Whitney Houston will always be a music icon.
A whole generation of those growing up in the late 80’s will remember Miss Houston’s songs most for her pop, soul, R&B and jazz renditions. She belongs to a class of performers that lifted music to a whole new level. Mariah Carey and all the other divas past the 90’s have very little when compared to the pure power of Whitney Houston’s voice. Despite the demons that have plagued her life, her performances still bring a kind of collective memory of a time when R&B was at its mainstream finest.
Teki has compiled a collection of her most favorite Whitney Houston songs, concentrating more on her earlier albums. Whitney Houston’s debut album in 1985 soared prominently in the charts. Her second album entitled, Whitney, released in 1987, is still Teki’s favorite album. Admittedly, her later albums from the late 90’s showed signs of poor collaboration, such that Teki felt that her producers failed to capitalize on the many vocal ranges she could have done, especially in the area of crossover jazz. Instead they concentrated on her high notes too much, which at times, felt constrained and too patterned. (Teki never really liked her mainstream songs: “I Will Always Love You” and “I Have Nothing”.) Nevertheless, like all music icons who have bad days, those bad songs outweigh the richness and dynamism of her earlier collaborations.
Play All At Once from the album Whitney Houston (1985)
This was the very first Whitney Houston song Teki heard on the radio. And it’s the kind of song that resounds throughout the years as a signature Whitney Houston piece. The song’s lyrics were penned by Jeffrey Osborne (who sang the hit “On The Wings of Love” in 1982) and music was provided for by talanted Michael Masser (known for his many top-charting songs for Diana Ross, George Benson, Teddy Pendergrass and a whole set of Whitney’s earlier hits.)
The song speaks towards the realization of a love lost, sudden heartbreaks and the discovery of moving forward alone. The orchestral rendition is a Masser trademark allowing you to follow the flow of pain and walking away.
Play Where You Are from the album Whitney (1987)
This is Teki’s favorite Whitney Houston song of all time. It does not get much airplay now and very few people can recall the song. But apart from the simplicity of the lyrics, it’s the saxophone solo of Vincent Henry and the backing vocals arranged by track producer Kashif Saleem that provided an optimistic freshness to an otherwise melancholic song.
It speaks about braving distances in a day, filled with personal reminders and memories of a loved one far away.
Play Didn’t We Almost Have It All from the album Whitney (1987)
This track was another Michael Masser song, with lyrical contributions by Will Jennings. “The ride with you was worth the fall, my friend” is a testament to honoring good memories despite the outcome of the relationship. The song would dislodge Michael Jackson and Siedah Garrett’s I Just Can’t Stop Loving You and would stay on the top of the Billboard Adult Contemporary Chart for three weeks.
The Whitney Houston Popular Covers
Play Saving All My Love For You from the album Whitney Houston (1985)
Some people forget that Saving All My Love for You was not an original of Miss Houston. It was originally sung by Marlyn McCoo and Billy Davis Jr. in 1978. But her rendition became the more popular version.
Play Greatest Love of All from the album Whitney Houston (1985)
George Benson’s original recording of Greatest Love of All was the theme for the Muhammad Ali biopic The Greatest featured in 1977. Linda Creed wrote the lyrics of the song while she was struggling with breast cancer. Creed would later die of cancer at the height of the song’s popularity through Whitney’s version.
Play I’m Every Woman from the album The Bodyguard: Original Soundtrack (1992)
I’m Every Woman is an original Chaka Khan recording. Whitney Houston used to lend backup vocals to Chaka. She would later reprise the song with massive raves.
Whitney Houston: Collaborative Duets
Notable Whitney Houston duets are those with Jermaine Jackson, Teddy Pendergrass, George Michael, CeCe Winans, her own mother Cissy Houston (for a Tim Rice composition of an Elaine Paige & Barbara Dickinson original) and even a collaboration with Mariah Carey for Dreamworks animation film, Prince of Egypt.
Truly, Whitney Houston has a range of performances that places her as one of the greats along with Aretha Franklin, Diana Ross and Barbra Streisand. The technical purity of her voice comes off as natural and not embellished as most divas are nowadays. And it is my hope that the younger generation get to know more of her music long after her passing.
The Whitney Houston Tribute Playlist