RIP: Whitney Houston

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I don’t often talk about music, and I really should. For my whole life, music has been such an integral part of my entire being. It attaches itself to my emotions and my soul. And I didn’t realize how important Whitney Houston was to my evolving self as a teenager and later as a gay man.

When she was at her peak, Whitney was fierce. The Greatest Love of All. How Will I Know. Saving All My Love For You. I Wanna Dance With Somebody. Where Do Broken Hearts Go. I’m Your Baby Tonight. It’s Not Right But It’s Okay. My Love Is Your Love. These are songs of my coming of age. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard these songs. When she was on, she was on. Bobby was a shitty influence on her, and it makes me sad that she didn’t or couldn’t get away from him. She was an amazing talent, and it sucks that she’s gone. Yeah, she made shitty choices (Bobby and drugs being the top two) and I wish that she hadn’t made them. Without those two things in her life, I think we would have seen more than five albums from her, and I’m pretty sure she’d still be alive and kicking the crap out of the music industry.

When I was in junior high, I remember seeing the video for The Greatest Love of All. It was after a Confirmation class (I grew up ELCA Lutheran) and all of us had piled into Pastor Kerr’s living room to watch some MTV. It’s an amazing black and white video of Whitney on a stage, singing for all she’s worth. She just belted and sang with a purity I’d never heard before. Some time later, I’d see the Day-Glo video for I Wanna Dance With Somebody (Who Loves Me). It was so much fun and dancey and it made me happy to be around. Same with How Will I Know.

A few years later, after coming out, I learned that I wasn’t the only person who fell in love with these songs. I can’t even begin to count how often I danced at the Cavalier and Players to It’s Not Right But It’s Okay. In the last year of my drag era, I remember hearing stories of Stephanie telling us about her act to that song, and how she would have two beer bottles and just drench herself and the front two rows of the audience during it, like some kind of twisted Gallagher act. That same song would later help me get through a shitty, shitty, shitty break-up with a lying, cheating asshole.

Her last decade or so have been pretty awful. Bobby, as I said before, was a terrible influence on her, and her addiction absolutely ruined her voice. She hasn’t sounded good for a long time, and it just rips at me because of it. So much talent, so much potential, destroyed and taken far too soon. I didn’t even realize how much this affected me until I started writing this. The only thing I can compare it to would be the way many people feel about how Michael Jackson’s music affects them.

Get you some peace, Ms. Houston. You will be missed. But take this with you: you will never be gone. As long as there are drag queens in this world, Whitney Houston will shine on stage.

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