Sunday, February 12, 2012
Whitney Houston's music & how it has impacted my life
In the 1980's I stole my parent's cassette tapes of Whitney Houston's self titled debut album "Whitney Houston". "How Will I Know" was my favourite dance song on the album. My sister and her freind Rochel made a video of themselves singing "The Greatest Love Of All" for my parents. In 1989, for my 13th birthday, my dad bought me a stereo system with both a CD player and turntable, and a DJ Mixing board. One of the first vinyl 12" singles I ever got was Whitney's "I'm Your Baby Tonight". The song was produced by John Gass (who also later worked with Deborah Cox) and the legendary team of L.A. Reid (now of TV's The X-Factor, but who also was a president of LAFace Records) and Babyface (who had success as a singer and president of LAFace Records). The remix was by Yvonne Turner, who is also known for working with Whitney's fellow Arista Records labelmate Lisa Stansfield. On New Year's eve 1989, the radio station WPLJ did a medley mix of the year's biggest dance hits and they mixed "I'm Your Baby Tonight" with the song "Poison" by Bell Biv Devoe, which consisted of former members of New Edition, the band from which Bobby Brown launched his career. 2 years later, Whitney Houston filmed the movie "The Bodyguard", and sang 6 songs on the soundtrack. I bought it on cassette, and later got the limited edition version that had bonus tracks and remixes on it. My favourite songs on the album were "I Have Nothing" and "I Will Always Love You", both were songs I loved so much I locked myself in my room and sang the songs along with the tape, day after day for months. The album also had two amazing dance songs, the rock inflected "Queen Of The Night" which later got remixed by CJ Mackintosh, and "I'm Your Baby Tonight" which was both produced and remixed by Robert Clivilles and the late David Cole of C&C Music Factory. I saw The Bodyguard in theaters with my schoolmates, and taped it when it later aired on TV, and then watched it countless times. When I heard David Cole had died, I knew music would never be the same. Robert Clivilles stopped making remixes, and C&C Music Factory disbanded. Whitney, of course, kept making music, though her next album, the soundtrack to "Waiting To Exhale" didn't have any dance tracks on it. "Exhale (Shoop Shoop)" was still a big hit for her. But the album that brought Whitney Houston back to the dancefloors was the soundtrack to "The Preachers Wife", a movie Whitney starred in with Denzel Washington. On the album, Whitney covered the song "Step By Step" which was written by and originally performed by Annie Lennox (who also records for Arista Records). By this point, I had finished school and was working for the three biggest nightclubs in New York, the Limelight, Palladium, and Tunnel. When I first started working there, the most succesful DJ in history by that point was Junior Vasquez, and he was spinning Saturdays at the Tunnel. During this time, one of Whitney Houston's CD singles from "Waiting To Exhale" was "Why Does It Hurt So Bad", a CD single which featured bonus remixes of "I Wanna Dance With Somebody". The remix was called "Junior's Happy Handbag Mix" and it made the song a huge dancefloor hit all over again. After Tunnel and Limelight got shut down by the police over false allegations of drugs, Junior Vasquez moved his Saturday night party to Palladium, and called it ARENA. Arena became what probably was the most succesful nightclub party of the entire decade of the 1990's. One day, I was shown the flier for the latest installment of Arena, and on the flier it said Junior Vasquez would be debuting his remix for the CD single of Whitney Houston's latest single "Step By Step". When he played the song for the first time at Palladium, I went wild on the dance floor, I loved the remix so much. The song became an instant club classic. It now ranks as one of the greatest club records of the 1990's. Out of all the songs that became Arena classics, "Step By Step" was one of the biggest Arena Anthems of all. Junior Vasquez became good friends with Whitney Houston, and though Palladium was bought by NYU, and the building was knocked down so that an NYU dorm could be built on the site, Junior continued to work with Whitney Houston, producing remixes of "How Will I Know" and "The Greatest Love Of All" for her Greatest Hits album. Also, while I was working at Tunnel, Palladium, and Limelight, I became freinds with another DJ/Remixer, Jonathan Peters, who did the remix of "My Love Is Your Love" in 1999. Another DJ who sometimes spun at Tunnel, Hex Hector, was hired to remix Whitney's "I Will Always Love You" for her greatest hits collection. Whitney's work with Jonathan and Junior and Hex showed the world that Whitney was not only great with ballads but that she was a serious and formidable dance music legend. Hearing her remixes played in the nightclubs, especially in what we called "Superclubs" (Multi-story clubs with huge dancefloors and lots of hallways and rooms to explore), was an incredible experience. Whitney was a major part of the soundtrack to some of the most legendary parties in NY. I even had a drag queen friend, Emanna, who used to dress as Whitney Houston in drag and perform Whitney's songs in lip-sync at Arena every Saturday. My colleagues who were DJs at the clubs I worked for during my days as a promoter at the Limelight, Tunnel, and Palladium had the privelage of working with her and they befriended her. My heart goes out to them now, I can only imagine their grief because they knew her personally from working with her. Whitney's music touched my heart and soul in ways I will never forget. I will miss looking forward to her next album, I will miss wondering what remixers she will work with next, and I will miss dancing to her latest singles on the club dancefloors. She was one of my favourite artists early in life and remained a favourite later in life by being cutting edge with her choices of remixers and producers. She is one of a handful of major artists like Madonna or Mariah Carey who, by working with a remixer, can make a DJ into a Super-DJ. Madonna did it with William Orbit and Victor Calderone. Mariah did it with David Morales, and Clivilles and Cole. Whitney did it with Junior Vasquez, Jonathan Peters, Johnny Vicious, and Thunderpuss. Whitney Houston made a lasting impact on my life as a music lover and nightclub promoter, and I will always feel that her music is a blessing.