston died earlier today.
MSF: Wow!
K: I know.  It's like Michael Jackson revisited.
MSF: [:laugh:] Yeah.  She was "found dead" Whoa.
me:  Oy. Sorry to be a buzz-kill...
MSF:  No sweat.  She's not much of a music influence on me.
Oy, indeed.  And Ugh.  Bleh.  Sigh.

Whitney.  Shit.  Please don't be a cliche of drug-spiralled pop stardom.  Please, really, don't be remembered primarily for this.  Don't be a punchline.

No slam on MSF .... but Whitney was a music influence on me.  In the era before internet radio in rural North Dakota, she was one of only a few major artists to infiltrate the playlists of me and my junior high female peers.

I remember wanting to perform a version of "How Will I Know" for the CHS Homecoming Lip Sync when in 7th grade, being usurped by a band of older girls who had already chosen it.  (Amazingly and inexplicably, my friend Patty and I covered a Phil Collins tune instead....)  So syrupy sweet with perm and big bow and fake-sax-playing dance partners and that sassy head bop.  The effortless energy and vocals.  So much defined what I wanted to be and was not.

For years, I cried every time "The Greatest Love of All" came on VH-1, at the final moment, when she strides to the wings and hugs her mother, that endless last note sailing into powerful vibrato. ("Find. Your. Strength ... in Love.")

Today I've choked up no less than a dozen times listening to her 1991 version of "The Star Spangled Banner" at Super Bowl XXV.  I was a senior in high school and the Gulf War pervaded every aspect of our lives that month and year, so shortly after the invasion of Iraq.   Seeing her power and dignity with that tune .... nothing ostentatious about it, just grounded and soulful ... was pitch-perfect for that moment in time.

Jeez.  Whitney even sang a song with that name .... for the Olympics in 1988 ... that has similar gravitas and only could succeed, and escape cheesiness, thanks to that voice.   And now I'm crying listening to that, on repeat.  

There is and was and will be no one like her.  Even if her downfall came in the most conventional of celebrity traps.

1 comment:

Kristin Y. said...

Karin - I remember singing The Greatest Love of All on the basketball busses in junior high....loved that song. And I too watched her version of the Star Spangled Banner twice this morning and choked up each time. What a waste of one of the greatest pure talents of all time...RIP Whitney...