The Girl with the Golden Voice
A writer remembers Whitney Houston and the legacy she leaves behind
I got ready to go to church but I decided to switch on my laptop, check my emails, and peek into Facebook. There it was, on almost every recent status update, different versions of goodbye. Adieu Whitney. RIP Whitney. I thought I was mistaken but her pictures were everywhere. Pictures of her in days past, her charming smile, caramel coloured skin, tumbles of hazel hair flowing over her shoulders. She wore a divine silver one-strapped dress in one picture, and a maroon-red v-necked halter dress in another. Oh, she looked so beautiful. How did we lose her?
When I was in primary school, I got dressed every morning to soft, slow, soulful music. My mom, a hopeless romantic, had DJ mixes of rhythm and blues, classical music, country music and soul. I grew up knowing the lyrics to songs by Rod Stewart, Lionel Richie, Pat Benatar, Diana Ross, Atlantic Starr, Art and Garfunkel, there were so many of them. I grew up loving some good old oldies; and I grew up loving Whitney. I loved The Greatest Love of All; it was like an anthem then for a very timid me. I danced to I Wanna Dance With Somebody, and I watched her perform on TV and in Pop in Germany. I thought she was so lovely and full of fun.
Her songs were deep, her voice rich. When it comes to music, I’m lyrically biased and even though she didn’t write most of her songs, it was her renditions that gave them life; that made those songs and those lyrics worth something. I Will Always Love You, who could have sang it better? Songs like One Moment in Time, so profound. Perhaps it was her struggles and sufferings that made these songs so real. Perhaps it was because she just seemed like one of us: weak, frail, vulnerable at times. Her only curse was that she was famous. When you live your life before the eyes of the world your faults are magnified, most times in higher measure than you successes.
She was just a young church-girl who made it big—with that golden voice, who fell in love with the traditional ‘bad boy’, who just wanted the same things any ordinary girl would dream about. Love, success, family, happiness.
Many people hated that she married Bobby. But she did, and she loved him, and that’s that. I watched her whittle away and it was so sad, seeing her lose weight and lose her way. But she came back, some way she found her way back, though I feel a lot of damage had been done already. Her death brings to mind the effects of drugs, alcohol, and bad company on people. It’s just so sad.
Amidst all the love poured out to her, mingled with the judgement and hate, all I want to remember is how things might have been different if she’d chosen another path. It’s a selfish thought, I know, we can’t turn back the hands of time on this one. But it’s my way of preserving her and making sense of everything.
Someday I want to tell my children about my journeys in finding the greatest love of all, and I want to play that song for them, tell them what it meant to me, and sing and mime it with them. ‘Darlings, there was a girl called Whitney. You know, she sang this song and…’
It’s my way of making sure I remember.
The TV is on right now as I type, CNN is doing some feature on her. That voice rings out. I Will Always Love You, the music video, the scene where she sits on a low stool surrounded by snow. She’s so beautiful!
I will never forget that golden voice.