Friday, February 24, 2012

Soul Train Importance: Whitney Houston

I have the pleasure to show you importance from Soul Train who covers one artist who died too soon. That person is Whitney Houston. She is someone who just brought some great impact to music in general.

Here is the story.

In February 1985, a relatively unknown singer named Whitney Houston made her first and only appearance on Soul Train. Although this was not her first television appearance, it was her first to promote her debut album self-titled “Whitney Houston.”

To complement the stunning blue dress Houston wore, the backdrop and neon Soul Train sign were both lit to fit the mood of the song she was about to perform, the first single release from the album, the soulful ballad ‘You Give Good Love.” Her stage presence and showmanship was that of a seasoned pro in show business. The Soul Train dancers gave her a thunderous ovation when she finished performing. “You Give Good Love” was an instant hit, climbing up to number one on the R&B charts in May 1985 and number two on the pop charts that summer.

Later in the show, Houston performed a track from the album entitled “How Will I Know.” This percolating dance number would not be released as a single until December 1985 but it was a good marketing strategy to show television viewers that Houston was not only capable of doing ballads but dance songs as well. Draped in a sleeveless glittery white jump suit, Houston’s energetic performance won the approval of the Soul Train Dancers who gave her another rousing ovation.
By the time “How Will I Know” was released, reaching number one on both the pop and R&B charts in the winter of 1986, Houston was a bonafide superstar.
Houston did not make any other appearances on Soul Train but she did appear and perform on other Soul Train-related specials.

Houston performed “You Give Good Love” on the inaugural Soul Train Music Awards in March 1987, later performing “That’s What Friends Are For” with Stevie Wonder and hosts Luther Vandross and her cousin, Dionne Warwick.

Houston joined gospel artists BeBe and CeCe Winans on the song “Hold Up the Light” on the third annual Soul Train Music Awards ceremony in April 1989, indicative of Houston’s early roots singing in the church.

At the 7th annual Soul Train Music Awards ceremony in 1993, Houston performed a rousing medley of “Queen of the Night” and “I’m Every Woman,” tunes taken from the soundtrack of her film The Bodyguard.

At the following year’s ceremony, Houston joined husband Bobby Brown on “Something in Common,” a duet track that appeared on Brown’s Bobby album. For this rare performance, Houston looked regal in a matching turban and long evening gown in a blueish-purplish combination.
At the same ceremony, Houston was the female recipient of the prestigious Sammy Davis, Jr. Entertainer of the Year Award. Escorted on stage by Brown, she humbly accepted the award from author Terri McMillan. When receiving her award, Houston said, “Sammy not only achieved the humiliation of discrimination, he endured the insults aimed at him by his own people who blamed him for trying to rise above the ignorance and hatred not through rhetoric but through his work. May who have never experienced racism and discrimination that were part of Mr. Davis’ life think of him as yesterday’s news. But Sammy Davis, Jr. was a giant.” Her speech received a thunderous ovation. In the audience were her mother Cissy Houston and her baby daughter Bobbi Kristina.

In November 1995, Soul Train’s host and creator Don Cornelius produced a television special in honor of the program’s 25 years on television titled Soul Train 25th Anniversary Hall of Fame. The program inducted a number of artists into its hall of fame, all of whom had appeared on the show. Honorees included Patti Labelle, Bill Withers, Diana Ross, Barry White, Marvin Gaye, Curtis Mayfield, Michael Jackson and Whitney Houston. (Strangely missing from the list of honorees were James Brown and Aretha Franklin). Houston graciously thanked Cornelius when receiving her award.

In 1998, Houston received the Quincy Jones Career Achievement Award at the Soul Train Music Awards.

At the 1999 Soul Train Music Awards, Houston joined El Debarge, Kenny Lattimore, and Johnny Gill in singing “So Amazing” to Luther Vandross, who was receiving a special honor. At the following year’s ceremony, Houston received the Artist of the Decade award. During her acceptance speech, she sang a heartwarming “happy birthday” to Bobbi Kristina, who was in the audience. That year’s ceremony happened to fall on Bobbi’s birthday. The speech was also memorable by many when she concluded by proclaiming her husband, Bobby Brown, as the “original king of R&B.”

During the same ceremony, Houston presented the Sammy Davis Jr. Award for Female Entertainer of the Year to Mary J. Blige. This would be Houston’s last time appearing on the Soul Train Music Awards and any other Soul Train related program.

Just ten days before Houston passed away, Don Cornelius died in an apparent suicide according to the coroner’s official report. The day Cornelius died, Houston joined many other celebrities in making statements in tribute to him. Her statement was: “I grew up watching ‘Soul Train’ and I was privileged to perform on the show at the beginning of my career and on several more occasions. Don opened the door for many artists. He was a great pioneer.”

Sadly, Houston died a short week later.

When seeing Cornelius interview Houston on her first and only appearance on Soul Train, it is inconceivable that these two icons are gone, both as a result of tragic endings. But nevertheless, Cornelius and Houston’s marks in the entertainment industry are forever cemented. Both of them gave all of their love, peace and soul.

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