She was the singer all others were judged against, writes Chuck Arnold

By Chuck Arnold
Updated February 11, 2012 11:35 PM
Credit: Scott Gries/PictureGroup

Ever since Whitney Houston first hit big in the ’80s, with a voice that was both supremely soulful and Olympian in power and range, she was the singer all others were judged against.

Her superlative renditions of “The Greatest Love of All” and “I Will Always Love You,” among others, showcased her as an undeniable force of nature.

But as that voice diminished over the years, weakened by her own human frailty, it was hard to accept. I, like so many fans, rooted for her to overcome her demons and make that long-awaited comeback that would restore all her diva glory.

Certainly, as you could see on countless American Idol auditions, Houston was still the singer that everybody wanted to be. Sadly, after recently wrapping her movie return in Sparkle, she will never have that chance to shine again.

The horrible irony of Houston dying hours before she was to attend legendary record executive Clive Davis’s annual pre-Grammy gala in Beverly Hills just makes me sick.

From the time she was a teenager, Whitney was Clive’s baby. He championed her as her generation’s answer to Aretha Franklin – one who also happened to look like a supermodel. Even after Houston suffered many setbacks, Davis still believed in her in 2009, when he launched her last – and final – album, I Look to You.

Houston was also always a fixture at Clive’s Grammy party, even in her troubled years. It’s hard to imagine that party – indeed, a world – without Whitney Houston.

Somehow, as I and the entire music community gather in Los Angeles for the Grammys, we will try to begin to figure out how to live without the woman who once had the greatest voice of all.