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?
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.