This day in music history: Whitney Houston scores first No. 1 hit in 1985

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In 1985 the American listening public were no strangers to female singers. There had been a variety of remarkable female singers since the invention of popular music, but something about the story of Whitney Houston stands out.

For some audiences it is the way she carries notes; for others, the way Houston emotes through her vocal power is the selling point. For still others, it is a combination of both of those qualities plus more. What ever audible and intangible qualities Houston possessed, her reign over the US pop and r&b charts began in 1985 with the song “Saving All My Love For You.”

“Saving All My Love For You” by Whitney Houston

The year 1985 was a busy one for popular music. Rap music was continuing to evolve, Michael Jackson remained the undisputed King of Pop and was found to be successful without his famous singing family, and glam metal was everywhere, and Madonna was creating her own rules. Out of all that musical chaos, came a young woman with girl-nest-door looks, and a voice that was forged in the black American church. Her first No. 1 was a song about a love affair with a married man.

The gentle soundscape does not let on that the song is essentially about adultery. And it probably wasn’t until Houston sings “…you’ve got your family and they need you there…” that some listeners even knew what the real story of the song was.

Whatever backlash there might have been from any censorship or other group like the PMRC (Parents Music Resource Group), it seemed to have little impact on Houston’s popularity.

As far as performances go, Houston belts out the line “Tonight is the night/for feeling alright/we’ll be making love the whole night through…” and then her voice is smaller when she goes to end the title phrase. The peaks and valleys of her vocal dynamics make listeners pay attention.

While “Saving All My Love For You” was Houston’s first hit, it was by no means her last. Her next six singles would all reach No.1, establishing Houston as a first-rate singer, and giving her a reputation that would last even after her untimely death in 2012 at age 48.

 

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Dodie Miller-Gould is a native of Fort Wayne, Indiana who lives in New York City where she studies creative nonfiction at Columbia University. She has BA and MA degrees in English from Indiana University-Purdue University, Fort Wayne, and an MFA in Fiction from Minnesota State University, Mankato. Her research interests include popular music and culture, 1920s jazz, and blues, confessional poetry, and the rhetoric of fiction. She has presented at numerous conferences in rhetoric and composition, and creative writing. Her creative works have appeared in Tenth Muse, Apostrophe, The Flying Island, Scavenger's Newsletter and elsewhere. She has won university-based awards for creative work and literary criticism.

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