Whitney Houston burst onto the music scene in 1985 with her self-titled LP which had four number one hit singles on it, including “The Greatest Love of All,” “You Give Good Love” and “Saving All My Love for You,” plus it won a Grammy Award for best pop vocal performance by a female and two American Music Awards, one for best rhythm and blues single and another for best rhythm and blues video. She was also cited as best new artist of the year by Billboard and by Rolling Stone magazine. With all this hype one might expect the album to be an anticlimatic, lackluster affair, but the surprise was that Whitney Houston (Arista) was one of the warmest, most complex and altogether satisfying rhythm and blues records of the 1980s and Whitney herself had a voice that defies belief. From the elegant, beautiful photo of her on the cover of the album (in a gown by Giovanne De Maura) and its fairly sexy counterpart on the back (in a bathing suit by Norma Kamali) one knows that this wasn’t going to be a blandly professional affair; the record was smooth but intense and Whitney’s voice leaped across so many boundaries and was so versatile (though she was mainly a jazz singer) that it’s hard to take in the album on a first listening.
“The Greatest Love of All” was one of the best, most powerful songs ever written about self-preservation and dignity. From the first line (Michael Masser and Linda Creed are credited as the writers) to the last, it was a state-of-the-art ballad about believing in yourself. It was a powerful statement and on that Whitney sung with a grandeur that approached sublime. Its universal message crossed all boundaries and instilled one with the hope that it’s not too late for us to better ourself, to act kinder. Since it’s impossible in the world we live in to empathize with others, we can always empathize with ourselves. It was an important message, crucial really, and it was beautifully stated on this album.