Farewell today, Whitney Houston.
Your voice exploded onto the airwaves when I was in high school, particularly your songs "You Give Good Love" and "How Will I know" and "Greatest Love of All." Your songs calmed a stormy, lonely heart, because high school was my hell.
"There's a boy I know
He's the one I dream of
Looks into my eyes
Takes me to the clouds above."
The hallways reflected my inner shades of apathy, indecision, and fear. I had the self esteem and confidence of an ugly duckling blessed with a constant erection. If not for very specific people and very specific classes, I would have killed myself. I stood at the edge of various circles, never fully committing, never trusting, and never fully revealing myself: acquaintances with many, friends with few, but no one who knew all of me. How many people take AP classes but care less about passing the tests or receiving college credit (apathy)? How many people never feel asleep in class (fear)? How many people never once ate in the cafeteria (fear and indecision - where would I sit, who would I talk to, how many people would see me fuck up somehow, etc)? All I knew then was that I had to get past graduation and then I'd figure out life. I had never looked that far ahead because I never expected to get "there." When I wasn't reading and lost in a fantasy or sci-fi novel, I was lost in music, particularly female vocalists like you, Ms. Houston. Your voice made ripples and waves of sound that washed me back to the shore of myself.
"I need a man who'll take a chance
On a love that burns hot enough to last..."
I didn't start coming out until after high school, even though I knew I'd known at eight that there was something electric and attractive about those shirtless Bay City Rollers on television. I remember your video "I Wanna Dance With Somebody" playing at the old Bay in Sugarhouse. Your huge 80's hair. The male dancers and their shoulder slides. The homage to Flashdance and you pulling the chain that doused the sexy/goofy/sexy dancer in front of you. I remember your infectious smile and irresistible call to dance. Through music, I started coming out of my shell, started stepping into circles instead of standing on the outside looking in. Your music was right there with me through some of those adventures and misadventures.
"If we take this chance and extend
to each other romance...
I hope it would be
the right thing for you and me."
Fast forward through relationship beginnings and endings, through reunions and renunciations, through lack-of-inner-peace and war. You infused pride and patriotism into "The Star Spangled Banner" at Super Bowl XXV in 1991. The song made me cry. I still cry when I hear it. I cried then for pride of this country, I cried in regret for being gay and not being able to serve openly in the military (at one point, I had spoken with an Air Force recruiter, who pushed me to apply, up to and including testing) and I cried from the perfect clarity of your voice.
"Close the door behind you
Leave your key
I'd rather be alone than unhappy."
Fast forward more years and more relationship turmoil. You might as well have written "It's Not Right But It's Okay" for me. If you had sent it directly to my ex he might have got a clue sooner, but you were involved with your own relationship challenges. Your fire, your words, inspired me. I discovered steel in my spine. I dared to dream big. I knew what I wanted and started seeking it instead of waiting or relying on someone who didn't even know himself. That song, plus "Heartbreak Hotel" and "I Learned from the Best" were anthems I took with me when I left Utah in 1998.
Whitney, thank you for your music. Even though we will never meet, you've made a difference in my life through your words and incredible voice that is like a crack of heaven pouring divinity into this crazy place here on Earth. Godspeed.
life treats you kind.
And I hope
you have all you've dreamed of
And I wish you joy
But above all this
I wish you love."