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Aretha Franklin: The Whitney I Knew

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Cissy brought Whitney (Nippy was her pet name) to one of my recording sessions to meet me, and I thought, “What a cute, darling little red-headed girl!” From then on I watched her growth and development as an artist. It became apparent that she was the signaling of a younger generation coming in and a role model for many young vocal aspirants-a rose who came into full bloom. It wasn’t just the hits: Whitney knew how to be a star, and she was one of the brightest stars in the universe.

We were all aware of her challenges, and I was always rooting for her. Seeing previews for the new Sparkle movie, I thought, “Boy, she looks good, healthy, fresh and has that twinkle in her eyes!” I felt for sure she was really on her way again and had overcome.

But in looking back now, I recall her European tour: still exciting, but unable to sing what she wanted to had to be disheartening. And yet she stood night after night and endured unappreciative audiences with the heart of a champion. I followed the tour online to see how she was faring, and I believe she was totally devastated. I remember Natalie Cole saying how overwhelming overnight success can be for some. And of course Whitney had phenomenal success, overnight and perhaps too much, too soon.

My father always cautioned me to be prepared for the day when your records are gonna stop being played. No matter how good you are, no matter how successful you are, one day the applause is going to die down. The amens and hallelujahs will no longer be heard, and the fans may no longer be there. Save your money and know what you’re going to do when that happens.

Let us all applaud and remember Whitney for the beautiful, giving and caring young lady and talented artist she was, the great music and performances. Remember the hits. Forget the misses. A true superstar has gone on, flown away on the wings of love.

Keep her family in your prayers, Aunt Ree