Farewell, Whitney Houston; Randy Weston at Tribeca
Ron Scott | 3/28/2012, 3:24 p.m.
Whitney Houston's death was as a shock for me, as it was for all of her fans. A friend called from Richmond, Va., to alert me to the breaking news.
Houston's voice stopped listeners in their tracks. Her three-octave voice, when at its high pitch, even the angels gave a listen. Her gospel timbre touched souls, and she could belt out soul and swing in high pop fashion.
Houston was a diva whose impeccable voice immediately inked her a place in R&B and pop history beginning in the 1980s. Her vocal skills placed her in the same category as Aretha Franklin, Chaka Khan, Etta James and Dionne Warwick, her cousin.
Her rendition of the "Star-Spangled Banner" during the 1991 XXV Super Bowl was so spectacular it was released as a single and eventually became a platinum hit. Ironically, many began listening to this national anthem as they would any pop hit, but that is the singing power Houston possessed, her infused gospel adding a unique flavor.
She infused the same soulfulness Ray Charles added to "America, the Beautiful," and who would have ever thought that one would never get tired of listening to these to national songs? Both songs are rather difficult to sing, as many vocalists have attested, but Houston and Charles brought a flawless flair, raising the bar for vocalists who attempt to sing them in stadiums throughout the country for years to come.
Great singers leave their signature on any song they sing. This was Houston's talent. When Clive Davis, her mentor and record executive at Arista Records, first introduced her on "The Merv Griffin Show" in 1985, she amazed the audience with her rendition of "Home." At that moment, everyone knew a great new singer had hit the universe.
New Yorkers saw Houston as their local home girl-living a stone's throw away in New Jersey-who became a musical icon. Not surprising since she was surrounded by great singers, including her mother, Cissy Houston; her cousins Dionne and Dee Dee Warwick; and her godmother, Franklin, "the Queen of Soul."
Her album, self-titled "Whitney Houston," was released in 1985. This debut included three No. 1 singles: "Saving All My Love for You," "How Will I Know" and "The Greatest Love of All." In the 1990s, her cover of Khan's "I'm Every Woman" became an anthem for women all over the world.
With such an astounding voice, it is no wonder that Houston was the only artist to chart seven consecutive No. 1 Billboard Hot 100 hits: "Saving All My Love for You," "How Will I Know," "Greatest Love of All," "I Wanna Dance with Somebody (Who Loves Me)," "Didn't We Almost Have It All," "So Emotional" and "Where Do Broken Hearts Go."
Behind Elton John, she was the second artist and the only female artist to have two No. 1 Billboard 200 Album awards (formerly the "Top Pop Album") on the Billboard magazine year-end charts.
Aside from her music, Houston will be remembered for her bubbling personality and big smile. She leaves behind a staggering wealth of music for inspiration and listening pleasure to generations to come.