Whitney Houston passed away yesterday afternoon at the Beverly Hilton in Los Angeles. News of her death playing over the radio in the background interrupted a conversation in the car with my brother, and the old-fashioned announcement felt fitting for the singer who dominated the airwaves before iPods and music blogs. It is hard to imagine any modern pop artist or dedicated vocalist not influenced by what can only be called her gift. She along with Michael Jackson were the first black artists to break into MTV’s video rotation in the network’s early days. The rest, as they say, is history.
The irony that she died the day of her mentor Clive Davis’s famous pre-Grammy party, in the hotel of the very event in which she was introduced to industry insiders some thirty years ago, is hard to take. As the annual gala, which Davis says she was very much looking forward to, became a tribute to Whitney last night, guests walked the red carpet to the ballroom while her body still lay in her hotel room just four floors up, waiting for the coroners to be released. She is rumored to have drowned in the bathtub, with prescription drugs nearby. As stated, a truly tragic irony.
Below are just a few of her many iconic music moments – the landmark video for number one hit, “How Will I Know,” her 1991 Super Bowl gold-standard performance of “The Star-Spangled Banner” that defined patriotism in the midst of the Persian Gulf War, and most poignant, her very first television appearance on The Merv Griffin Show that introduced the nineteen year-old to most of the world.
Rest in paradise, Ms. Houston – thanks for the music.