Sometimes I don’t really know what to say. The second album I ever bought, with my very own money with my very own hands, was Whitney Houston’s 1985 debut, “Whitney Houston.” It was a tape – come on, that was cutting edge in 1985. That small rectangular box filled with untold delights. I remember taking the cellophane off the tape and seeing this sleek, beautiful, impossibly poised creature staring back at me. And then when I popped it into my cassette player, it was just smooth, sumptuous heaven. “Saving All My Love for You,” “How Will I Know,” “Greatest Love of All.” So two years later of course I ran out and bought her follow-up, “Whitney.” The cover instead showed this bubbly, radiant woman. A smile as big as the sun, skin as delicious as the richest caramel. “Didn’t We Almost Have It All,” “Where Do Broken Hearts Go,” “So Emotional.” She sang about things I still hadn’t felt – love, heartbreak, passion – yet she made them feel very real and very present.
It was all, of course, because of that voice. That instrument from another dimension. So clear, so strong, so magnificent. Whitney didn’t need back-up dancers or pyrotechnic displays or whip cream-spouting bras. She just mesmerized. Years of singing the good word in the gospel choir taught her how to make the most joyful of noises. And with that joyful noise she became one of the biggest superstars on the planet. One of the one-named ranks. Still today, say “Whitney” and no one in the world thinks you’re talking about that awful NBC sitcom. Nope, you’re talking about Whitney. Sure, later years were less kind – and often in a spectacularly public way. And how we like to make sport of those who fall from such great heights. But never, ever was there any doubt that we were graced with a talent, a voice, that would ring through the ages. News this weekend of her passing hit me like a bolt. Because it wasn’t just a piece of my youth that left us, but a talent that made the universe stop and listen. And now she is gone. And I don’t really know what to say. But thank you, thank you for sharing your voice. I will miss it, always.
p.s. Also, because I can, please enjoy this slice of pop perfection. Precious little gave me more joy growing up than bouncing around my bedroom to this song. Dance along with me now, won’t you please.