With today marking the first anniversary since the great Whitney Houston’s passing, a look at some of my favorite (and relatively unknown) live showings is necessary. Whitney’s massive Youtube live videos have become increasingly famous since her untimely departure, but I can guarantee these rare gems will make you smile and bring back even greater memories about a true #legend.
“God Bless The Child” (1997 Billie Holiday Cover)
The theatrics are on full as Whitney playfully talks to her band as an introduction to this amazing cover. She also refers to Lena Horne as her second mother (1:11) before belting a short rendition of “God Bless The Child”.
“Home” (1987 ‘The Wiz’ Cover)
Also shown during the CBS 2012 tribute to Whitney Houston, this cover is one of my favorite covers of hers. The notes beginning at 3:14 are what I like to call #classicwhitney vocals.
“Million Dollar Bill” (2009 X-Factor France Performance)
As the first official live performance of the first single from her final album, Whitney goes back to her original vocal roots. Although the performance is #backgroundsingerheavy, moments like 1:47 and 3:18 prove that she still had the “it factor” in a world of new, younger divas.
“Battle Hymn Of The Republic” (1991 Julie Ward Howe Cover)
The “Welcome Home Troops” 1991 concert, held in Norfolk, VA, gave Whitney a two-hour show to commemorate returning soldiers. Her final song was a tribute to those who survived the Gulf War, and she delivers a stirring tribute to the fallen.
“Tell Me No” (2002 Good Morning America Performance)
One of Whitney’s few collaborations with the great Missy Elliott, “Tell Me No” is probably my favorite Whitney song of all-time. The 1999 ballad is strong and powerful, and gives Whitney’s vocals newfound heights. She may have had a few vocal mishaps here (2:12 especially), but it’s the conviction of her voice and Missy-assisted songwriting that makes “No” a really special collaboration.
‘The Bodyguard’ Soundtrack Medley (2001 BET Awards Performance)
This is one of those performances that I always look back to with overwhelming emotions, as Whitney belts out her multi-platinum classics “I Have Nothing” and “I Will Always Love You”. I was skeptical about her singing on such a large performance platform (at the time) particularly because the big notes are truncated (7:04), but she held her own and delivered a performance worthy of a standing ovation to her primary audience.
“Nobody Loves Me Like You Do” with Gary Houston (1985 Greensboro Luther Vandross Show)
Originally sung with Jermaine Jackson, Whitney brings out her brother Gary to sing the heartfelt ballad made famous by Anne Murray. Given its nostalgic value, Gary’s vocals are just as strong as Whitney’s here, and the two of them together create a perfect combination. The notes/ad-libs/harmonies beginning at 3:12 are just insanely great.
“My Name Is Not Susan” (1989 Japan Show)
From the moment Whitney steps on stage (3:29), you notice a true superstar. Not only are her live vocals commendable here, but her performance factor (simultaneously singing and dancing) is above standards for any artist – past or present.
“Whatchulookinat” (2003 Europe Music Awards Performance)
When critics began to strike at her for her relationship to soul singer Bobby Brown, Whitney literally “struck back” with the lyrics to this song. She attacked the media, her haters, and most importantly, those who said she couldn’t sing anymore. The songwriting may come off cheesy, but the overall message paired with the live vocal in this performance is worth more attention than it’s received. The crowd interaction (starting at 1:40) pumps Whitney up to let everyone hail the queen’s real comeback.
“This Day” (1991 Traditional Gospel Song)
As soon as this clip comes on, the first thing you notice are the fierce thigh-high boots Whitney wore for this performance. Taking a spin on a traditional gospel hymn, she adds both soul and poise to this performance. About halfway through, I realized it’s singing like this that makes me miss her talents more and more each day.
“Something In Common”/”My Love” (2003 Divas Live Performance)
Ten years after Bobby Brown’s hit (and first duet with beau Whitney) “Something In Common” hit the charts, they reconciled to perform the hit for the reboot of the VH1 Divas franchise. While both vocals are underwhelming on “Common”, Whitney’s duet “My Love” (also featuring Bobby) is a much better affair. The collective performance of both songs made this showing a classic, once-in-a-lifetime live affair from both artists.