Monday, February 13, 2012

Farewell, Whitney Elizabeth Houston

When did you first hear of Whitney Houston?  When she starred in The Bodyguard? When she put out her first album?  When she modelled for Seventeen magazine?

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.


Justine said...

Miss Cavendish - you have such a way with words.... what a lovely post. With all of the information flying at us about this sad event, your eloquent piece has been the only one that made me shed a tear.

Dash said...

What a lovely tribute.

Suzy said...

I first met Whitney Houston in California, in 1982, when I was working for a national trade association, who hired Dionne Warwick as their entertainer at their Annual Convention in San Diego. I worked for the association making all of the arrangements for their conventions, meetings, events, and so met Dionne Warwick in the afternoon while she was making sure the stage had been set up to her specifications. She introduced Whitney to us as her "niece" (not cousin, so I'm confused why) who would be singing back up with her that night, and said "she's going to be a star!" It was exciting to watch her career develop and her amazing success, and then, an awful tragic end to it all.