If you’re at least 25 years old, your life has somehow, at some point, been touched by legendary songstress Whitney Houston. Whether it was her classic ballads being blasted through your parents’ stereo speakers, or during the more recent years, when we watched at times in awe – she impacted us all.
For me, it was Whitney’s classic rendition of the song, “The Greatest Love of All.” Nearly every elementary school music teacher required it at some point back in the day, and in 1985, the radio couldn’t break its addiction to playing it repeatedly. On nearly all radio stations. On Earth. Sure, the lyrics were good enough, but it was Whitney’s soul-stirring, high note-climbing vocals that made people believe in themselves just a little bit more after hearing it….”I believe the children are the future…”
I scored a solo the year we sang that song at my end-of-the-year, 6th grade awards assembly. I wasn’t one for the spotlight, but for two weeks, an 11-year-old Seandra practiced in the mirror, reaching (unsuccessfully) for the unreachable heights that Whitney had taken the song’s lyrics to. I was a shy kid, but for some reason, the song – and singing along with Whitney in the mirror - made all the difference in my summoning up the courage to shine….“teach them well, and let them lead the way.”
In the years to come, I would love her songs even more. Whitney had album after album of chart toppers – universal music that knew no color boundaries, that had taken a somewhat ‘hood girl from “The Oranges” to the big screen, the awards podium, and eventual tabloid notariety. Even as I watched her life unravel, I never gave up hope in her ability to just be…human. Her frailties with Bobby made us cringe, and her personal desperation was hard to watch (and easy to judge) in many interviews, TV reality episodes, and paparazzi photos. Whitney constantly reminded me how the spotlight blinds the rest of us. But what I’ve learned in this job is that we are all human – especially celebrities….“show them all the beauty they possess inside.”
To the relief of many, Whitney rallied back in recent years. And I cheered for her, pumping my fist just days ago, as I laughed in the AllHipHop offices while viewing photos of her and Ray J in a car together. “On a passenger ride to Cougar Town!” I thought, not mad at her one little bit. So, before the ongoing media coverage that will last for days on end, where we analyze and pick apart your life and times, at times not considering the toll it will take on your family and legacy, I wanted to say THANK YOU, Whitney Houston. Hopefully I wasn’t the only kid in that auditorium way back when who was inspired to strive harder and be better because of a song….”I found the greatest love of all inside of me.”
Whitney Houston “The Greatest Love of All” (Live at the 1987 Grammys)
Our icons are leaving us far too soon. R.I.P., Whitney.
Seandra Sims is AllHipHop.com’s Managing Editor. Follow her on Twitter (@SeandraSims).