Monday, February 13, 2012

In memory of Whitney Houston (and what it means to love yourself)

(I don't think I've ever written a blog post about pop music before.  Oh, well.  Here goes.)

Maybe you had to grow up in the 80's or 90's.  Or maybe you had to like R&B more than rock.  Or maybe it was just limited to North Cedar Street in McMinnville, Oregon.

Whatever it was, in 1993, Whitney Houston wasn't just a great singer: she was the ONLY singer.  I think my sister put the soundtrack in the CD player and then threw away the remote so we could never turn it off.

For at least six months you could turn on the radio to nearly any station and you would hear this:


Mind you, this is my own interpretation, but it seemed so universal that year.  I think part of the whole Whitney hysteria was because--after a decade of new wave and hair rock--vocal music was back.  And no one could deliver it so naturally and effortlessly as Whitney Houston.

Eventually, other singers followed her lead (no need to name names, because I'm sure you know), but at the time singers who could sing was a rather new concept, at least in my lifetime.  Kinda reminded me of the gospel music both Whitney and I were raised with.

I'm sure I could reminisce until all of you eventually stopped reading, but there is one specific thing that kept coming back to my mind as I was thinking about Whitney Houston.  That's the song she sang in the mid 1980's "The Greatest Love of All".

I believe the children are our future
Teach them well and let them lead the way
Show them all the beauty they possess inside
Give them a sense of pride to make it easier
Let the children's laughter remind us how we used to be

Everybody's searching for a hero
People need someone to look up to
I never found anyone who fulfilled my needs
A lonely place to be
So I learned to depend on me

I decided long ago, never to walk in anyone's shadows
If I fail, if I succeed
At least I'll live as I believe
No matter what they take from me
They can't take away my dignity
Because the greatest love of all
Is happening to me
I found the greatest love of all
Inside of me
The greatest love of all
Is easy to achieve
Learning to love yourself
It is the greatest love of all

I started pondering the lyrics to this song and how true they're not, especially in dear Whitney's life here on Earth.  It's true she really didn't walk in the shadow of anyone, but I don't know if that was for the best.  It must be really hard to be your own hero and, in a way, I admire anyone who tries.

If her life story is anything like the song, she went from lonely to unfulfilled and from there to self-dependent.  To me, the idea of "loving yourself" is a little strange.  I think we've had self-esteem shoveled on us by the ton for so many years that we've actually started to believe that people can blow everyone else off and do it on their own.  I've tried it.  It doesn't work.  We were made for relationships. 

I wish it were true that "no matter what they take from me, they can't take away my dignity".  In life it seemed--no matter how classy the PR people tried to present her on an album cover--her dignity was taken away (anyone remember that unfortunate Diane Sawyer interview?).  It sure makes me wish there wasn't so much media coverage of every detail of her life, because I want to believe in the woman I saw on the album cover.

So that's how I'll choose to remember her.  I'll remember the voice...and 1993.  Because even if there's no dignity for some in this life, I hope Whitney found it in death.

(check out my next post on Whitney Houston songs for Valentine's Day)

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