You good people made amazing suggestions (here) for me in my quest to spruce up my musical taste. I have dipped my toe into the warm pool of your favorites, and I’m liking what I am hearing. A lot.
But I had an unfinished piece of business. I’d done my work around Michael Jackson– I’d made peace with the Man In The Mirror and the Smooth Criminal. It was hard work– deep work– but I needed to close that chapter before I could move on.
When I found myself resisting new music, I looked deeper. In a quiet corner of my soul I saw the image of Whitney Houston– her memory was begging to be released. She wanted me to move on. But how? Her death felt like Fate had jammed its fat hand into my jam box, ripped out my favorite Whitney mix tape, and smashed it to smithereens on my parents’ linoleum floor.
But it’s been almost 14 months since her death, and it was time. I downloaded her entire collection and started listening. I spent the weekend in a somewhat regressed state, her music having transported me back to 7th grade when her debut album exploded on the scene. How many hours did I sit on my bed listening to her soulful ballads and praying that my braces would come off before high school?
It wasn’t easy to listen to music on repeat in the mid-80’s. I had to get up off the bed, go over to my portable radio and rewind the tape. Manually. That’s commitment, kids.
Didn’t We Almost Have It All? was my song for the young man who didn’t appear to know that asking me to borrow a pencil in 7th grade math would lead me to believe that he and I came so close— I mean, we almost had it all. Once you share a pencil in math class, you’re practically ready for joint tenancy and a standing date night.
I know she had gigantic hits, but I favored the B sides. They were sadder. More codependent. I loved lines like “I have nothing, NOTHING, NOTHING, if I don’t have you.” That line of thinking was my middle grade self’s bread and butter. I loved the black & whiteness of the chorus.
Many an hour I spent listening to Whitney and Jermaine Jackson singing If You Say My Eyes Are Beautiful, thinking about all the wonderful middle school guys who would definitely sing that with me, if only they would look deep into my chocolate-colored eyes. I could cry on command– what more could a teenage boy want?
The only reason I watched the 1988 Olympics was because of her song One Moment in Time.
I was fully saturated in her discography for several years.
I know what you are thinking. Where were her parents? Who let’s a 12-year old dive into love-sick ballads unsupervised? Don’t judge them, they did they best they could. Back then, we didn’t know the effect of super-sappy music on the young female psyche.
I still love Whitney, and I’ll always love her (though I will forever prefer Dolly Parton’s version of the hit that line recalls). I hope she’s found peace at last– far away from Bobby Brown and whatever other demons she tried to snort away.
But, honestly it’s ok with me if my kids gravitate to music that’s infused with a little more self-esteem. They probably won’t find music from a greater talent, but maybe something with a touch less I’m-a-broken-shell-of-nothingness-without-your-love.
Guess that means I have to take country music off the shelf.