Whitney Houston just died. Youngin’s like me know the name, maybe know a song or two, but have no idea of the legend. Someone mentioned Mariah Carey was like, the next Whitney, so that sort of put it into perspective for me, a minor Mariah fan.
Houston’s called the greatest singer of her time, an icon. But what do I know about her? She’s the woman who belts out those five words like no other ever could, “I will always love you.” She was married to a fellow named Bobby Brown, who sang a song called “My Perogative,” which was later covered by Britney Spears. I learned during all the reports that they have a daughter, also named Bobbi.
To cut to the chase, I don’t know Whitney Houston. I know of her, but I cannot classify myself as a Whitney Houston fan.
In my iTunes, I have one song by her. One.
Name: My Love is Your Love
Number of plays: 2
Date added: 5/30/2011
Fun fact: It was Houston’s third best-selling single ever. And it suddenly seems appropriate for the time:
In my mind, she’s blended into a mix with several other singers who may or may not be from the same era as she is and probably don’t have anything to do with each other:
Tina Turner, Gloria Estefan, Aretha Franklin, Celine Dion, Lauryn Hill.
I have six songs by Celine and two by Lauryn. That’s it. From this microscopic pool of iconic women in the music industry, I have less than ten songs. And I consider myself a music junkie.
In comparison, I have 30 Britney Spears songs, 41 by Rihanna, 44 by Taylor Swift and 25 from Adele. I have 39 songs featuring Beyonce, and I’ve always been bothered by her.
So what’s the deal? Where is the disconnect and what does this say about my choice in music?
I think a lot of it has to do with my upbringing. Before my parent’s divorce the house I grew up in was full of The Bangles, The Cranberries, Seal and 4 Non Blondes. Once I moved in with my dad, I grew up listening to The Beatles and The Beach Boys. I was a stranger to Madonna until two or three years ago. I knew who she was, of course, but it’s not like my dad cranked up “Like a Virgin” when it came on the radio. The sole Houston song on my computer was released in the late 90s and only caught my attention because that’s when I started actually listening to music on my own.
The disconnect, I believe, comes from what kind of music my parents listened to versus the kind I gravitate toward on my own. Perhaps if my mom had been the soul churning, beat chaser I am, I would have heard a lot more Houston growing up. I would have had more exposure to Aretha Franklin and Lauryn Hill.
This is not to say I don’t enjoy the music I was raised with. I find sentimental value in music, especially that which reminds me of someone close to me. I watched The Grammy’s last night with a friend who hates The Beatles. When I found that out, I felt personally insulted. I also felt like she’d been deprived of something great, like Christmas or birthday celebrations. I’ve come to assume she just didn’t hear them growing up. And when The Beach Boys came on with Foster the People and Adam Levine, I wanted to call my dad up right away and tell him to drop his book and click on the TV. (We don’t have cable, so I didn’t, but it’s the thought that counts, right?)
I’ve played The Bangles “Eternal Flame” at the jukebox at the bar, a song I’m told I used to wear out my lungs singing when I was only four years old. I can still recall my mom teaching a room full of foreign students English using Club Noveau’s cover of “Lean On Me.”
I think the main reason for my lack of experience with great performers like Whitney is that at the time I would have learned about her, I was too busy learning songs and artists that meant something to the people I loved the most. And with that realization, I think it’s my duty, from here on out as a music lover, to become acquainted with the iconic singers from before my time.
Five singers I vow to get to know:
- Whitney Houston. Duh. How many times have I said her name in this post?
- Tina Turner
- Etta James
- Gladys Knight
- Mariah Carey. I think I need to re-explore pre-Emancipation of Mimi.
Five singers I already know, who can reduce me to a pool of tears:
- Adele. Her performance of “Someone Like You” at the 2011 MTV Video Music Awards was…awesome. In the real sense. I’ve loved her since “Chasing Pavements.”
- Christina Aguilera. I can’t say much for her these days (umm Bionic?), but back when Stripped came out and even Back to Basics, her voice was incredible.
- Alicia Keys. Songs in A Minor is probably one of my favorite albums (and album titles) ever. “How Come You Don’t Call Me” will have a place on any sing-a-long mixed CD I ever make. (Hey, Alicia. How come you don’t make music anymore?)
- Amy Winehouse. Maybe she makes this list because of the phenomenal difference of her voice and any other in the world. Maybe a little part of me wants her on here because she will never make another album. But there is no denying, the woman had talent.
- Jennifer Hudson. Okay, this is my weak addition. I admit, I’ve always loved her because of “Spotlight” but after last night’s performance of “I Will Always Love You,” she is a must on this list. I teared up. A lot. Her tribute to WH was solid. And her obvious emotion at the second to last note—nearly unbearable.