R.I.P.: Whitney Houston

February 12, 2012

Like everyone else, I suppose, I’m not terribly surprised yet very sad today after the death of Whitney Houston, once a super-talented singer, gone way too young at 48.  I had the pleasure of seeing her in person three times, very early on. The first time was before she even had a record deal. I think it was Eliot Hubbard, one of the music business’s eagerest early adopters, who encouraged me to check her out when she sang with her mother at a tiny club right around the corner from my apartment in the West Village. I wrote a tiny review of the show for the Village Voice. When her first album came out, I reviewed it for Rolling Stone, and Stephen Holden and I saw her perform at Sweetwater’s, a now-defunct nightclub near Lincoln Center. Probably not even a year later, Stephen reviewed her Carnegie Hall debut, by which time her meteoric ascent had begun — what I remember most from that concert was that she tore up “I Am Changing” (from Dreamgirls), getting a standing ovation in the middle of the song. After that, I was content to keep my distance and enjoy that glorious voice on record — my favorite memory being dancing on a party boat in Hamburg and hearing several thousand German leathermen sing along to “I’m Every Woman.”  Those were the days, my friend….

One Response to “R.I.P.: Whitney Houston”

  1. Steve V. Says:

    One reaction I had to the tremendous and obviously sincere outpouring of grief following Whitney Houston’s death is to wonder if there is anyone who addresses the American public primarily through the written word whose death would provoke this type wide-spread sorrow. Stephen King? Anne Rice? Somehow I doubt it.

    And what of those singers who sing primarily in modes other than pop music? Barbara Cook? Renée Fleming? (Many Americans would say “who?”) I suppose certain stage & screen divas like Minnelli and, especially Streisand, but even their fans might not include as many demographics as Whitney Houston’s.

    It looks as though pop music really is American music, and pop culture, whatever you may think of it, really is American culture.


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