You don’t need me to remind you that Whitney Houston has passed away at the age of 48. You also don’t need me to remind you that she has had a life plagued with drug addiction and personal perils that have been exploited in the media over the course of her career.
Because these things are so sensationalized by the news right now, I think it’s important to take a look at her career and highlight the impact she has made on my life.
While I may not be into a lot of the pop music that is being churned out nowadays, even I cannot argue that a hit is a hit. Back in her day, not only was Whitney Houston a hit, but her songs were hits. I am a child of the 80s and was a child during the 80s. I was just a kid and wasn’t buying records yet during her prime, but I listened to the radio a lot.
Granted, she didn’t do much songwriting, but, in regards to the songs that were written with her in mind (or not), damn!
And if you ask me (which you did ask me, otherwise you would have stopped reading), there are three songs that I think stand out and comprise the pinnacle of her hits. Oddly enough, these three were Billboard #1 hits right in the middle of a seven consecutive #1 run: “Greatest Love of All”, “I Wanna Dance with Somebody (Who Loves Me)”, and “Didn’t We Almost Have It All.”
The latter two are just fun songs that showcase her range and diversity as a singer. “I Wanna Dance with Somebody” just has a lot of vibrancy and energy, and really is something that is difficult to not sing along with. “Didn’t We Almost Have It All” is a much slower song that is just so powerful and moving and really shows how bold her voice can be.
“Greatest Love of All,” is, in my opinion, a much bigger song. The message in the song is grand, and her voice, while very bold and forward, is not at all overstated. Whitney paved the way for a lot of the people who followed her with large voices, and this song was instrumental in that. People like Adele, Jennifer Hudson, Kelly Clarkson, even other contemporaries like Mariah Carey, owe Whitney and this song major gratitude. This song is one of the greatest and most profound songs of the 1980s, and will always be how I remember Whitney Houston. Not the drugs, not the silly marriage with Bobby Brown, not the played out and overly dramatic cover of “I Will Always Love You.” This song.
And to commemorate the song and pay tribute to the impact that it has had in my life, here is one of my favorite covers/parodies of the song, and probably one of the funniest things Eddie Murphy has done. From the 1988 film, Coming to America, here is Murphy as the then stereotypical Black glamour singer, Randy Watson, singing his version of “Greatest Love of All.”