Monday, February 13, 2012

Thanks for the Soundtrack, Whitney

When a celebrity passes away, you hate to make it about you. It's their family, their legacy, their life. But then again, all you really have left is their work and how it affected you. So I found myself both reflective and saddened at the sudden passing of Whitney Houston Saturday.

Because along with the sorrow for a life lost too young, a light extinguished too soon, I also felt inconsolably nostalgic. Major artists from the soundtrack of my "younger years" are gone. But instead of waxing poetic and morbid about the loss, I thought I'd share some of my life moments that were literally soundtracked by a few artists no longer with us.

1980something - On the highway between Dallas and Atlanta. Heading to my older brother's graduation from Emory. BougieDad insisted on heading out on road trips at the crack of dawn so we'd been in the car since two freakin' a.m. It was midday and we were over the wonder of the car trip. If we could have whined "Are we there yet?" without punishment, we would have. We were pretty much on punishment for everything having worked our parents' nerves to the nub. We had long since given up on finding music we could all agree on until the last bathroom stop before Atlanta. As the first one back to the car, I dug into my bag and pulled out the "Off The Wall" cassette (yes, cassette) and popped it in. When we got back on the road, "Rock with You" soared from the speakers. One by one, we each started singing along. Peace was restored. Thanks Michael!

1992 - Austin, Texas. It was $.25 drink night for the ladies at Club X. (I know, I know) For some diggity damn reason, your girl decided that tequila shots on nothing but a Jack in the Box taco and two tortilla chips was a good idea. I was rocking a forest green suede mini-skirt with a matching silk blouse and sky high pumps that were purple and green snakeskin. I was so fly. (Yes I said fly) Any damn way, "Now That We Found Love" by Heavy D came on and some dude that I only knew by the name of Mac asked me to dance. Keep in mind, I've always been a serial two-step shuffle-shuffle hip shake shimmy-shimmy snap it up with a head bop kind of dancer. But oh no, not this evening. This evening I decided to get my New Jack on. I was hopping and skipping and high kicking like I was auditioning to be a House Party extra. Boobs defying gravity, hair frizzing up a la Chaka and ruining my "no water needed" outfit. And of course I fell out. Le Splat in the middle of the dance floor. Combination of pumps too high, moves too complicated, and girl too drunk. Just so happened the guy I had just broken up with was there and he carted my brokedown behinds out of there. Every time I hear that song, I get tempted to try that routine again. Then I hold myself back and bop my head. Thanks Heavy.

2000 - Alameda, CA. Me and the on-again off-again beau were off. Bitterly off. He was coming by so I could speak my peace (again). Being a bit dramatical, I decide to set a mood. Lights were off, candles were lit and I was dressed in all black. I put Whitney's "I Learned From The Best" on repeat and moved one of the speakers upstairs so that no corner of the house would miss a single word of her message. By the time dude got there, I was in rare form. I went on a quite, well-worded rant that lasted ten straight minutes without a pause for breath.  Then he went in. We fell silent as the song played over and over. Finally, he shot me a look and said, "If you don't want me here, I'm gone." I slammed the door behind him and sang that song about five times in a row at the top of my lungs. When I was done, I was done. Thanks Whitney.

I keep imaging a jam session with Whitney, Michael, Marvin and Tupac. Donny and Ray on the piano and Sam Cooke doing the arrangement? Billie and Nat tapping a foot from a seat on the side? That's platinum.

Gotta favorite #WhitneySoundtrackMoment? Favorite Whitney song? Do share...


TrulyPC said...

 "all you really have left is their work and how it affected you"  Ugh.  This is too true.  I kept Whitney on repeat this weekend and now the local radio station is doing it.  S.A.D.

One that I will mention was 198(?) when I heard the song "You Give Good Love" it was on BET watching the video and I was hooked on that voice.  It also didn't hurt that a guy in the video reminded of the person I was crazy about.  It made me smile.  It still does.

thinklikeRiley said...

WTH was Contessa D'Bouge doing at .25 drank night at Club X? MA'AM! Bwahahaha
Man, I hate that this happened before YouTube.

I'll be back with my Whit story. 

blackprofessor said...

Chele, I swear that our fathers are related!! My father used to have us on the road at the crack of dawn for the drive to Mississippi. 

Whitney was an indelible part of my childhood and I felt numb when I heard she died!  I liked so many of her songs but I loved Miracle, Greatest Love of All, Thinking about You, and I Will Always Love You. 

I think what I will miss more than anything is real singing! Whitney could sing! No machines, no gimmicks, no synthesizers, girlfriend could sing.  In this age of watered down artists with mediocre talent, she stands out.  I will miss the fact that artists compare their renditions of songs to Whitney's versions to see if they measure up and that is a good thing.

diamond life said...

