The death of Whitney Houston hit me hard.
In fact, it’s only now that I’ve seen the wonderful tribute that Monica, Brandy, Chaka Kahn and most importantly her mother, Cissy Houston performed for her on B.E.T. last night, that I’m finally able to articulate what I’ve been feeling since February.
I remember the moment I first heard the news. Instantly, I was transported back to the time when I once met and shared the stage with her.
Years ago, when I was paying my dues as a background vocalist, my dear friend, John Buddy Hopkins, made it possible for us to sing along with Whitney, Smokey Robinson and others during the final song for the American Music Awards.
Whitney and I never spoke personally, but I do remember being in awe of her. Because for me, Whitney was the epitome of love music. Her voice. Her songs. Everything her music represented was exactly what I was striving to communicate as a soloist and songwriter.
Simply put, I was in love with love music.
But as the years passed and promised record deals failed to materialize because the direction of the industry shifted, my relationship with music changed. Not only did I fall out of love with love music, but I also grew to resent it so much that for a long time, I couldn’t even listen to love songs.
Then, Whitney Houston died unexpectedly. And instantly, I remembered just how much I still love love music.
In fact, as I stayed up late into the early morning, flipping channels and watching fans, friends and celebrities share how Whitney Houston’s music touched, shaped and provided the soundtrack to their lives, it occurred to me that I wasn’t alone.
We all love love music.
THE MOST POWERFUL SOUND
But how is that possible? Why does music – the most powerful sound in the world – move us to laugh, cry or remember?
To answer this question, we have to go back to the womb. At 17 to 19 weeks old, sound is the second sense we develop after touch as fetuses.
And what is sound? It’s simply a collection of vibrations that travel through the air, which enter through our ear canal and are converted into neurosignals. Those signals then travel from the ear to our brain stem – the primeval base of our brain - and up to our auditory cortex, which is laid out in pitch order almost, like piano keys.
That’s how sound works and has worked since early man uttered his first words to express love, humor or danger.
But music and our relationship with it is a special case. Why? Because the vibrations of music - unlike the chaos of noise – are continuous and regular. In other words, music makes sense to us on such a deep, primal, soulful level, it’s impossible not to fall in love with it.
Music also neurologically:
- Triggers the naturally occurring feel good drug of dopamine in our brain
- Taps into our deepest emotions or fears
- And directly stimulates the areas of our brains which houses our memories.
That’s why when you hear a piece of instrumental music or a song, it can transform your mood from happy to sad or transport you back in time to a distinctive memory.
And what memories are more distinctive or stronger than love?
THE NEED TO BELONG
That’s why we love love music. It unlocks our most basic need as human beings and cognitively produces or summons memories to subconsciously teach us lessons about love.
I’m a relationship coach, but I’m not ashamed to say I have gleaned many lessons from Whitney Houston’s music. We all have.
And despite her personal struggles with relationships and addiction, we all loved and are mourning Whitney’s death, because her music represents the hopes we all have and the challenges we all face when it comes to love.
Ultimately, as I teach my clients, the most important relationship you can ever have is the relationship with yourself. Whitney, who also struggled with this, sang it best: ”Learning to love yourself is the greatest love of all.”
Thank you , Whitney, for sharing the phenomenal instrument of your voice and loving us eternally through your music. May you continue to rest in peace.