Back when the Murdock, Hunter & Alice Show was just taking off on KLSY, Whitney Houston’s career was starting to catch fire. It wasn’t long until she was one of our core AC (Adult Contemporary) artists. Being an AC station, I would listen with envy at what Charlie & Ty were playing over on KUBE. Even just a few years earlier, Whitney had made her presence known, but I wasn’t overly impressed. Sure, she was beautiful and had an amazing voice, but my definition of a great performer included being to sing, write their songs and perform an instrument while showing off their vocal abilities. Over her career, she continued to rely on doing cover songs, singing songs that, to me, were just done a few years ago. “Saving all my love for you” was originally done by Marilyn McCoo and Billy Davis Jr. from the Fifth Dimension. Eventually, she did “I’m every woman” which was pure Chaka Khan. Why do you think these songs need to be redone? Then, to top it all off, Whitney did “I will always love you”, a song written by Dolly Parton and featured in the 1974 musical, “Best Little Whorehouse inTexas”. All performed beautifully and with her own style, but to me, the lack of originality was always a strike against her.
I’m sure there were others, but I just assumed that’s what she did. Every now and there, there was “I wanna dance with somebody” and “How will I know”, but when I heard the name Whitney Houston, I thought of slow, boring songs. We would be working a morning show on a radio station and because it was so popular, we’d be forced to play “I will always love you” at 6am in the morning. Great song, but GOD! Playing it in the morning, in my opinion, was morning show suicide. But hey, we were an AC and that’s what they did, right?
After this weekend, I can’t hear “I will always love you” enough. I’m also now realizing that for her to have survived as long as she had…and, for the most part, continuing to be a music legend….in spite of physical, emotional and drug abuse….I guess I’m just amazed she lasted as long as she did. 48 years is not a lifetime, it’s a mid-way point. It’s when you’re supposed to hit your “empty nest” period and start reclaiming what you gladly gave up during the years you raised your kids. As she left the earth, Whitney’s daughter was only 19 and at the springboard of adulthood. Sadly, mom could not defeat her demons and despite the fact there were literally millions of people who cared about her…it still wasn’t enough.
It’s odd that we would lose two of the music icons of the 1980s to a prescription drug habit that escalated out of control. Back in the 1960s, we lost singers on a regular basis due to recreational drug use. These days, it’s the prescription ones that are taking singers, actors and other performers, one by one.
Whitney’s disastrous marriage, heavy-duty drug use and on-the-edge lifestyle finally caught up with her. It is such an incredible waste of talent and a first-degree shame. It’s also too bad it took me several decades to realize that I was actually quite a fan.