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Sunday, 12 February 2012

WHITNEY

All my life I’ve wanted to be a singer. Or, more simply, just able to sing. As a gangly ten year old, I was convinced I was destined for stardom as the fifth member of Abba.  I mean, my hair was naturally blonde. Surely that was enough.

My girlfriends and I would choreograph these complicated dance routines, physically miming “digging” as we were “diggin’ the dancing queen”. Shovel, shovel, and throw it over your shoulder. Repeat twice. Seriously.

We were lip-syncing heroines long before Milli even met Vanilli.

Money Money Money was all about pretending to count out wads of cash. We skipped Knowing Me Knowing You, because after all, we were ten years old and didn’t know a thing about heartbreak (which is what I eventually went on to discover the song was all about). We did our best work with “When I Kissed The Teacher”. Oooh, the naughtiness of it all. Kissing a teacher – eeewwwwwwww. That dance was an easy one to put together. Kissy kissy sir?

When school finished, the singing didn’t. It just got augmented with the likes of John Farnham (You’re The Voice), Tina Turner (Simply The Best), David Bowie (especially when he was Under Pressure) and Kylie (should I be so lucky?) And of course the soundtracks to Grease, Fame, Flashdance etc.

Moody Blues, Dire Straits, Van Morrison – I would slot the tapes in, grab a hairbrush or a spray deodorant can, and I was away.

And even though I loved her on sight, I could never even try to emulate Whitney. Not just because she had legs that went up to sky. Not just because she had the most luminous skin and radiant eyes. Not just because she looked good in a lavender dress. I mean, who the hell looks good in lavender?

It was that voice. That power. That strength, fearless and true. No matter how much I tried to hit those notes and unveil that depth, I failed abjectly every time.

Because there was only one Whitney.

And as time went on, and as I started singing along with Anastascia, Powderfinger and Celine, I grew apart from Whitney. The hard drugs, the bad marriage, and the poor behaviour made me sad. Such a great voice, such a mighty talent, such a shocking waste.

She had almost disappeared entirely from my radar when one of my closest friends turned up one day clutching two concert tickets and the last vestiges of air in his lungs.

The concert tickets were for Whitney and his rapt joy at securing seats left little room for regular things like breathing.

“Yes darling, of course I’ll come with you,” making a mental note to upgrade my Sudoku app on my iPhone because I was convinced I would need an entertainment mode at the concert separate to Whitney.

And I am glad I did. Because sadly, for the most part, her Brisbane concert did not leave me in mute awe at her brilliance. Moreso bewildered embarrassment for her shoddy performance.

But eventually, finally, Whitney wound her way to her signature song, “I Will Always Love You”. Despite all negativity, that song and the way Whitney sings it, is peerless. Always will be. The mere thought of someone, even Dolly, doing a cover makes me uneasy.

But I knew Whitney’s form was not good. So I just crossed my fingers and hoped for the best.

When it got to the part where she launches into that thunderous chorus (yes yes you know the bit I mean) there was an extended pause on Whitney’s part. Unhealthy in its length. She drank some water, freshened her lipgloss, sprayed something around her neck.

And the jittery audience waited. And waited. The boredom was deafening.

Finally, Whitney moved back to centre stage, clicked her fingers, the lights blazed and she started to sing.

And sing she did. Hitting that note like the pro we knew she was. Watch it here.

Even crotchety folk like me, who were making mutterings about refunds and time-wasting, sat up and listened. With respect, admiration and disbelief.

I was spell bound.

And now she’s gone. We’re about the same age, with daughters about the same age too. I shudder to think of leaving my daughter in a world without me just yet. I believe Whitney would feel the same. We can’t judge someone else’s life until we have lived it so we can’t make off-hand comments about “she had it coming” or “that’s no bloody surprise” because we don’t really know what went on.

So Whitney, let me say this to you. Thank You For The Music.

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