It’s been six years since Whitney Houston’s passing. For some, it seems longer. We’ve lost other African-American musical legends from Michael Jackson and Prince to Tupac, The Notorious B.I.G., and Fats Domino. But on Feb. 11, 2012, the world lost one of the greatest voices in music.
Before the fame, Whitney was known as Nippy in the slums of Newark, New Jersey. Her mother, Cissy Houston, was out touring as a backup singer for Aretha Franklin and others. Then she had her own singing career.
Whitney and her brothers lived with various family members while their mother was on tour. As time went on, Whitney discovered she loved to sing and sung in the church choir. This led to her mother’s mentorship and a record deal with Clive Davis of Arista Records. The world was in awe when they saw her first TV performance on the Merv Griffin Show in 1983 and the music she created soon after.
Kevin Macdonald’s thoughtful documentary covered a lot of ground with interviews of the singers’ relatives, friends and colleagues including Kevin Costner, Bobby Brown and more. There’s plenty of archival footage even some diehard fans may not have seen.
Documentaries celebrate and highlight someone’s life. Macdonald does this to a tee, chronicling the highs and lows of Houston. It’s a film that pierces your heart because Houston suffered from her fame as a drug addict. But this film makes you smile because her voice touched so many people, especially after she performed “Star Spangled Banner” at the 1991 Super Bowl.
There were some things I felt were missing or didn’t get a lot of screen-time. For example, Dolly Parton’s thoughts of Houston covering her song, “I Will Always Love You,” making it a great hit. It would have also been nice to mention the alleged “beef” between Houston and Mariah Carey and how they put those rumors to rest with their collabo, “When You Believe.” Even the relationships she had with Eddie Murphy and Michael Jackson could have been extended.
Macdonald’s style of “Whitney” wasn’t Lauren Lazin’s style for “Tupac: Resurrection” or the recent PBS special “Diana: In Her Own Words” where the subject described their life in their own words. But “Whitney” is a living breathing celebration of her life devoted and newbie fans can appreciate.
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