“The Greatest Love of All”
By Devon Wendell
What happens most when a star dies far too soon – especially from causes difficult to confirm — is that the major media tends to focus on the dirty laundry. The trials and tribulations, sordid relationships, drugs, and pain. Via speculation and conspiracy theories. What is too often missed is the beauty of the music and the energy left behind. This has been the case with Billie Holiday, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Michael Jackson, to name only a few.
And now Whitney Houston, who died Saturday, February 11th, 2012 at The Beverly Hilton in Beverly Hills California.
Born on August 9th, 1963 in Newark, New Jersey, Whitney began singing at the age of 11 with her junior gospel choir. Her mother, Cissy Houston (a legend herself and a founding member of Aretha Franklin’s backup singing group, The Sweet Inspirations) then moved to New York where they often sang side by side. And it was there that she was eventually discovered by Clive Davis, President of Arista Records, who was convinced that she was a potential star.
Her career took off like a rocket. Throughout the ‘80s and ‘90s she was unstoppable, with starring roles in films such as The Bodyguard and a series of r&b, soul and dance tracks dominating the Billboard charts — “How Will I Know,” “Saving All My Love,” “I Wanna Dance With Somebody” and “The Greatest Love Of All” to name a few.
“The Greatest Love Of All” is a song about hope, youth, and love, delivered with soul and sincerity. Whitney sang with the same gospel power as her mother Cissy and her godmother Aretha Franklin, and the sweetness of her cousin Dionne Warwick. Yet from the first note, there was no mistaking her own unique sound.
Whitney’s music personified beauty, soul, and grace, rooted in gospel with a universal pop sound. Just watching her sing, eyes closed, smiling in bliss, hitting those strong, confident notes, brought joy to the world.
Those of us who love Whitney would turn to that sheer ecstasy and happiness to escape all the mud-slinging and hurt that was too often portrayed by the media when her name was mentioned. Thankfully future generations will also experience great pleasure, and have much to learn, from her glorious music and her indomitable spirit.
A spirit that will live forever.
If you love Whitney, celebrate her greatness, not her tragedies. And play her music loud. For that is “The Greatest Love of All.”
Photos taken at Universal Amphitheatre in 1999 by Tony Gieske.