Whitney Houston, who passed away on Saturday, Feb. 11, began her career just as the video age was just starting to blossom, and she scored some of her greatest success in that medium.
Houston was an MTV pioneer and a singular television performer in the most traditional sense, lending her singular voice to broadcast specials, sporting events, and awards ceremonies that became cultural touchstones.
She lived her life in public, for better or for worse, and most of it is captured in the never-ending cavalcade of archived videos online. Below, a few of her greatest (and most notorious) career moments caught on tape.
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“Saving All My Love For You”
Houston’s self-titled debut came out on Valentine’s Day in 1985 and had a near-instant impact, eventually going platinum 13 times in the United States and moving more than 25 million units worldwide. Much of that sales clout was delivered on the strength of a string of chart-topping singles—including “Saving All My Love For You,” her first number one hit. The video, like the song, is uncomplicated: there’s little more than Houston, a microphone, and her spectacularly dynamic voice.
“How Will I Know”
The second chart-topper from Whitney became Houston’s first clip to be put into heavy rotation on MTV, which not only made her a network staple over the course of the next two decades but also paved the way for black women on the still-nascent cable hub. “How Will I Know” also legitimized her standing as a pop star, as she proved that she wasn’t just an excellent balladeer:
“I Wanna Dance With Somebody (Who Loves Me)”
Whitney Houston kept Whitney at the top of the charts for the bulk of 1985 and 1986, and she proved that she was a career artist with 1987’s Whitney. Her second album managed to take her incredible instrument and marry it with cutting-edge pop sounds that allowed her to be fully embraced by fans of dance music, R&B, and traditional pop. It’s a combination that comes across best on “I Wanna Dance With Somebody (Who Loves Me),” a jubilant vocal workout with a knockout hook. Clearly, she was also getting the hang of making memorable videos:
“So Emotional” (Nelson Mandela 70th Birthday Tribute)
In just a few short years, Houston had elevated herself from pop star to national treasure, a trend that would continue as the ’80s gave way to the ’90s. She was invited to perform at Nelson Mandela’s 70th birthday party celebration in London in 1988, proving that she was not only a definitive American songstress but a worldwide phenomenon:
“One Moment In Time” (Live at the Grammys 1989)
Houston scored another hit with this inspirational ballad recorded specifically for the 1988 Olympics. Her performance of the song at the Grammy Awards in 1989 opened that show and remains a definitive moment in the show’s history (though she later lost the prize for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance to Tracy Chapman).
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