Saturday, February 11, 2012

My Thoughts On Whitney Houston

Whitney Houston died tonight.

It's weird. I'm struck by just how sad I am at hearing the news. I didn't know her personally. But, still, I feel like someone I used to know - a long lost friend or relative - someone that really meant something to me at one time has died.

And it's very sad.

Whitney was my first idol. I loved her. I wanted to be her. I look back at the time in my life when I first came to love her: I was about 7 or 8 years old. My mom had just died about a year before. I took to Whitney in a strange way. My adoration of her was stronger than anyone probably ever knew. As a little girl I would try so hard to sing as big as she did. And sometimes, I truly believed I was succeeding. I'd watch her music videos and then, as soon as they ended, I would pretend that I was her in those videos by throwing on her tape and mimicking the moves: The finger snaps, the foot shuffles, the head jerks.

I had her poster on my wall.

This was the video I tried to copy the most:

She came to play in town around that time. I can't recall if it was at the State Fair or some other festival, but I know there were rides there. My sister surprised me and my niece (and best friend), Kimi (her daughter who is around my age) with "tickets" to see her perform. We were so excited. We got to the festival and, unfortunately, we didn't actually have tickets. We stood behind the fence behind the very last row of actual ticket holders and listened to her. She was a tiny dot on the stage, shuffling back and forth...but her voice carried all the way back. There were crates next to us and some other non-ticket holders were standing on them. They let us join them up there and then even let us use their binoculars so we could see. I can still remember that view of Whitney very clearly. And, at that age, I didn't care that we weren't up front. Because, in my mind, we were. Although, I'm pretty sure I went there thinking that I was going to get an autograph. It was my first concert. I didn't know how they worked.

I loved all of her songs and followed her loyally through The Bodyguard - though maybe not as openly. Whitney and my junior high "style" didn't really go hand in hand.

But, probably my favorite of them all is a song called "All At Once" off of her debut album. As I was saying above, when Whitney first really gained popularity, it was right after my mom died. My dad and I  were living in an apartment. I would try to sleep in my own room at night, but would inevitably end up pulling my mattress into his room and sleeping on the mattress on the floor. I would bring my tape player  with me and I would put on her debut album (Whitney Houston) and fall asleep to it. But every time this song came on, I would sing along to it very quietly and usually start crying. I think it was the first song I ever really got. I ever connected with emotionally. I could identify with the lyrics. And I still can't listen to it without bawling. As I'm doing now.

I don't know why I did this. My adult self imagines it's because when my mother was alive and fighting cancer, she used to let me sleep in bed with her and my father. I'd sleep right between them - even at 6 years old - and probably drive them crazy all night. I think some strange part of me felt like laying on the floor next to my dad's bed and listening to Whitney, well, I think it made it feel like it was before. And my dad, being the grieving widower and now single father to a little girl, had no idea what to do and just did everything he could to make me happy. But, man, how did her ever sleep with a seven year old on the floor next to him singing along to Whitney Houston every night? (love you dad)

So, yeah, Whitney Houston meant something to me. When I was a little girl, she sang me through my pain - like my mom used to do. I've always held onto that.

Thanks, Whitney.

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