COMMENTARY | "I Will Always Love You" is the song Whitney Houston will be remembered for. It speaks volumes that when that song hit the charts back in 1992, this punk rock music snob who wouldn't be caught dead listening to the top 40 bought two copies, one for the house and one for the car. I had no idea it was a cover until I read about her death Saturday night on MSNBC, and I'll be judging cover songs to this standard forever more.
The song that's haunting me, though, is "The Greatest Love of All." Houston was a fellow Jersey girl and there was a time when it seemed she owned the world. I've seen unpublished photos from her 1993 wedding to Bobby Brown because one of my friends played cello in the orchestra during it. They are heartbreaking. If Jersey had royalty, they were it that day -- the illusion of a happily ever after that never existed created by the way photographs freeze a moment in time.
Fast forward to 2009 when local papers were reporting that her Mendham, N.J., estate where they were married was headed for a short sale and an Irvington storage facility was auctioning off the contents of her warehouse. Photos of the dilapidated house made it clear that this fairy tale was playing backward and we were now in the dark parts of the enchanted forest.
I almost attended the sale, partly out of curiosity and partly because there's money in celebrity memorabilia. I couldn't bring myself to do it; it was just too sad.
In spite of the fact that I'm a punk rock girl, "Greatest Love of All" was the song that I turned to during dark times -- her soaring voice was like a beacon of light guiding you out of the woods. The moral of the story seemed to be that when the handsome prince turns out to be the villain, at least you can count on yourself.
"If I fail, if I succeed, at least I live as I believe" are some of the most powerful lyrics in a pop song I've ever heard. Forgive me for an outdated metaphor; for the music snob, only vinyl will do at a time like this. If only we'd been able to lift the needle from the record and end the song right there.
Nancy Lichtenstein is an experienced news and lifestyle reporter with a degree in journalism from Fordham University. She is a lifelong resident of North Jersey.
- Whitney Houston