The pop music world is mourning the death of Whitney Houston, who passed away last Saturday at the age of 48. It only makes sense that we give her some props in this week’s Jheri Curl Fridays column. There’s not much that can be said or shown here that hasn’t been said or shown ad nauseum. Most of you reading this are likely aware of her run of hits, her long list of awards and honors, and if you were alive and somewhat conscious of your surroundings by late 1992, there’s no way you don’t remember “I Will Always Love You” waiting for you around every corner. I dug around for a while, trying to find some Whitney footage from the Eighties that was a little off the beaten path and found this: a clip of her singing “Nobody Loves Me Like You Do” with Jermaine Jackson on the CBS soap opera “As The World Turns” circa 1985. Jermaine and Whitney originally crossed paths two years before. Jermaine had just left his longtime label home Motown for Clive Davis’s Arista Records, and one of the first things Clive did upon signing Jermaine was hook him up with new signing Whitney to see if he could come up with some material on her. They wound up doing four duets together: “Take Good Care of My Heart” (which originally appeared on Jermaine’s self-titled Arista debut in ’84,) “If You Say My Eyes Are Beautiful” (from Jermaine’s 1986 follow-up, Precious Moments,) “Shock Me” (which appeared on 1985’s soundtrack to the John Travolta/Jamie Lee Curtis film Perfect,) and this country-tinged ballad.
It’s a fairly simple performance-no real bells and whistles to note. There’s not even much to snark on here. I mean-how many greasy-haired Jermaine jokes can one make? Well, there’s also the fact that the Wig Train had not pulled into the Whitney station yet. It’s long been rumored that there was a little more than music-making involved in the Whitney/Jermaine relationship, and that Whitney’s first #1 hit, “Saving All My Love For You,” hit a little close to home because of that. In his recent book, Jermaine admitted that there was a strong attraction between the two, but that he didn’t act on it because he was married to Hazel Gordy (daughter of Berry) at the time. For her part, Whitney never discussed her relationship with Jermaine specifically, but hinted in interviews that the reason she was able to deliver such a strong vocal had a lot to do with the fact that she was living the lyrics at the time. Jermaine’s star was descending at the same time Whitney’s was rising, and the two did not record together after 1986. However, Jermaine provided several gracious soundbites following Whitney’s death, indicating that the two had spoken as recently as 2009, after Jermaine’s brother Michael passed away. Whitney leaves behind one hell of a legacy-she’s easily one of the most influential pop vocalists of the past quarter-century, and she will be missed.