Whitney Houston: The Soundtrack Of My Youth

A week ago, I wouldn’t have labeled myself a Whitney Houston fan. Sure, I can appreciate her talent and my, oh my, was she a pretty lady, but I hadn’t kept up with her career since long before she entered her turbulent Bobby Brown years.

Her tragic and untimely death prompted me to reflect on her long career. I had forgotten how many great songs she produced. I had forgotten that she acted for a little while. I had forgotten how many moments from my childhood and adolescence featured none other than Whitney Houston.

You need only log onto Facebook, Twitter, Yahoo, or Google to see the many ways lifelong Whitney fans are paying tribute to their idol. These public discussions are tempered by those who are concerned about the lack of negative attention regarding the anticipated cause of death and the implications for how we as a society view drug use and abuse. My intention is not to address this conflict, as I don’t have anything to add to this particular discussion. I do, however, look fondly on the memories I unearthed this week from the recesses of my brain, and I will contribute to the various tributes by sharing those memories with you.

I clearly recall the first time I saw the Whitney Houston album cover and heard Whitney’s voice. Granted I was a child, but I had never heard a voice like hers and I certainly had never seen a woman who looked like her. You may remember the album cover – slicked back hair and exotic dress. She was gorgeous. My friends and I would spend hours dancing around our bedrooms singing “The Greatest Love of All” at the top of our lungs. We were convinced this song would change the world, but only if we sang it loudly enough and with extreme passion. My friend Hayley was a forward thinker and called dibs on having the song performed at her future wedding. We all reluctantly agreed to let her have it, because we couldn’t find a loophole in the dibs system. Come to think of it, I attended Hayley’s wedding and I’m pretty sure Whitney Houston was not present, nor was the coveted song performed. I knew I shouldn’t have given up so easily during those early negotiations.

Then there was the Twistin’ Sisters legendary 1985 performance to “How Will I Know?” A group of us put together a dance troupe in anticipation of our school’s talent show. My friend Julia’s babysitter was a high school cheerleader, so she agreed to teach us one of her squad’s dances. We practiced after school and every Saturday for what seemed like months. Video of our performance could potentially belie this statement, but I’m going to go ahead and say that our performance was BRILLIANT. I’m surprised none of us was snatched up by an agent. Regardless, I still remember 90% of the dance steps and will bust a move if and when I hear “How Will I Know?”

In 1988, I eagerly awaited the Summer Olympics. My favorite competitions were diving and gymnastics and I couldn’t wait to watch all the T.V. coverage. This was before the internet, so I didn’t know in advance that Whitney Houston was scheduled to sing at the games. I was absolutely mesmerized by her performance of “One Moment in Time” and I remember my emotional response to the music and lyrics. I was just beginning to understand and embrace the concept of living your dreams and naturally had visions of someday being a part of something as amazing and high-profile as the Olympics. I taped the ceremonies in order to get the song on video. I then spent hours playing, pausing, and transcribing in order to learn the lyrics. Oh yes, this is how we did things back in the day. I sang that song until I couldn’t stand it anymore. To this day, I can’t think of Greg Louganis or Ben Johnson without hearing this song in my head. Of course, then my head starts to hurt and I begin to think about steroids, but that has nothing at all to do with Whitney Houston!

In 1992, the movie The Bodyguard was released. I viewed this movie for the first time on my very first date. Ahhh….young, albeit awkward, love. Neither of us could drive, so we were chauffeured by his parents. I remember holding his sweaty hand (or was that sweat mine?) during the power ballad “I Will Always Love You,” Things got even more awkward when, upon arriving at my house at the end of the date, we found my entire family waiting for us on the front porch. They were eating popcorn and my dad was holding his shotgun. Apparently, this date had more bodyguards off-screen than on-screen. As for my date, I didn’t always love him (get it?), but I will always remember our first date experience.

Regardless of whom she was or what she did, I loved Whitney Houston enough to take her with me on a first date. She taught me how to dance. I dreamed with her about my own capacity to achieve greatness. I fought with my friends over who could invite her to their wedding. Good times. Good times, indeed.

Thank you, Whitney, for being a part of these memories.





10 thoughts on “Whitney Houston: The Soundtrack Of My Youth”

  1. Great story Kendy. I felt the same way after she died. I enjoy your writings…thanks for sharing!

  2. Like you, I lost touch with my Whitney fascination after she met Bobby Brown. After she died, my husband and I went back and watched the footage of her singing the National Anthem at the 1991 Super Bowl. It made me cry like a baby, not only because it was a flawless rendition of a song that always makes me cry when it is performed well anyway. But, because Whitney was so full of joy, promise, and hope in that moment. She had her whole life ahead of her and with her talent, she could have accomplished anything she set her mind to. It was so beautiful and sad to watch her and to know how her story would end. Thanks for sharing your story, Kendy. Now, I want to see your dance moves.

    1. I remember watching their reality show once or twice. It was both comical and sad. My friend (and fellow Twistin’ Sister) has suggested a reunion, so perhaps you will get a chance to see my smooth moves! 🙂

  3. Such great memories Kendy. Thank you. Maybe we should put the Twistin’ Sisters back together. I bet we could still put on quite a show… My Mom might still have my t-shirt with JuJu printed on the back.

  4. Kendy,

    Such a great post! Music plays such an important role in our adolescence and it’s too bad there aren’t special teen awards for bedroom renditions or lip synching…we’d all be winners. lol The meteoric rise of stars like Whitney sometimes end just as meteorically, with a brilliant flash and darkness left in their wake. It breaks my heart.


    1. Thank you for reading, Rose. I love to watch my daughter do so many of the same things I did as a child. Bedroom lip synching is an integral part of childhood!

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