When Whitney Houston sang The Star-Spangled Banner during the Super Bowl, it just reminded everyone that she was the most incredible pop singer in the land. Notice how easy she made it seem? It’s actually an impossibly difficult song to sing, as evidenced by many singers who managed to wrangle this specific performance, Christina Aguilera and Steven Tyler to name a recent few. Nobody has quite sung the U.S. anthem quite in the same way since. It was even the first time the anthem made it to the Billboard Hot 100 charts. No need for me to chronicle the steep decline from America’s sweetheart to drug dependent, since we all know to well this cautionary tale. Too tragic. I was always a Madonna fan, so Whitney was always her biggest rival in the 80′s so it’s safe to say I was fiercely team Madonna, but Whitney’s talent was undeniable, and I had ALL her albums. When “Whitney” was released, it was in 1987, the year I spent almost 6 months in the U.S. So a lot of those songs served as the soundtrack of my stay there. My cassette tape was worn out at the end of the 6 months that I had to buy a new one before I returned to the Philippines. I was also lucky enough to have watched her live in concert in Portland, Oregon, where I witnesses her diva-ness. Before she sang “Where Do Broken Hearts Go”, she told the crowd: “Now I’ll be singing my 7th straight Number One song.” And at one point, mid-song, she stopped the music to scold a fan who put a rose on stage. She asked the rose to be removed, before the continued singing. But the VOICE. It was inhuman. Most singers pale live in comparison to their recorded work, but Whitney sang like she had a CD in her throat. Looking back, the more I realize the scale of the loss.
And it’s just so freaky that we should unwittingly pay tribute last week to the fallen songbird, when we did a whole shtick involving her biggest hit, “I Will Always Love You”. When we were talking about how much we enjoyed having bodyguards, Gino and I started shrieking the song in unison. Since then, every time we’re escorted in or out of the book signings by our bodyguards, they blast the song in the speakers. It’s hilarious every time they do that. But in retrospect, it was some sort of grim foreshadowing of the loss the music world would soon reel from.
So goodbye Whitney, hopefully you’ve left your troubles behind with your physical body. I hope you’ve found the respite you seemed to be chasing after all your life. You will be missed.