[originally published February 14, 2012.]
I was trying to figure out why I was SO sad hearing about Whitney Houston’s death. Whitney Elizabeth Houston (August 9, 1963 – February 11, 2012) was an American recording artist, actress, producer, and model… Her awards include 2 Emmy Awards, 6 Grammy Awards, 30 Billboard Music Awards, and 22 American Music Awards, among a total of 415 career awards in her lifetime. Houston was also one of the world’s best-selling music artists, having sold over 170 million albums, singles and videos worldwide.
Houston’s body was found by a member of her entourage in the bathtub of her room at the Beverly Hills Hilton on Saturday afternoon. She had been due to attend a pre-Grammy awards party at the hotel hosted by Clive Davis, the record producer and music industry executive credited with discovering her in a New York nightclub in 1983. Attempts to resuscitate her failed and she was pronounced dead at 3.55pm.
Look, I made jokes about her dysfunctional ways and although her songs are not my style and I’ve never seen her in concert, there was never in my mind a doubt that she had a phenomenal voice. I watch the television show, American Idol, and the judges often warn the contestants not to attempt a Whitney Houston song because a comparison would ensue and be unfair. Pop-culture is my thing. Yes, in addition to many things she is a pop-culture icon.
I remember Houston’s first acting role as the star of the film The Bodyguard (1992). The film‘s original soundtrack won the 1994 Grammy Award for Album of the Year. Its lead single “I Will Always Love You” [With "I Will Always Love You" Houston recorded a defining song of the decade, one that meshed her soulful chops, extraordinary voice, and the R&B-inflected mainstream appeal that had already made her a breakout star across genre lines. ], became the best-selling single by a female artist in music history. With the album, Houston became the first act (solo or group, male or female) to sell more than a million copies of an album within a single week period. The album makes her the only female act in the top 10 list of the best-selling albums of all time, at number four. Houston continued to star in movies and contribute to their soundtracks, including the films Waiting to Exhale (1995) and The Preacher’s Wife (1996). The Preacher’s Wife soundtrack became the best-selling gospel album in history.
I just want to mention that many films and fairytales have a similar formula as The Bodyguard. In Titanic the rich girl falls for the poor boy. In Beauty and the Beast the beauty falls for the beast. In The Bodyguard the famous singer falls for her unfamous paid-protector. You get the point.
Despite having acted in only a handful of movies before her death on Saturday at the age of 48, Whitney Houston left a lasting legacy with the few film projects she did release during her reign as arguably the best-known female pop singer of her generation. 1995′s Waiting to Exhale earned her a NAACP Image Award nomination, and 1996′s The Preacher’s Wife won her the award (and made her the highest-earning African American actress in Hollywood at the time); this year’s Sparkle [The late singer was due to make an acting comeback in a remake of the 1976 film inspired by the Supremes ] was set to be Houston’s comeback after a well-documented and public period of substance abuse and personal decline.
Whitney Houston was one of the background music scores to my life. I know her songs; they are recognizable like she was. Her stuff reminded me of a different time and her loss reminded me that, that time had passed. I think her death was about many, many things for me. Of course the greatest loss is of the person.