Thursday, March 01, 2012

Whitney Houston Had Merits and Demerits

Whitney Houston had merits and demerits

By Norman (Otis) Richmond aka Jalali

In 1986 Whitney Houston made an appearance at Toronto's Club BlueNote.

I was among the press people chosen to meet and greet the lovey Ms. Houston.

She did a track date and performed a few songs.

After her brief performance she walked around the room and shook every one's hand --including mine.

At that time Kathy Hahn and Kevin Shea were working at RCA/BMG.

RCA/BMG were distributing Arista Records, who had signed the unknown Houston.

Shea points out: "A special cassette sampler with three tracks was prepared, and a showcase at Club Bluenote on Pears Avenue.

Remember she was an unknown commodity at the time.

It was difficult to fill the club, but we had all of our opinion leaders from radio, press, clubs, etc. invited.

Whitney performed three tracks and was sensational. We then took her to every single person in the room, introducing them and thanking them for coming out.

We had a photographer there too in order to chronicle the meet and greet.

She was reserved (shy) yet more than accommodating.

She charmed every person in that room. Few, if any, realized that they were meeting music royalty and that, within a year, she'd have four #1 singles, a huge album and be on the verge of becoming the biggest artist of that era.

I later saw her debut Toronto concert at the Canadian National Exhibition (CNE) and was pleased that she revealed the REAL Whitney
Houston, singing like she was in front of the congregation at Newark's, New Hope Baptist Church. I could dig it!

I also loved the amen-hallelujah-thank you-Jesus style of singing.
knew at that moment she was in the tradition of Sam Cooke, Aretha Franklin and David Ruffin. She did not follow the K.I.S.S. (Keep It Simple Stupid) principle so non-Africans could sing along.

The 48 year-old Houston hailed from Newark, New Jersey or as Amiri Baraka says "New Ark".

Newark has produced a number of top-of-the-line female vocalists including Toronto's own Salome Bey, and the divine one,
Sarah Vaughan.

If that is not enough her mother, Cissy Houston a star in her own right, (she also backed up Elvis Presley), Dionne Warwick and her underrated sister Dee Dee Warwick ( check her rendition of "I'm Gonna Make You Love Me) were cousins.

You know it by Eddie and Ms. Ross with The Tempts and The Supremes.

And to get deeper still, she was Aretha Franklin goddaughter.

Born Whitney Elizabeth Houston (August 9, 1963- February 11, 2012), she was a recording artist, actress, producer, and model. In 2009, the Guinness World Records cited her as the most-awarded female act of all-time.

Houston was also one of the world's best-selling music artists, having sold over 170 million albums, singles and videos worldwide.

She released seven studio albums and three movie soundtrack albums, all of
which have diamond, multi-platinum, platinum or gold certification.

Houston's crossover appeal caused some to complain that she was not "Black" enough.

Houston is the only artist to chart seven consecutive No. 1 Billboard Hot 100 hits.

She is the second artist behind Elton John and the only female artist to have two number-one Billboard 200 Album awards on the
Billboard magazine year-end charts.

Houston's debut album Whitney Houston became the best-selling debut album by a female act at the time of its release.

The album was named Rolling Stone's best album of 1986 and was ranked at number 254 on Rolling Stone's list of the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time.

Her second studio album Whitney (1987) became the first album by a female artist to debut at number one on the Billboard 200 albums chart.

Houston's first acting role was as the star of the feature film The Bodyguard (1992). The film's original soundtrack won the 1994 Grammy Award for Album of the Year.

Its lead single "I Will Always Love You", became the best-selling single by a female artist in music history. With the album, Houston became the first act (solo or group, male or female) to sell more than a million copies of an album within a single week period.

The album makes her the top female act in the top 10 list of the best-selling albums of all time, at number four. Houston continued to star in movies and contribute to their soundtracks, including the films Waiting to Exhale (1995) and The Preacher's Wife (1996).

The Preacher's Wife soundtrack became the best-selling gospel album in history.

When the leadership of the African National Congress (ANC) like Nelson Mandela and Walter Sisulu were locked down in Robben Island and other South African dungeons they said the music of Houston was one of the things that helped them though their days.

Mumia Abu-Jamal also spoke highly of Houston.

Abu-Jamal praised Houston in a recent commentary.

Says Abu-Jamal, "Her voice, her pace, her phrasing, her stage presence and her beauty was a package that virtually defined Star. Indeed, she was that rarest of creatures: Superstar.

Ironically, the very media that savaged her for years, flipped into worship mode, when she was gone and could no longer hear them. Whitney Houston was a daughter, wife, mother and actress. Her songs will be heard, sung and loved for generations.

Houston was an international traveler and visited South Africa (after the cultural boycott was over) and Israel (to visit the Israel's Black Hebrew community in 2003).

In 2003, she visited the Black Hebrews in the desert town of Dimona.

The group moved to the Holy Land from the U.S. decades ago.

They believe they're descendants of a lost tribe of Israelites.

Unfortunately, she met with the-then Prime Minister Ariel Sharon during a six-day trip and said that she felt at home in the country.

It was reported however, she refused to shake Sharon's hand-- she left that
to her then husband Bobby Brown.

It was a completely different situation in South Africa. She appeared to be at ease and at home with the ANC's leadership.

Whitney Houston and Michael Jackson had two things in common. One was
the gift of music, both were blessed with voices that sold millions of
units all over the world.

The second thing that Houston and Jackson had in common were both were made in and killed by America.

Much has been written about Houston's struggle with substance abuse
and her sex life. I will only say two things about drugs and sex.

Houston would not be the first or the last creative human being to struggle with alcohol and drugs. As for the question of sex, that is a personal matter and should be treated as such.

I have always felt that those seeking movie deals with Hollywood felt they had to stress size and performance in their autobiographies or memoirs.

Houston like Don Cornelius, Etta James, Gil Scott-Heron had merits and
demerits. However, in my judgement her merits outweighed her demerits.

I will always remember her as the beautiful young woman with a short Afro who shook my hand in the Club BlueNote in 1986.

norman richmond

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