Sunday, February 12, 2012

RIP Whitney Houston

Whitney Houston Whitney Houston
Whitney Houston Whitney Houston & Bobbie Christina

It is so very hard to believe that Whitney Houston is gone. Sure, with the recent history we knew there would be a chance, but it seemed as though she was getting past it, pulling through it all. But that is not the case. And much like the case with Michael Jackson and Amy Winehouse, there is no real happy ending to this tale, only tears.

So let us go back to a time when there was much joy, and so much to look forward to. The daughter of Cissy Houston, the cousin of Dionne Warwick, the God-daughter of Aretha Franklin was singed by one of the greats of the music business, Clive Davis. He knew the pedigree was impeccable, and he wanted to nurture her talent. He groomed the young singer and released her first album , Whitney Houston.

Whitney Houston album cover

Her eponymous album was released almost 27 years ago to the day, on February 14, 1985. The first single off the album, Hold Me, was a duet with Teddy Pendergrass. The song was released in 1984, a single off Pendergrass' album, Love Language. The track was also included on Houston's debut, so it could be considered the first single. The song made it onto the Top 50 on the Billboard Hot 100, and to #5 on the Billboard R&B chart.

The next single released, was the first carrying solely Houston's name. Thinking About You, started getting her noticed, although it didn't make an appearance on the Billboard Hot 100, it did make it to #10 on the Billboard R&B chart, and in the Top 25 on the Billboard Dance chart.

There were greater hopes for the next single, another R&B ballad that was sultry and strong, focusing on the brilliant voice Whitney brought to the studio. The song, written by La Forrest Cope, professionally known as La La, was produced by Kashif. You Give Good Love, was a great one, and it went to #3 on the Billboard Hot 100, her first big hit. Sales made it a Gold Record, along with the widespread airplay of the young talent. The following clip is a young Whitney with a live performance on the Tonight Show.

As great as the success of that might have been, it could in no way prepare anyone for what was about to happen with Saving All My Love For You. The song was written by Gerry Goffin and Michael Masser, songwriting greats to be sure. Masser also produced the recording. Once released, the song made it to #1 on the Billboard R&B chart, on the Adult Contemporary chart, and, finally, on the Billboard Hot 100. The single was worldwide hit, was certified Gold in the US, and Platinum in the UK.

The fourth single off the album was How Will I Know. It was written by George Merrill, Shannon Rubicam, and Narada Michael Walden, who also produced it. It was the first up-tempo songs released, and on the heels of the last hit, expectations were high. However, I am not sure they were expecting the song to hit #1 on the Billboard R&B and Adult Contemporary charts. The song spent two weeks atop the Billboard Hot 100. It was another worldwide hit, topping the charts in Canada, the UK, and elsewhere. It also went to #3 on the Billboard Dance chart.

In March of 1986, the decision was made to release the next single, one that almost didn't get made. The song was written by Michael Masser and Linda Creed, who had also written Hold Me, the duet with Pendergrass. Originally recorded by George Benson for the 1977 film about Muhammad, Masser thought it would be perfect for Houston, Clive Davis didn't agree, wanting to stick to new material for his artist. After much discussion, the song was made for the album, produced by Masser. The Greatest Love Of All became the sixth single, and by May, the song was #1 for two straight weeks.

Songwriter Linda Creed wrote the song about her struggle with breast cancer, which she was bravely fighting. In April of 1986, Creed lost her battle, just before the song went to #1. The album was a powerhouse with the public, as it sold over 25 million copies worldwide, and was 13-times Platinum in the US. And it was a world phenomenon, as it went quadruple Platinum in Australia, Diamond (10x Platinum) in Canada, Gold in France, Platinum in Germany, and six times Platinum in the UK. This established Whitney as not only a new star, but a megastar. The effort was rewarded with 4 Grammy nominations in 1986, winning Houston's first Grammy for Best Pop Vocal Performance, Female, on the song Saving All My Love For You.

Twenty-six years later, on the eve of the Grammy ceremony, Whitney Houston was found dead in her room in the in the Beverly Hilton Hotel, where she was staying to get ready for a party thrown by Clive Davis every year, just hours before she was to attend. My thoughts went out to her daughter, Bobbi Kristina Houston Brown, and the rest of her family. Rest in peace, Whitney. May you find what kept you searching for so intently here on earth.


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