It would be many years before I fully understood Whitney’s impact on the music industry. I played those tapes — yes, cassette tapes — over and over again when singles were the hot buy at Sam Goody Record Store. The Bodyguard Soundtrack was the first I’d ever owned.
There were times that I would play “I Have Nothing” on repeat or try to make the piano keys match Whitney’s runs at the end of “Run To You.” She taught me discipline as an artist. This same discipline was evident in every record she recorded. Whitney didn’t give us no mess!
Her voice defined us. It was the indescribable possibility of young Black kids to create art more impactful than anyone could have ever imagined. Her pitch-perfect soprano made our hearts stop and chilled us to the core.
Her voice was the essence of excellence.
Back at Kelly’s Grammy Party, I came across another revelation on Whitney’s voice, and that was her dedication to social issues. I listened to the same voice used to help Nelson Mandela call an end to the apartheid movement.
In 1994, Whitney was present to headline an international campaign which celebrated the release of Mandela and signaled the end of the South African massacre which saw scores of men and women killed in hate. Whitney opened her Concert For A New South Africa with a moving Stevie Wonder cut, “Love’s In Need Of Love Today,” one of the songs Wonder ultimately performed at her funeral.
Her voice was a siren for equality, a beacon for justice, in the same light as Nina Simone, Aretha Franklin, and Marvin Gaye.
She spent countless dollars and lent her artistic space in support of many charities over the years including Children’s Hospital, Save The Music, United Negro College Fund, and her massively affective Whitney Houston Foundation for children.