Friday, December 7, 2012

Remembering Whitney

     While standing in the check-out line at the grocery store this afternoon, I found myself humming the first Whitney Houston song I remember hearing, “How Will I Know”:
“There's a boy I know
He's the one I dream of
Looks into my eyes
Takes me to the clouds above.

Ooh, I lose control
Can't seem to get enough
When I wake from dreaming
Tell me is it really love…

How will I know?
(Don't trust your feelings)
How will I know?

How will I know?
(Love can be deceiving)
How will I know?

How will I know if he really loves me,
I say a prayer with every heart beat
I fall in love whenever we meet
I'm asking you what you know about these things.

How will I know if he's thinking of me
I try to phone but I'm too shy
(Can't speak)
Falling in love is all bitter sweet
This love is strong why do I feel weak

Oh, wake me, I'm shaking,
Wish I had you near me now,
Said there's no mistaking,
What I feel is really love.

Oh tell me how will I know?
(Don't trust your feelings)
How will I know?

How will I know?
(Love can be deceiving)
How will I know…

If he loves me, if he loves me not
If he loves me, if he loves me not
If he loves me, if he loves me not

How will I know…

How will I know if he really loves me?
I say a prayer with every heart beat,
I fall in love whenever we meet,
I'm asking you 'cause you know about these things
How will I know…
(I'll fall in love)
How will I know?”
[From:;  songwriters:  Shannon Rubicam; George Merill; Michael Walden]

     Early Sunday morning, when I first learned of Whitney Houston’s death, I immediately thought of the first time I’d ever heard her sing.  Rewind to 1985 in Sitka, Alaska, birthplace of my son, Christopher, and the best place I’ve ever lived.  On my lunch hour, I’d venture over to the Sheldon Jackson College gym, where about 75 men and women gathered for an aerobics class.  The music blared, and the instructor moved us rapidly through the paces, her voice audible above the pulsating music.  The singer belted out the words:  “How will I know… If he loves me, if he loves me not…How will I KNOW?”  With a plaintive, prolonged rise of an octave or two on “know.”  “Who is THAT?  You say her name is Whitney?  I’ve never heard of her.”  That song created energy in Lee Anderson’s aerobics class.  I still associate Whitney Houston with that first song of hers that I remember.
     In talking with friends about our sadness over her passing, I’m amazed at how many people recall the times and places when they listened to her music:  at the beach, at the prom, on the road, or just while growing up in the 80’s.  I just looked at the Youtube video for “How Will I Know,” and I was blown away by the staging of it:  balletic dancing, humor, kinetic energy, an artistic set, and of course, a very young, flirty, and fresh-faced Whitney.  I enjoyed the clever touch of showing Whitney looking up at a slide of her godmother, Aretha Franklin, as she sings:  “I’m askin’ you; ‘cause you know about these things.”  You can check out the video for yourselves here:  I DARE you not to move while listening to this song.  My gosh, it is addicting!  And that SAX!  I’m dancin’ and singin’ while it’s playing! 
     According to music industry records, the song “I Will Always Love You” by Dolly Parton was Whitney Houston’s most popular hit.  In this song, Whitney gets to showcase her 3 octave vocal range.  There’s a pause, a drumbeat, and her soaring voice plaintively singing “I will always love you” with that stratospherically high note on the word “you.”
     In reviewing Whitney’s body of work, I was amazed to see all that she accomplished in her life:  a concert in Central Park, singing the “Star Spangled Banner” at the Super Bowl while the Persian Gulf War was going on, and hundreds of awards and honors.  Most impressive, however, was the influence she had on other singers, like Mariah Carey, Jennifer Hudson, and Keke Palmer.  She allowed the fact that she had come from music royalty to take her to the limit.
     Take a moment to remember your favorite song by Whitney Houston, and perhaps this will ease the sting of her death somewhat.  One thing is for certain, her musical talent will burn brightly forever.

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