On a beautiful summer evening in 1985, my date and I sat anxiously awaiting the start of the Al Jarreau concert at the Muny in Forest Park. We had great seats in about the 7th row slightly left of dead center the stage. Whitney Houston was the opening act.
From the moment she walked onstage, a rapture seemed to descend upon the entire audience. She was radiant. Her smile was inviting and genuine, as though she were a friend happy to see us after a protracted separation. Plainly put, she was captivating without working to be so.
She immediately launched into her pop hit, “How Will I Know.” I’d heard it on radio, liked it okay while not thinking it smashing. But two lines into the song, her vocals combined with an extraordinary deliverance and engaging stage presence, put me in a finger popping, head bopping groove. It was clear that she was a special performer with a prodigious talent.
Midway thru the song, in the center of the front row, a skirmish erupted between two twenty-something guys. They were out of their seats tussling when Whitney walked to the edge of the stage and, without missing a beat, said, “Oh guys, please don’t fight.” She said it so imploringly that the combatants froze, released their holds on one another and sat down. I’ll never forget that.
Whitney completed the song without further incident. She bowed to thunderous applause. The standing ovation went on for well over a minute. Quite possibly, the two most enthusiastic supporters were the young men who just minutes earlier had been fighting. I’ll never forget that either.
Many will chronicle Whitney’s personal struggles and dwell on the negative. I choose to remember the Whitney Houston that I was privileged to see, hear and admire on that splendid summer night in 1985.
Thank you Whitney for the music and memories. You will not be forgotten.
My deepest condolences go out to all of Whitney Houston’s immediate family and to her vast extended family-the entire world.