I wanted to write something last week, in fact I actually began writing a piece the night the story broke, but then when I awoke the following day and read through the social networking feeds, a seed of doubt set in. Amongst the outpourings of RIPs and testimonies there was also (as we’ve unfortunately grown accustomed to) a voice of indifference and cynicism towards the situation, some justifiable and others just vile.
However they did make me think and delay writing… I’ve never worked with her and I’m not a vocalist. I had to question myself… Was I a huge fan?
In 1985 whilst watching Jonathan King’s Entertainment USA, he played a snippet from Whitney Houston’s “Saving All My Love”, explaining who she was and how big the tune was. I was transfixed for the few seconds it was on, and sat and watched the rest of the program hoping they would end the show playing out the video in it’s entirety. Luckily I was taping the program and they did.
I watched the video over and over again. The song was amazing, she was beautiful, and her voice had an effortless perfection to it. I was a fan. I had a crush.
The next day after school I was at the record shop getting the 12” on import and running home to blast it out on my Dad’s system. I wanted him to hear it. This was the first R&B ballad I’d ever bought. “Yes Dad, your son is buying big people tunes, come and have a listen and see how I’m an adult now” I thought to myself.
Not long after the tune finally hit the UK and Whitney started to appear in all the music magazines, before long she became the first Sista on a poster on my bedroom wall.
This is all occurring at a time when I’m starting to take an interest in music. There’s a developing love of jazz, an interest in keyboards, an interest in beats and drum machines, a curiosity of how it’s all put together and works etc, but no real desire to be an artist. I had no idea where all these interests could lead. In fact my head was looking in a slightly different (but still creative) direction.
With the crush approaching obsession levels the video was now getting played in full in the UK and after watching it many times, I asked my Father a question…
“Who is the guy in the video she falls in love with?”
“He’s the producer” he replied.
“What does he do?” I continued to question, and so my Father began to break down what a producer did. I took it all in and digested it for a bit. I had another question…
“So if I became a really good producer. There’s a chance I could get to work with Whitney and she might fall for me?”
My Father smiled and said “Well I guess if you look at it that way it’s possible”
And that’s where the seeds were sown for me to go down the production path. There are other moments I can pin point about what made me want to go into music, what made me choose piano/keyboards as a main instrument, the ingredients that shape my influences towards beats, my attitude towards song writing, playing live etc, but that’s the moment when the concept of production and the producer was put into my head.
So it could be said, and I will say that I have to thank Whitney for leading me towards being a producer.
As Whitney’s career kicked on from that point I continued to be a huge fan for a few albums, went to her concerts at Wembley, bought more posters etc, but I was getting older. My tastes were changing, the scene was changing, and Whitney wasn’t really giving me the material I wanted to hear. Sure it was all perfectly executed, but it wasn’t for me. Hip-Hop was marrying itself to R&B to such an extent that the lines were becoming blurred. The R&B sound was evolving.
To be honest, I didn’t really pay Whitney any serious attention again until 1998 when she came out with the “My Love Is Your Love” album. That was the album I had been waiting for her to make.
And once again her work became both influencial and inspirational to me as I was now an up and coming producer in the middle of working on Jamelia’s first album “Drama”. I will never deny that the work she did with Rodney Jerkins on that album played a major part in helping me develop my sound to the extent that the following year I had my first official Top Forty entry with “I do”.
And now, with her passing I am reminded of where it all started, of my beginnings and what has caused me to take certain paths. Even the amazing funeral that has taken place over the weekend has served as a reminder of gospel roots. It’s ironic finding the beginning at the end.
So was I a huge fan all throughout her career? At times I was a huge fan, but I was always a fan. I may not have worked with her and I‘m not a vocalist, but she has still played a huge part in my career.
And for that I am eternally grateful.
Thank you Whitney Houston, may you Rest In Peace.