For some odd reason, I have this memory of a Designing Women episode where Annie Potts' character is talking about driving around her daughters while they sang Didn't We Almost Have It All in the backseat at full volume.  Weird but that's the first thing that came to my mind.

MochaMuffin said...

Thanks for this! Great way to remember. That break up sounds like a scene from one of your books. :)

My mom and dad were going through a divorce that was soundtracked by the Waiting to Exhale soundtrack. Took me years before I could hear Shoop, Shoop without cringing. 

GuessImJay said...

I didn't think I was that big of a Whitney fan until they started playing them all this weekend. Out of the catalog, my favorite is My Love is Your Love, I liked the tempo the delivery and the lyrics. I was sad when her life drama started overshadowing her talent and I hope that's not what people dwell on. She was a huge talent and should be celebrated as such.

Only1DivaC said...

I'm still in shock over her death. Being an 80s baby, I grew up on her music so every major life achievement has some sort of connection to Whitney. I loved her music but the songs that stand out for me are I Love the Lord (still get cry everytime I hear this song), One Moment in Time, Star Spangled Banner (still get the chills), and For the Love of You (love her rendition of the Isley classic).

maureen said...

I'm a huge Ms. Houston fun. I  own all of her CDs. Her passing messed me up.  My favorites includes: one moment in time, you give good love, one wish (xmas), I have nothing, I look to you, I will always love you, I didn't know my own strength.

Grace said...

 Every Star Spangled Banner since then has been like - er, no. Not Whitney.

EC Thompson, MD said...

Any time you can take a song that we have all heard and sung thousands of times and make it new and fresh, you are special. Whitney was special. 

rhenewal said...

This is the first celeb death that has actually saddened me deeply. Whitney's been the Soundtrack of my Life for... my entire life. She started recording the year before I was born, so I feel like her voice has been there all along. There's no ultimate Whitney song for me, because so many of them are so beautiful. Off the top of my head, "Didn't We Almost Have it All", "One Moment in Time", "Queen of the Night", "I Will Always Love You" and "I Look to You"... An amazing talent that will be missed.

bashowell said...

*takes a moment to cackle over Club X*
I've always been a Whitney fan.  This weekend I went to play her stuff and realized most of it's on cassette, and while I could play it at home, I seem to have misplaced my Walkman (20 years ago) so I had to re-buy and represent this millennium (smh) if I wanted to listen outside of the house.

I remember somewhere around '93, '94-ish we did a routine combining Vivaldi and "I'm Every Woman" for church cheerleading...  I'll just leave it at that.

Earthangel172 said...

 I don't have a specific story but my favorite Whitney Houston albums/songs were:

"I'm Your Baby Tonight"  (Shoot I loved the whole darn album, especially My Name Is Not Susan...LOL)
"I Will Always Love You"
"I Have Nothing" - stayed on repeat
I still have the Waiting to Exhale soundtrack in my car.
"Heartbreak Hotel" was my ish...LOL

Let me stop while I'm ahead. Suffice it to say that I love Whitney Houston and I will always be a fan of hers.

Jeannette said...

Whitney Houston was the soundtrack for my college years.  I loved her and i really had an empty feeling when she passed on.  Our legends are dying way too soon... mostly because of self-medication.  

invectiva said...

Being a singer myself, I've always had the utmost respect for Whitney's talent (she's like Cissy v2.0 and I love Cissy, too - Sweet Inspiration indeed). My father's top 40 band was doing You Give Good Love when it was current, and Whitney was so beautiful on the cover of that record, I was in awe. After hearing that song, I wanted to sing just like her, and that was the first time I'd ever felt that.

Fast forward several years, and I'm in a large acoustically vibrant concert venue to see some random r&b band, and Whitney's on the jukebox at set break. I'm singing along at the top of my lungs, which nobody can hear 'cause of the noise level & bodies, so I'm just doing my thing... until they shut the jukebox off because the band's coming back on. This happened right after the modulation in the song, so I am belting out IIIIIIIIIII WILL ALWAYS LOVE YOUUUUUUUUUUU in a now otherwise silent venue and it's just ringing throughout the building.  Everybody's head spins around to see who's singing, and, um... well... Awk. Ward.  Mortification now == uproariously funny later, however.

Do not watch this Kim Burrell tribute without a mountain of tissues handy:

Whitney, you will be missed. You were beautiful and amazing and the world is a sadder place without your voice.

ASmith said...

Can they all be my favorite?

1. Just The Lonely Talking
2. My Love is Your Love
3. All the Man That I Need (ALWAYS gives me chills and gets me going)
4. Where You Are
5. If I Told You That

But honestly, the list is always in flux.  All the Man That I Need is pretty constant tho.  

