One Heartfelt Tribute

Allow me to deviate for a moment from our regularly scheduled programming of embarrassing stories and general ridiculousness to pay a tribute to a woman  whose death has caused me a surprising amount of grief: the inimitable Whitney Houston. Despite what some might call a mild obsession with celebrity culture, I’ve never before felt truly upset upon learning some famous person had passed away. But last night, hearing that Whitney had died, I was absolutely struck to the core.

Some of my greatest memories are set to a Whitney Houston soundtrack.

My friend Nichole had Whitney’s Greatest Hits album, this massive, amazing 2-disc collection featuring all of her standards from I Wanna Dance With Somebody through her jaw-dropping rendition of The Star Spangled Banner which, truly, is the way the song is meant to be sung. Trapped at Fort McHenry, Francis Scott Key dreamed of a day when his words would be belted with pitch-perfect harmony and sheer joy by a gorgeous woman rocking a bandanna headband and patriotic red-white-and-blue track suit. God, what a diva.

We used to listen to that album over and over, singing our favorite songs, screeching them, really, so off-key but endlessly enthusiastic. We especially loved How Will I Know and, of course, I Will Always Love You. I remember one summer at soccer camp in Penn State, a group of us, probably 15, jumping up and down on one of the skinny hotel-issue beds in our dorm just shouting that song at the top of our lungs, drawing out the “IIIIIIIEEEEIIIII” as long as we could until one of our older teammates stormed in to shut us up – the rest of the team was trying to nap. Years later Nicole got married, the first of our group of girlfriends to get hitched and when the DJ played our song we huddled together in the middle of the dance floor, swaying and shouting until we all but cleared the room. Apparently the rest of the wedding guests didn’t find us as charming as we did?

Totally coincidentally, yesterday was Nichole’s little boy’s first birthday. Another of the million reasons why she’ll always come to mind when I hear a Whitney song.

Whitney followed me to college, too. My friend Paul adored Whitney and under his tutelage we spent night after night, first in dorm rooms then in bars and eventually at Paul’s own wedding (yes, this wedding) having massive 15-20-30 person dance parties with that song on repeat, some of us taking the main parts – “Don’t you wanna dance, say you wanna dance, don’t you wanna dance” – others chiming in on the background beats: “Dance.”  Paul always went for the high notes, chiming in on “Don’t you wanna feel the HEAT with somebody?”


Such a beautiful talent, a life cut much too short.  Because we are who we are here at One Awkward Year, let’s mourn her passing with a moment of joy and bask in the absolute ridiculousness of late 80’s fashion and music video styling:

Work that ladder, girl!

Thanks for being a part of so many beautiful memories, Whitney. Rest in Peace.

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96 thoughts on “One Heartfelt Tribute

  1. This is a beautiful tribute — one I think many of us can relate to. I recall playing “I Will Always Love You” over and over on my Sony CD boom box a few decades ago. That song totally captivated me…

  2. I love love love the post! I cannot believe she died on my sons birthday so werid because I have to be the biggest fan EVER! Miss ya!

  3. Thanks for your tribute. Her music lives on. My memories with her music as a soundtrack live on. For me, it’s karaoke bars. My, my, my — And my daughter learning to sing the National Anthem for our pool opening. She practiced to Whitney’s version so many, many times. She opted out of trying to hit that high G#, though. Good decision. Respect. RIP Whitney. Nice post.

    • Karaoke! Can you do Whitney karaoke? I wouldn’t even try, it would be too embarrassing! So cool of your daughter to sing the National Anthem – and no one could hit those high G’s! Thanks so much for your great note – I’m about to check out your blog now 🙂

      • Thanks. No I never touched Whitney at karaoke, except for my very first time, then I retired my Whitney repertoire. My good friend has a strong voice and would do Whitney from time to time. And then there were the folks that had no business even trying. hahaha!

  4. It was so sad to hear of her passing, I had really hoped that she could defeat her demons. I agree with Edrevets that she is singing in the choir.
    Congratulations on being Freshly Pressed!

  5. Wonderful, post. I take comfort here as I remain struck by Michael Jackson’s death. These artists were, and remain, a large part of the soundtrack of our lives. When we experienced love, joy, despair, pain, even loss, it seems, they are there with us and for us — in the background sometimes — but, THERE.

