My first memory is of her photos in Seventeen and I recall being surprised when I read that she was going to release an album. I guess that, way back in my teenage years, I thought that people were locked into their careers: once a model, only a model.
But I was enlightened (and chastened, of course) as soon as I heard Whitney's voice: it ranged from strong alto to confident soprano, and she could soar between the two without adding (that distracting) melisma, so pure and true was her sound.
Whitney's first album cover in 1985 reminded me of a shot she might have taken for Seventeen, yet it was more sophisticated than her previously girlish photos:
|First album cover, 25th anniversary edition|
When she released her 2009 album, largely considered a "comeback," I noted how carefully its cover image echoed that first album, perhaps in an attempt to reintroduce the singer or to play on that earlier innocence. Was this image again reaching for sophistication--something Whitney definitely once had, having misplaced it along the way?
Last night I learned that Whitney's middle name is Elizabeth. Just knowing that detail made her less of a brand for me, less WhitneyHouston and more Whitney Elizabeth.
And although I loved WhitneyHouston's voice, I will think often of Whitney Elizabeth, the little girl from Newark, New Jersey, who loved to sing.