The Waiting to Exhale soundtrack was like a Whitney album with some amazing guests, IMO (and I take nothing away from the greats who were on there like Chaka and Auntie ReRe).  Whitney was just. so. amazing.  I hope we don't ever forget that.  Even some of our legendary singers who were/are freaking awesome couldn't do it as well.

NY2VA said...

As a church kid and former youth choir director, I have always been partial to Whitney’s gospel performances. She damn near takes us to church each time she belts out one of her glorious power ballads anyway, so for me when she sings gospel, I can truly feel God moving. I was reduced to tears this morning as I drove in to work because for the 9:00 Praise Break, Rickey Smiley played Whitney Houston’s rendition of “I Love the Lord.” Whitney truly ministered to my soul this morning.. I don’t attend church nearly as much as I did when I was growing up, hell, I’m doing good if I get there once a month, but I certainly did have church in my car this morning. Whitney has always reminded me of myself in that no matter how far away she seemed to be from her roots in the church, and no matter how ratchet she was being, she was always able to access the Lord because she carried Him with her even into the darkest of places. I know that I have strayed from many of the teachings of my youth, but I know that my God is with me and that I can access Him when I need to and quite honestly, Whitney Houston is the one who really drove that point home for me.

MsJamie14 said...

Whitney. The moment I heard her angelic voice I was hooked. "The Greatest Love of All" was probably the first song I learned word for word.

The crazy thing is that I was just remarking on Twitter that how I've seen most of the greats live in concert (Micheal Jackson, Luther Vandross, Prince etc) but not Whitney. And even though she was still living I would probably never hear her sing live. The next day, she passed. Damn.

That voice was such a big part of my childhood. I've missed it for years, but am so thankful for the vibrant memories that will forever live on inside of me.

ichoosethesun said...

I shared similar memories in my post, Rest in Peace Songbird. One of my favs is Whitney perfomring Saving All My Love on Silver Spoons.

DB said...

Let me get this "blasphemous" statement out of the way - I think Whitney's version of "The Star Spangled Banner" is highly overrated.

My top five Whitney Houston songs
1) "When You Believe" -
2) "Something In Common" -
3) "Somebody Bigger Than You And I" -
4) "My Love Is Your Love" (featuring Wyclef Jean) -
5) "I'm Every Woman" -

JoycelynC said...

The My Love is Your Love album is one of her best in my opinion.  So many great songs.  She will surely be missed.  Two songs I love from her are Oh Yes and Worth it. Those lyrics and her voice, great stuff. 

rikyrah said...

she was the female soundtrack of my youth. period. I had all her albums and knew all those songs. her voice ...that voice.

BklynBajan said...

Whitney's music was definitely the musical soundtrack to my growing up years. She came out the box while I was in HS and carried her to college and the crazy dramatic 20's. I was so hopeful that she was on her way to true inner peace after all the joy she shared with so many. I can't pick any one song as there are too many key moments that is associated with her music.  I watched a few videos on youtube this weekend but I was only able to play one her albums today and things I forgot about are flooding back. I feel sad for this younger generation because 20 years from now all they will have are the autotunes a radioactive mouse. My teenage self dreamed to "You give good love" and can STILL use that song to seranade to a deserving man.

rozb said...

Whitney was all up and through my 80s and 90s. I even had a favorite brush I used to sing along to her hits.

Her music is the stuff of legend. When your voice is bathed in unicorn tears and coated in honey, you can't help but touch so many.

BTW - I was happy Jennifer Hudson did not scream at me during her tribute. The Grammys were a big enough train wreck, and I am through with them that I had to wait through three hours of my life I will never get back, but JHud did right by Whitney.

GammasWorld said...

Club X?  *raises eyebrow* Anywho ...  I was tore all the way when we lost Teena Marie.   I cried all dang night and found a group of uber fans on the internet (led by @keyinfluencer) and had a jam session for a couple of hours.  I think some of the happiest memories I have with my ex husband are around Lady T.   We didn't share a whole lot but we definitely shared a love of music.    With the news of Whitney's death, folk were being a little to negative for me so I withdrew into myself and enjoyed my memories of Whitney alone with spotify.  Whitney's catalog is so vast but one that always brings a smile to my face is I wanna dance with somebody.  I know y'all are going "really"? but that was such a fun song.   The absolute best commentator I hear on the news was Bill Flanagan on CBS Sunday morning.   His segment was beautiful, simple, respectful, and acknowledged her legacy without focusing on her struggles.     

invectiva said...

I cried for Lady T, as well. Last year, and at Christmas this year, too. Sigh. I hope she is still wild and peaceful.

Annette Evans said...

I guess it is true, you don't know what you've got 'til its gone. Whitney was there through it all, and  I can put an important memory with every one of her hits.  My very favorite song right now is her rendition of "This Day".  I was not a superfan, but I will miss that golden voice. Rest in Peace, Ms. Houston. 


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