With songs like “How Will I Know?” and “I Want to Dance with Somebody,” how could I not? I remember singing these songs with my best friend, both of us using hairbrushes—and later Nickelodeon microphones that probably came with happy meals or something—as we skidded around in the basement in our socks, the space heater blasting our legs as we crooned about boys we’d never even met yet.
When The Bodyguard was released, you can bet we were obsessed with her rendition of “I Will Always Love You,” both of us attempting to get the vocalizations right and failing miserably. Who could ever do Whitney justice? Divas like Celine Dion and Christina Aguilera have since followed, surely becoming big sensations—but nobody’s voice has ever come close to Houston’s, in my eyes (and ears). Remember when she remade Chaka Khan’s amazing “I’m Every Woman” song? I have goose bumps thinking about it. We all are every woman, and no matter how many men sing about it, it takes a woman to really feel and recognize it. That song could be used to exemplify any rights movement, any case against worldwide genital mutilation or systematic rape or trafficking while simultaneously being our anthem to simply be ourselves, without the media’s influence.
Whitney Houston had plenty of problems, and I won’t say that her life itself was a good example for young girls to follow. But I have yet to see a similar talent that my daughter could dance to in the kitchen with big sunglasses on in another couple of years, feeling empowered and smitten at the same time as she uses whatever eight-inch device is available as a microphone. As I’ve felt with many stars who’ve passed on before their time, her death is tragic, as was much of her life. I send out my heartfelt condolences to her friends and family who really knew her, as well as other fans who were touched by her gorgeous music.