I was just six years old when The Preacher's Wife came out in theaters. My parents tell me it was the first full-length movie I ever sat through. I fell in love with Whitney Houston's character in that movie, her voice and her presence. Since that time, it's been my favorite movie, no matter the time of year. (It's a Christmas movie). And I still know all the lines in every scene. Go on, try me.
Long before the movie came out, I had declared Whitney Houston to be my favorite singer of all time. The first time I ever heard her on the radio, I was riding with my family back home after going out to dinner. I don't remember which song it was, but I remember looking out the window into the field we were passing with a clear blue night sky behind it and allowing her voice to consume me. I felt I had been taken to another universe entirely, a universe in which everything was perfect and there were no worries. I think I fell in love with the world of music that night. After asking my dad who she was, her name I never forgot.
My favorite song of all time is "I Will Always Love You" and that's usually one of the first things I tell people I meet. It's gotten me through many a heartbreak and breakup, not because I was in love with all of them, but because sometimes it's just time to move on, though you may wish that person joy and happiness and above all, love. Many days I listened to that song on repeat all day, simply because it's the kind of song that just never gets old. With that song, Whitney was able to take a country song and make it universal. I love that. I also love how she was told by her record label that having a song with an a cappella introduction wouldn't be successful. But she held her ground and that song became the best-selling single by a female artist. When something feels right to you, don't let anyone talk you out of it. That's what I learned from Whitney.
As you can imagine, there are numerous videos of me singing "I Will Always Love You" and other songs by Whitney. I, like many other little black girls, had dreams of growing up to be like Whitney. It is very likely that I will never achieve such success, but it's incredible how someone can spawn so much hope in so many with just her voice. Another favorite song of mine is "One Moment in Time." In the opening lyrics, Whitney sings, "Each day I live I want to be a day to give the best of me." That's my motto for life, my motivation, so much so that my license plate says, "ADY2GV" for "a day to give." She performed it live at the Grammys one year and I will never forget that. Her level of inspiration was and is immeasurable.
My Love is Your Love was the first CD I ever owned, given to me one Christmas by my parents, and to this day, there isn't a song of hers I don't know. In the title song of the album, Whitney sings, "If I should die this very day, don't cry cause on earth we wasn't meant to stay." She's right, but I just wish it hadn't happened so soon. I always thought I would meet her someday and maybe hear her sing my favorite song live. Hearing of Whitney Houston's passing brought me great sorrow and unexpected tears. I've never cried over a celebrity's death before, but if it ever had to happen, it would be for Whitney and Whitney alone.
When Whitney Houston sang "The Star Spangled Banner" at Super Bowl XXV, the national anthem became a top ten single. It has since become a benchmark for future singers' patriotism and creativity in making the song their own. In my opinion, it has yet to be topped.
Everyone who knows me knows that when a Whitney song comes on the radio, there's no talking or singing around me, out of respect to The Voice. She was perfectly imperfect. I read somewhere that we're all fighting our demons and some of us overcome them, while others lose that battle. It would do no justice to history for me not to acknowledge Whitney's drug addiction, because it was pretty clear that she struggled with one. But that's not how I will remember her. Maya Angelou once said, "People will forget what you said. People will forget what you did. But people will never forget how you made them feel." I do think I will remember every line she ever spoke in a movie and every note she ever sang. But I will remember how she made me feel most. Years from now when I have a family of my own, I hope my children are as much fans of Whitney as I will always be.
Whitney Houston, I will always love you.