Whitney Houston: 1963-2012

On the eve of the Grammy Awards, music lost one of its greatest voices, as Whitney Houston died at age 48.

Her only tangential connection to country was a big one.  Her cover of Dolly Parton’s “I Will Always Love You”  is one of the most successful singles in history, spending 14 weeks at #1 and pushing its parent album, The Bodyguard soundtrack, to sales of 44 million worldwide.

When Michael Jackson died in 2009, it was the first time it felt like we lost an icon of our generation.  But Jackson hit the charts with his brothers in 1969.

Whitney Houston was all eighties.  Everyone my age can remember the first time they heard her sing, back when “Greatest Love of All” and “How Will I Know” dominated the airwaves.  There was no matching that voice.

In the years that followed, many superstars would surface who could hit the big notes like Whitney, but not one of them came even close to doing it with her soul and her style.   She’s best known for her eighties pop classics and soundtrack hits from the nineties, but her best work was her underrated studio albums from the latter decade.

For those of you ready to delve into her catalog, don’t overlook 1990’s I’m Your Baby Tonight, which featured the stunning “All The Man That I Need”, the funky title track, and the should’ve been smash “My Name is Not Susan.”   Her best studio album, 1998’s My Love is Your Love, includes the classic title track, the Grammy-winning “It’s Not Right but it’s Okay”, and the tabloid-countering “In My Business.”

Watching the Super Bowl Half Time Show this year, I was again struck by how the eighties icons are surviving the test of time.   Madonna’s still at the top of her game, as are U2 and Bon Jovi.   Prince and Bruce Springsteen aren’t getting a lot of love for their new music, but are still amazing live and are still making excellent music.

But Michael Jackson’s gone, and now Whitney Houston is, too.  There was something so unique about the eighties that produced these larger than life stars.  I don’t know that the various mediums will ever be aligned well enough to create stars that big again.   We’re always going to have ladies with big, booming voices, but there will never be another who makes our collective jaws drop like Whitney Houston did.


  1. Thanks for this write up, Kevin. I don’t think a celebrity death has ever surprised or saddened me as much. Such a tragic waste for one of my all time favorite artists.

  2. Great write up! It’s saddening to see a lot of these artists passing at such young ages. I can’t say I’m shocked considering her past problems with drugs and her erratic behavior but I think everyone was pulling for her because she had so much talent. My heart goes out to her kids. Saying that I hope that the tribute to her tonight does some justice after such a sad loss.

  3. This post honors Houston’s memory in one of the best possible ways by shining the spotlight on her music, and encouraging the unfamiliar to discover it for themselves. Fantastic work, Kevin.

  4. Oh, and I should have mentioned one of her recent records that I really enjoyed off the last album was “Million Dollar Bill”.

  5. Her mother is still living and she leaves a daughter. Very sad. I guess she’s best known for other songs, but whenever I would hear her name “How Would I Know” would immediately pop into my brain.

  6. …why are we too often too late with our kisses and the right kind of words. still, we heard her but some should perhaps have listened a little more carefully. so sad.

  7. Another country connection (of the Christian country variety): Whitney was a fan, I recall, of Dottie Rambo, and included “I Go to the Rock” on one of her albums. Dottie was one of Nashville’s best songwriters.

  8. It may interest people to know that Whitney was persuaded to do “I Will Always Love You” when either Kevin Costner, her co-star in THE BODYGUARD, or possibly that film’s music supervisor, gave her Linda Ronstadt’s 1975 recording of it to listen to as a template. She was supposedly sold on the song because of Linda’s version.

  9. 48? That’s a full life of living converted into Bobby Brown years. Her passing is sad. Kevin nice write up. I think you are so on the mark. There will never be another Whitney Houston. May she rest in peace. Lord knows she deserves it.

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