“When the music changes, so does the dance.” – African Proverb
“Saving All My Love for You” was the first song on the radio that I memorized from beginning to end. “The Greatest Love of All” was the second. And I remember after I first heard “I Will Always Love You”, I marked it as my wedding song until finally listening to the lyrics and realizing it wasn’t exactly “wedding appropriate.” But Whitney’s voice made the song feel perfect for the occasion. And let’s be honest, Whitney on her worse day could still move you with her voice more than most current performers on their best day. Whitney’s passing not only marks the death of a child’s mother, a mother’s daughter, a companion’s friend, and for me, the greatest voice my soul has ever experienced; but her passing symbolizes something that I’ve been dreading for a few years now.
I was at a Prince concert last April when I first acknowledged the change. After seeing Prince effortlessly entertain the crowd, I knew the experience of live music had suddenly become priceless. It was valuable because not only was I seeing Prince for $25, but in that moment I realized such musical experiences would soon become a thing of the past. I thought we had more time… at least 15 more years, but it seems like time is running out and it’s definitely a reason to mourn. Yesterday, my tears fell for not only Whitney Houston, but tears fell into an empty void that doesn’t seem will be filled… timeless music.
My earliest memories in life were me dancing at family gatherings. I’ve always loved to dance even though I don’t have the best rhythm. Music has always been one of the constants in my life, my therapist. It soothed me, encouraged me, comforted me, transformed me, expanded me, celebrated me. And it was through artists such as, Michael Jackson, Marvin Gaye, Luther Vandross, and Whitney Houston, who not only generously gave us great songs, but they were instrumental to my ability to dream a dream bigger than my circumstances. It was through watching them on Video Soul and Soul Train that I could imagine myself one day pursuing my passion regardless of my race or background. It was through their timeless music that I learned to dance through life.
In my 20’s, my favorite past time was live music. Even now, my favorite time of the year is the summer solely because of the concerts at The Hollywood Bowl. There’s something magical about seeing a performer live in their element, belting out songs that have been instrumental in different areas of my life. The deaths of the musicians of my childhood and adolescent years have caused me to not only accept that I’m aging, but it has confirmed the importance of the music. I always assumed that I would have the comfort of live music, at least for another 15-20 years. But as my musical icons are leaving this stage, I am saddened to think that the era of timeless music may be coming to an end. (Sorry, 20 years from now, I just can’t see myself being excited to hear any of today’s chart-topping singers live… yes, not even Beyonce.)
So, I thank Whitney Houston for sharing her ahhhmazing voice with the world. With every loss, I have developed a greater appreciation for the music that taught me how to move through life. It will always live in my soul and on my ipod or any other gadget that is developed over the years. At 35+, I’m so grateful to have learned to dance to music of the past generations. It’s from those dance steps that I now recognize that nothing lasts forever so you have to embrace the magic in the moment. It is from the songs of my past that taught me how to dream and have prepared me to accept the new steps of a new era. It is from musical icons like Whitney that have given my heart melodies that I will always cherish and remember every time I dance.