    Whitney’s loss is so very sad. I hope that she is at peace.

    Thanks for this lovely post. –Zee

    • Thank you! I hope she is at peace too. It is so remarkable how these background noises, personalities can be such huge presences when we might not even realize. I’m happy you’re finding comfort in others’ experiences – yay blogging!

  6. there’s no denying the amazing voice and talent that she was, and it is truly sad that she is gone. however, she had choices to make, and she made poor choices.

    • It’s hard to make choices that are truly yours once you’re in the thrall of a double curse: drugs and a horrible, abusive husband like Bobby Brown. That said, I hope all parents sit their kids down and speak to them about Whitney’s path and how to avoid the pitfalls. Thanks, Amy

      • Thanks for your words, RMV and Amy – there is definitely something to take away from a situation like this and I do hope we can all keep an eye out for each other and not see others caught up in similar struggles.

  7. I appreciate the fact that your name is not on your blog, because neither is mine. So sad about Whitney. I hope that at some point in the future of human evolution we’ll learn a better way to deal with our demons.

  8. It is through your post that I found out about Whitney’s death and am still in a state of disbelief! She was one of the greatest singers of our time and her songs are timeless. May she Rest In Peace.

  9. Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee, blessed art thou amongst women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb…Jesus…holy Mary, mother of God, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death…Amen….Dear Mary and Jesus….please care for the soul of our dearly beloved and departed Whitney Houston…we all hope to hear her sing again with all the beauty that you originally bestowed upon her….please awaken people to the dangers of drug addiction, particularly crack cocaine and protect us all as much as you can…Amen. Amen.

  10. I have heard the Star-Spangled Banner butchered time and time again by pop singers, but Whitney Houston sang it with just the right tinge of gospel, and mostly pure, unadulterated love. It’s the ultimate version of a song that is very difficult to sing – I’m a pro and I never take it on, because I’m afraid I will butcher it like so many others.

    Another take on Whitney, not meant in disrespect, but to remind everyone that in the end, she was a fragile human being caught up in something bigger than she was. Peace to you all, Amy
    http://sharplittlepencil.wordpress.com/2012/02/13/bobbis-mom-sunday-whirl/

  11. I forgot how awesomely she sang the Star Spangled Banner, and so effortlessly, too. It’s like she’s just chillin’ up there and it’s coming out of her like the Greatest Gift of All (pun intended!).

  12. I just listened to her sing the National Anthem on your post, and I literally started out with goosebumps and by the end had tears in my eyes. You’re exactly right. She played a big part in the “soundtrack of my life” too — from high school through college and weddings and parties.

    She will be greatly missed, and you wrote a beautiful tribute to her.

  13. Also for me, she was a huge “thing” on MTV back then. The channel that launched a bazillion careers. I don’t know about anyone else here, but MTV was the first glimpse of some of the voices I’d already fell in love with! You know? (:^)

  14. I’ve been itching out to write a tribute for Whitney yesterday but couldn’t come up with the right words.I ended up listening to her songs last night and crying in between. Her voice is one of a kind.It’s sad how troubled she was before she died but this post is one good tribute and a reminder of what great and meaningful music she has given in our lives. Thanks for this! RIP Whitney Houston. Thank you for the music.

  15. That was wonderful, such an emotional tribute, i cried after the first paragraph! We are all sad at her passing, and I do agree with you about the Star spangled Banner, she truly made that anthem her own and everyone loves it.

  16. Thanks for writing such a sincere tribute, it is clear that you adored Whitney Houston. I learnt about her death through my mother and it was a sad day. I’ve been hoping and desperately wishing that she was going to recover and be the great star she once was. That isn’t to say she ceased to be a star in her low points of her life but I wish she could have made more music. I was thrilled to find out she was going to produce a new movie. I will always remember her. Thanks for writing this post. RIP Whitney.

  17. i love your tribute.. i was a fan club member during my teen years.. i watched “The Bodyguard” the first time and never get tired of watching reruns… probably because of her music. it’s true what they say, she didn’t have to wear skimpy outfits and gyrate to show off her voice,, very simple and truly a diva. God bless her soul. thank you for sharing…

  18. Pingback: Another Awkward New Year: 2013! « One Awkward Year

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