The first time I had ever heard of Whitney Houston was back in, I think, 1985, and that song "Saving All My Love" was playing on the radio that Steve the Library Guy (this was at work) used to play all night.
I had no idea who that voice belonged to, being a rocker, myself, and not much interested in R&B much beyond the "classics" (Aretha Franklin, Marvin Gaye, Otis Redding, James Brown and Wilson Pickett, and so forth). I didn't really pay much attention to that sort of thing back then -- I was in my Progressive Rock Phase, with a seriously-misinformed-and-presumptuous affectation for Modern Jazz -- and stuff like that was purely "commercial" gobbledygook intended for mass consumption by the musically retarded (oh, to be 18 and that stupid again!).
But there was that voice. So smooth, so powerful. So goddamned beautiful, that even I couldn't help but stop to listen. When the song was over, I asked Steve "Who was that?", and he looked at me and something to the effect of "ain't you got work to do, Asshole?" Naturally, I found out the next day that it was Whitney Houston. I was hooked.
That happened often to me in those days. I was a young musician. Though never good enough to be a professional, I did have some dreams along those lines. A consequence of those dreams was an attempt to master all forms of music with the sort of clueless zeal that most youngsters display in their undirected passions at that age; I listened to everything, and convinced myself that I understood all of it, and whenever in the company of friends -- when the subject of music came up -- I would make a complete douche out of myself by repeating whatever pretentious drivel I had read on a liner note about Chick Corea, or read in an interview with Art Blakey.
Youth, as they say, is wasted upon the young.
Anyhow, I have always had a soft spot for the female vocalist. My first "love" in this regard was Chrissy Hynde (The Pretenders), who gave this then 14-year old a major hard-on in 1981, what with her tight leather pants and angelic voice. But when I first inherited my aunt's old record collection (my Aunt Barbara is but 16 years older than I), and then started collecting records of my own, I branched out from Chrissy's leather-and-attitude vocals, discovered a whole new pantheon of lady crooners, and my love affair with the female voice intensified.
Aretha Franklin, Janis Joplin, Cilla Black, Diana Ross, Martha Reeves, Etta James, Patsy Cline. The list goes on. All greats, all beautiful voices in their own individual ways, but few could compare to Whitney. Whitney was born to sing the birds from the trees, and the stars from the skies, and now she shall do so no more.
Goodbye, Whitney. We all loved you. I will miss you.