I've been surprised, with this week's Whitney Houston tributes, at how much time has passed since we heard some of her biggest songs. We played “One Moment in Time” this morning, and it's one of her many hits that you could sing the hook without even stopping to think. But when the song started, it took a moment before I recognized it, and here's why: we hadn't actually played that song on Magic since Fall, 2000.
It's the same story with many of her great songs: “Where Do Broken Hearts Go,” “All at Once,” “Didn't We Almost Have it All,” “Hold Me,” “I'm Every Woman,” all of these songs slipped out of the music library and went unheard for over a decade. Of course Whitney kept a strong presence on the radio: “How Will I Know” and “I Wanna Dance With Somebody” continue through today with consistent airplay. And “I Will Always Love You” is truly in a class by itself, one of the most played songs in Magic's 30 year history, loved by listeners since it came out in 1992.
I never thought of Whitney Houston and Michael Jackson as living parallel lives, but their stories do have a lot in common. They shared a meteoric rise to the top, and a long time in the center of the stage. Their hits were THE soundtrack for a generation who grew up in the 1980's and 1990's. They both had a couple of signature songs that stayed with us consistently, but their radio presence faded after 2000. It was almost easy to forget the history they had made and the indelible impressions of their many hit songs.
Then, an early death that wasn't a total surprise. If you didn't live through the 1980's and 1990's, you might be surprised at the outpouring of love for these stars, who seemed to be half-forgotten by today's audience. But think of the impact that Whitney Houston had: 45 million copies of her first two albums, 7 consecutive number one songs from those two albums, 13 top 10 hits before we even heard her biggest hit, Dolly Parton's “I Will Always Love You” from the movie “The Bodyguard.” And even after that, 9 more trips to the top 10, including Whitney's iconic version of “The Star Spangled Banner”, re-released after September 11, 2001.
It's a good time to remember some of those songs we haven't heard on the radio for a decade or so. A good time to remember just how much Whitney Houston was a part of our lives, to honor her tremendous accomplishments and listen once again to that amazing voice.
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