By Dan Burke, JMU Journalism Founding Editor
When the sad news broke about the death of singer Whitney Houston, the thoughts of many students from this course, past and present, would have turned to their time spent at JMU Journalism.
Whitney's unexpected death in a Los Angeles hotel room, aged just 48, has shocked the world of music and beyond, and for the JMU Journalism website team she has a special significance.
Long-time contributors to this site and a generation of student journalists will be no strangers to Houston’s 1986 version of the George Benson ballad, ‘The Greatest Love of All’.
Not only is it a multi-million selling record, it also became the unlikeliest of musical inspirations to a group of jaded and belligerent Journalism students back in 2009.
For it was ‘The Greatest Love of All’, a profound
and stirring piece of epiphanic pop music, that in
many ways sparked a revolution of attitudes and
paved the way for the creation of the website you
see before you today.
Admittedly, the song was forced upon us at first,
but over time many of us grew to appreciate the
sentiments of its 'message'.
Lyrics such as: “I believe the children are our
future, teach them well and let them lead the
way...” became a mantra to those present at the
advent of JMU Journalism.
So great was the influence of the song, we even
made an ambitious, yet ultimately unsuccessful
bid for a landmark interview with Whitney.
When graduates are invited back to speak to current students about working on the JMU Journalism site, they always know they are on 'Whitney duty', in homage to her inspiration.
The cruel demise of Houston has understandably saddened fans worldwide. She was born into what has been described as “soul music royalty”. Her mother, Cissy Houston, appeared on records by Wilson Pickett, and The Drifters; Dionne Warwick was her cousin; and Aretha Franklin was her godmother.
Houston enjoyed a record-breaking career and will go down in history as one of the most supremely talented singers ever to draw breath.
Her self-titled 1985 debut album topped the US charts for an unprecedented 14 weeks, selling 25 million copies and her legacy will forever live on via songs such as ‘I Wanna Dance With Somebody (Who Loves Me)’, ‘How Will I Know’ and ‘I Will Always Love You’.
Like so many others, Houston’s personal life was marred by well-publicised troubles and darkness away from the stage. Her turbulent marriage to fellow soul singer Bobby Brown in 1992 was the
catalyst for years of alcohol and drug abuse, and her often erratic public behaviour became a near-constant cause for concern.
Sadly, her premature end always had something of an air of inevitability about it.
Alas, it is with great poignancy that this website should pay tribute to the life and career of Whitney Houston, for without ‘The Greatest Love of All’ it may never have got off the ground.
Rest in peace Whitney, and thank you for showing us all the beauty we possessed inside.
More JMU Journalism stories
Whitney Houston died in Los Angeles, aged 48; YouTube: Whitney sings 'Greatest Love of All' in 1987