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The Summer I discovered Whitney Houston (NaBloPoMo, Day 12)


A lot of music historians will tell you 1985 was a very important year. It was the year of Live Aid, the year “We Are The World” was recorded, the year David Lee Roth left Van Halen, the year Dee Snider, Frank Zappa and John Denver testified before the Senate in a last-ditch effort to get rid of Parental Advisory labels. But it was also the year the world was introduced to Whitney Houston.

And it was the year I took a memorable family vacation and discovered some really cool things about life, travel and culture, and Whitney Houston kind of fell into place somewhere.

I was seven years old in the summer of 1985. My family took a five-week trip to Dallas so my mom could take some classes at SMU to expedite completion of her degree.

Our days were spent mostly going to museums, burning our feet on the asphalt at Six Flags, watching television and enjoying the Texas heat. I spent a lot of time swimming. Hocks managed to rip my big toenail off while shutting a screen door on it. And my brothers waited to ride the scariest thrill rides of the day, while I stuck to the Old Mine Train and the Mexican Hat.

But at night, we all would go into our bedrooms at some guest house that belonged to a classmate of my mom’s, and we closed the doors and listened to the radio. All the greats of the day. “I want a New Drug.” “Smuggler’s Blues.” “Along Comes A Woman.” And Paul Young’s “Every Time You Go Away,” the lyrics to which Hocks tried to convince me were “every time you go away/you take a piece of meat with you.” (That’s how I still sing it, actually.)

But that was also the summer Whitney Houston started making her way throughout the airwaves, and that was the summer I first remember hearing this song and watching this video. It’s her first single, “You Give Good Love,” from her debut album, which was produced by Jermaine Jackson and pretty much blew away everyone.

Now, lemme tell you what I remember about this album: everyone had it. Even Hocks, who was the biggest Chicago/Journey/Styx/Arena-Band fan in the universe back then. I don’t know if Hocks had it because he genuinely thought it was a wonderful cassette, if a girl bought it for him, or if he bought it to impress a girl, but I mean EVERY HOUSE had this album.

Even my Sunday School teacher. I remember going to third-grade church camp and doing, for the talent show, a dance to “How Will I Know?” in which we all moved around in pillowcases with construction paper faces on them. (I’m so glad no one filmed that.)
Whitney was kind of a big deal. She had big hair, big earrings, a big voice … she was a beautiful woman with a voice I could never replicate, and somewhere in there she had a troubled life that she could never pull together. And, in a way, she was part of my family. I’m sure my family members caught me dancing to her music more times than I’d like to be reminded.

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  • Ro February 12, 2012, 5:20 am

    Did you know that Whitney Houston’s debut LP – called simply _Whitney Houston_ – had FOUR number one singles on it? Did you know that, Eleanor?

    For serious, though, she was great. Didn’t know that Jermaine Jackson produced _You Give Good Love_. That was my jam way back when.


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