I’m Not In 7th Grade Anymore: Time to Say Goodbye To Whitney Houston

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.

Image credit: Wikipedia

Outlaw Mama’s coming of age soundtrack Image credit: Wikipedia

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.


42 thoughts on “I’m Not In 7th Grade Anymore: Time to Say Goodbye To Whitney Houston

  1. What a coincidence! I was drawn to the co-dependent, melancholy, heart-rending songs too – anything that would help fuel the longing in my heart for unavailable anything was solid gold material for me. I love the thought you put into your life soundtrack – good taste and writing as always my friend!

  2. O-m-g, I was so there with you. To this day I blame “How Will I Know?” for my complete inability to make a decision. Her sophomore album was just as good. I worshiped those songs. And you are so right – getting up and pressing rewind – we really did have commitment. I did it enough times to qualify for the sad song Olympics, if they had them. I think I have my Easter weekend project now, thank you!

    PS – I’m still searching for the answer “Where Do Broken Hearts Go” – do they find their way home? I need to know.

  3. I’m so glad your psyche survived to tell the tale. I wasn’t into Whitney, but I do have plenty of songs that can take me right back to angst-ridden youth. It really is amazing how music works that way.

    • Right! Totally. So far my kids are allowed to listen to her Star Spangled Banner, which is gorgeous, but I’m holding back on the other stuff until they prove they are emotionally stable!

  4. Loved her music too. I probably need to have a service for the Dirty Dancing soundtrack at some point, but I’m not ready yet. I kind of want to go watch Thriller now too. It’s amazing how music can take us back.

    • Oh Dirty Dancing. My little sister was supremely gaga over that soundtrack and the movie. She loved it so much it became her thing, which is the only reason I didn’t glom all over that. But I cried like a baby when Patrick Swayze died and still get choked up when I hear She’s LIke the WInd, which happens more than you’d think.

  5. I wouldn’t trade our 80’s music for the world. I loved Whitney. Still love MJ. Movie soundtracks on cassette like ‘Pretty in Pink’ and ‘Top Gun’ kept me company at home and on my paper route. Great writing!

  6. Not so fast on the country music, Mama. Especially if you include bluegrass. Your mention of Dolly reminds me of two of the greatest albums of all time, the 2 Trio albums, Dolly, Linda Ronstatt and Emmylou Harris. And how about this from the Johnny Cash tribute concert?

    • You’re right. Bluegrass is plain awesome. Sadie’s first album was Steve Martin’s banjo album, which is crazy extraordinary wonderful stuff. And you are right right right about the trio albums. And you had me at Johnny Cash tribute. OM spoke too soon!

  7. I’m still not ready. I just am not. A song comes on and I will sit down. I am so serious. Fourteen months and she still puts me on my ass, remembering, thinking, feeling, hoping her daughter fares better than the road she sometimes seems to be taking. I let my 12-yr-old listen to Miracle recently. All she said was “Wow.”

    “Yeah. I know.”

    • Oh, I so worry about Bobbi Kristina. During Christmas I am a mess because her version of DO you Hear What I hear? makes me misty and it’s dangerous to drive under misty conditions. It’s all about balance. 12 yr old is the ripe time for WH’s music. Don’t do it til you are ready.

      • GET. OUT! I secretly (well, I guess not so secretly, now) listen to her version of Do You Hear What I Hear outside of Christmastime (last time being last week sometime.) My husband noticed it was in my recent playlist. He started to ask and then I guess the stricken look on my face — he just stopped. He will clown me about all types of music choices (I went on a Billy Ocean kick last week (and then needed just Rockit by Herbie Hancock and Mr Radio by Al Jarreau)) but Whitney? I guess he knows not to do it.

      • WOuld he approve of my Peabo Bryson kick? Or my Wham fascination? Also, downloaded a bunch of Squeeze songs. It’s really a time warp over here. As for DYHWIH– it’s my favorite WH song and it’s timeless and seasonless.

        On Mon, Mar 25, 2013 at 10:46 AM, Outlaw Mama

  8. I’m not ready to let Whitney go either. Since my son was born, I’ve given up paying attention to new music. I just don’t care. I keep going back to my old junior high/high school favorites: Whitney, Prince, MJ, the Cure, Cyndi Lauper. Is that a sign of getting old or just being confident in your tastes?

  9. I got to go on a “date” to see Whitney Houston (maybe 9th grade for me?) with a boy from my church and HIS PARENTS. That’s hot.

  10. I believe the children are our future, which is why I refuse to let go of Whitney. She features prominently on my iPod. One Moment In Time. Please. Cue the weeping. Didn’t We Almost Have It All was also a youth anthem of mine. Set to a boy who touched my life. Side by side lockers baby. One time he bumped into me getting his math book. I doodled our names together for months after that on my Trapper Keeper. This is a great post!!

  11. I have had “Didn’t We Almost Have it All” stuck in my head for two days now. It was gone until I read your latest post, saw the title of this post on the side, and Whitney began singing in my head all over again.

  12. I was definitely not a Whitney fan, but I think 7th grade (and really all the hormonal girl years) is the time for girls to find those ballads and sappy songs. I spent many years with Billy Joel and Bruce Springsteen wishing some guy was singing the love songs about me. There was much listening to songs, attaching them (usually inappropriately) to the crush of the week and crying. Ah, 7th grade…

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