Whitney Houston was the Gold Standard of Having a Sensational Vocal Instrument

Back in 1981 when I first migrated to the U.S. Whitney Houston soon became one of the artists I fell in love with (musically). Her music struck a chord with me, maybe because she had dance songs, love songs and songs for which you could be moved and inspired.

I can remember buying her albums in those “vinyl” days and even later as music went to CDs. There are a few records still in boxes in my basement. Not long after leaving my full-time job to pursue my dreams in 1996, I had the opportunity to host a non-commercial radio show for five years.

The upbeat format of the show was inspired in part by music from artists such as Whitney Houston. On any given day the playlist included one or more songs from her that made you want to “move and groove but yet be inspired.” Ms. Houston became a woman after my own heart.

Then I learned that we shared the same birth date. Ever since then I felt so much closer to her. So you can imagine how her passing came as a shock. In recent days I have pondered that If open doors in radio again come my way, I would have every reason to dedicate the show to her memory.

People all over the world are paying tribute to Whitney. So here’s my two cents. Below you’ll find an old-school version tribute followed by a new-school version. 


(Old-School Tribute)

What a performance by Jennifer Hudson at the Grammys! It’s almost as if she was channeling Whitney. Well, it’s more like she was channeling the same inner essence that made Whitney standout from the rest. Ms. Houston was the gold standard of having a sensational vocal instrument.

Many of today’s singers like Mariah or Beyoncé looked up to her for how she had note control. Whitney could make her voice do things that others dare not even try. It was clear at an early age that she had exceptional God-given talent which took her from gospel songstress to international pop icon.

Much of her initial training came from singing in the Church under the guidance of her Mother, Ms. Cissy Houston. They also worked gigs singing at New York venues where Whitney got the chance to “groom and bloom.” She combined talent with that training to eventually land a record deal with Mr. Clive Davis.

Music Producer Quincy Jones reminded us in a CBS News This Morning interview that a great singer can take a simple song and make it larger than life. Whitney did that over and over. Her many career triumphs as an artist are a testament for how success comes by taking the ordinary and making it extraordinary.

But success sometimes brings undercurrents that can drown us in sorrow. We all have to keep striving to manage our personal assumptions, drama attractions and ego-gratifications. But at the end of the day most would agree that Whitney was the “best of the best” as a singer, actress and round-the-way girl.

(New-School Tribute)

At the Grammys J-Hud brought her A-game. In tribute to Whitney, not for her fame. It’s almost as if she was channeling her idol. Like back in her days on American Idol. She reminded us of Whitney’s inner essence. And why we felt awestruck in her presence. Having the most sensational of vocal instruments.

Many like Mariah and Beyoncé admired her note control. But it was really about how she sang deep down from her soul. Whitney could do wondrous things with her voice. That was something God-given not by choice. It was very clear at an early age. She was destined to become a pop icon on the world stage.

Starting with her gospel roots and Church up-bringing. Her Mother Ms. Cissy Houston groomed her as an apprentice-in-training. They also worked gigs at New York venues. Her mother knew something about Rhythm and Blues. In combining Whitney’s talent and training. Mr. Clive Davis saw a star in-the-making.

A great singer can take a simple song. And turn it into something you hum all day long. Quincy Jones is someone who should know. Having worked with so many artists who would come and go. Her career triumphs are larger than life. Which made you have compassion for her personal strife.

But success undercurrents can drown us in sorrow. Even taking away hope for tomorrow. We all have to check our personal assumption. Watching-out for drama or ego-gratification. For sure we’ll remember Whitney as the best-of-the-best. With her round-the-way-girl looks as a singer and big-screen actress.

Written in memory to Ms. Whitney Houston by Douette ‘Doc’ Cunningham

“We will always love you!”

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