I first heard the song above when I was 15 years old. Whitney Houston’s “Greatest Love of All” spoke volumes to me that day, and the feeling I’m getting as I listen to it right now, still stunned by the news of her death, is indescribable.
Much like what went through my mind when Michael Jackson died just over three years ago, the second I saw Whitney had passed (on Twitter, of course) about an hour ago, I was shocked, saddened and at a loss for words. If Michael was the King of Pop, Whitney was undoubtedly the Queen. Michael passed away at age 50, which was far, far too soon. Whitney didn’t even make it that far. When I saw the very first headline reading “Whitney Houston: Dead At 48,” the age actually caught my eye despite the fact that the news itself was overwhelming. I’m 21 years old, and it seems like as long as I’ve been alive, Whitney has maintained “legend” status. When I first started listening to music, as long ago as I can remember, Whitney was considered one of the greatest singers to ever walk the earth. Even years later as she battled with drug addiction and other personal issues, at the end of the day, she was always simply the woman with arguably the most beautiful, powerful voice of all time, and to a certain extent, nothing else mattered.
Seeing “Dead At 48” seemed surreal to me. Could she really be that young? I double-checked (as if CNN had actually made a mistake..), and it was true – Whitney was born in 1963… a few years after my parents. Michael Jackson’s “Gone Too Soon,” a song I listened to an immeasurable amount of times following MJ’s death, immediately began to play in my head. There have been a handful of “Twitter deaths” recently, but as soon as I saw that first Whitney Houston headline, I knew the news was true. As one of the CNN anchors said just minutes ago, “It seems like everyone’s shocked, but no one’s surprised.” Unfortunately, that statement sums up my feelings too. What should and will be remembered over everything is that Whitney Houston was perhaps the greatest singer that’s ever lived (and definitely sang the best National Anthem of all time), but she endured countless struggle, and ultimately, though no details have surfaced yet, this is likely a death that is due in large part to drug abuse. When someone (take Amy Winehouse, for example) is notorious for having drug problems, an untimely death is almost expected. It’s not like you’re ready for it to happen at any point, but in the back of your mind, you know that tragic possibility is always there. The saddest part, though, is that people like the Reverend Al Sharpton and others close to Whitney have been saying that she was on the mend. Again, as of 9:30 PM (ET), there has been no official cause of death declared, but I know I’m not the only one expecting to have my thoughts confirmed.
Back to Whitney’s music, though – I’m not one of the tens of thousands of people that have probably listened to every album and every track Whitney ever delivered. She was at her peak, of course, long before I was even in middle school. Once again, however, as long as I’ve lived I’ve never once second guessed the fact that she was a legend and that she may have had the greatest singing voice of all time. I feel like for anyone between the ages of 14 and 70 right now, that’s common knowledge. As with many others my age, I’m familiar with most of her music, but certainly not all. So I’m not going to attempt to talk about her entire catalog, but I am going to talk about “Greatest Love Of All,” my favorite Whitney song, and one of the four or five songs that have had the most impact on who I am today.
The first time I heard Whitney sing, “I believe the children are our future, give them love and let them lead the way…”, it just hit me – I knew I was listening to something magical. She went on to sing about the importance of loving yourself and believing in the person you are and never allowing anyone to tell you otherwise. For years afterward, throughout the natural trials and tribulations of my high school years that I think anyone observant, morally conscious teenager endures, Whitney Houston’s “Greatest Love Of All” was always the first song I found on my iPod to tap into my feelings and feel confident with my decisions. Something about that song is just so special in the sense that it applauds confidence and individualism, and of course Whitney sang it with the beauty, grace and elegance that few if any ever could have.
I don’t know, it’s all still sinking in for me right now. I had a short window for a personal tribute. I’ll be back for more. Miss you Whitney, I’ll never forget what the greatest love of all is.
“I decided long ago, never to walk in anyone’s shadows, if I fail, if I succeed, at least I live as I believe, no matter what they take from me, they can’t take away my dignity… because the greatest love of all is happening to me, I found the greatest love of all inside of me… the greatest love of all is easy to achieve, learning to love yourself, it is the greatest love of all…”
R.I.P. Whitney Houston (August 9, 1963 – February 11, 2012)