Whitney Houston: 1963-2012
Having been in my formative years in the 1980s right through my graduation of college in 1992, I obviously was very familiar with the work of singer Whitney Houston. I'm not going to tell you that I owned every album of hers, but I definitely did not change the station when a Whitney tune came on over WLOL or KDWB! And I certainly didn't change the channel away from MTV or VH1 when a music video featuring the attractive and radiant Ms. Houston appeared on the TV screen.
With ten #1 singles (including seven consecutive number ones from 1985-87) before the age of the 30, Whitney was an icon amongst my peers who enjoyed pop music. In fact, I had been told by people my parents' ages that the way my generation revered Whitney in the late '80s into the early '90s was much the same why they embraced Aretha Franklin in the '60s.
But it was Whitney's appearance on the grandest stage of them all, the Super Bowl, which cemented an already larger-than-life persona. With the United States embroiled in war in the Persian Gulf, Whitney, a mere ten days after the beginning of Operation Desert Storm, was to sing the National Anthem prior to Super Bowl XXV on January 27, 1991. With pride and patriotism at a fever pitch, Whitney's exhilarating (and seemingly effortless) rendition of the Star Spangled Banner appeared to give an emotional lift to the millions of Americans tuned in to professional sports' largest spectacle.
I actually played this on my radio show this afternoon. I'm not going to lie to you, I definitely got a little misty. I remember exactly how I felt at that point of my life in early 1991 when our American military faced an uncertain task ahead in the Gulf conflict. I personally had never experienced our country having been in a war such as this, so I was rather uneasy surrounding the whole thing. I'm not being melodramatic when I say that Whitney's stellar performance of our National Anthem provided a sense of peace, if only for the next several hours.
Over the next 20+ years, it seemed Houston was known more for her erratic and bizarre behavior away from the music scene. Whether it was rampant drug use, the perpetual volatility in her marriage to singer Bobby Brown, flaking out on scheduled high-profile performances, a bizarre 2003 trip to Israel or an ill-conceived reality TV show, Whitney's music career (and accomplishments) almost became an afterthought.
I recall an interview conducted with Sam Nelson, the youngest of pop star (and 1950s teen idol) Ricky Nelson's four children. Sam was around ten-years old when his Dad was killed in a 1985 plane crash. During the memorial service for his Dad, Sam was so taken aback by all the adulation and admiration people had for his father that he wondered to himself why he never knew that particular Ricky Nelson. Having been born in 1993, Bobbi Kristina Houston Brown, Whitney's only child, may likely be in the same boat. That is, she may be aware of the talented musician that was her mother but likely doesn't grasp the iconic status which her mom had a stranglehold on for nearly a decade. But that fact is trivial when one considers that today there is an 18-year old girl who now must face the rest of her life without her mother.