Diaa Bekheet | Washington, DC – I’d like to dedicate this blog post to the late pop super diva, Whitney Houston, who died February 11 at age 48. You may not recall that she recorded some little-known jazz songs earlier in her career such as “I Look To You”, “Million Dollar Bill” and “Worth It”. The super diva’s great song, “I Have Nothing”, is included on an album titled Ultimate Divas, a collection of 18 songs by the greatest female jazz, R&B, and pop vocalists of our time. In addition to Whitney Houston, you’ll find songs by Ella Fitzgerald, Dinah Washington, Billie Holiday, Judy Garland, Lena Horne, Sarah Vaughan, Gladys Knight, Tina Turner, Chaka Khan and others.
Houston was born August 9, 1963 in Newark, New Jersey. She seemed destined to become a singer. Her mother Cissy Houston is a legendary figure in American gospel and soul music. Here’s a video clip of Houston with her Mom Cissy:
A year later in 1986, Houston won the Grammy for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance for “Saving All My Love for You”. The award was presented by her cousin – singer, actress and TV show host Dionne Warwick.
According to the Guinness Book of World Records, Whitney Houston is the female artist with the most Grammy nominations in history. However, during her life Houston only won six Grammys.
1- Saving All My Love for You 1986
2- I Wanna Dance with Somebody – 1988 Best Female Pop Vocal Performance
3- I Will Always Love You – 1994 in the Record of the Year category for her record I Will Always Love You
4- The Bodyguard – original soundtrack 1992 Album of the Year category for the original soundtrack
5- I Will Always Love You part 2 – 1994 Best Female Pop Vocal Performance
6- It’s Not Right But It’s Okay – 2000 Best Female R&B Vocal Performance
In addition to the Grammys, Houston also won two Emmys, 30 Billboard Music Awards, 22 American Music Awards and a total of 415 career awards. She is considered to be one of the world’s best-selling music artists, having sold over 200 million albums and singles worldwide.
I first learned about Whitney Houston from my Egyptian TV colleague Hamdiya Hamdy who hosted an extremely popular music show called “Al-Alam Youghanni” Arabic for “The World Sings.” She was talking about Houston’s Grammy nomination for Album of the Year. The CD remained at number 1 for 14 weeks on Billboard’s Top 200 chart. I was amazed when I heard the now-much-forgotten song “Hold Me” from that album. I heard it a few days after being introduced to the super diva’s music, while riding the renowned water taxi on Egypt’s Nile River.
In 1993, I briefly profiled Whitney Houston on VOA’s “Good Morning From America” Arabic show. My feature focused on how Houston defended the late pop superstar Michael Jackson, accusing the media of hypocrisy and racism. At the time, she also made headlines for her denials of media reports that she had been admitted to a hospital for treatment for addiction to diet pills.
In 2009, the Smooth Jazz All Stars released an album paying tribute to Whitney Houston There’s not a lot of information available about this group, but I noticed that the All Stars’ rendition video clip of Houston’s I Will Always Love You on Youtube has spiked. In just a few days after news of Houston’s death, it went from less than 100,000 views to more than 450,000. The singer-actress sang this song on the soundtrack of her 1992 hit movie, “The Bodyguard,” a romantic thriller co-starring Kevin Costner.
Houston has other rare jazz recordings but unfortunately they are not available on an album. She recorded them before she became a pop star, when she was approached by Blue Note President Bruce Lundvall in the early 1980s.
Houston’s best selling albums include:
1. Saving All My Love for You
2. How Will I Know
3. Greatest Love of All
4. I Wanna Dance with Somebody (Who Loves Me)
5. Didn’t We Almost Have It All
6. So Emotional
7. Where Do Broken Hearts Go, which set several world records.
For more on jazz music, listen to VOA’s Jazz America