Whitney Houston was an incredible talent, role model and inspiration. From her iconic looks to her undeniable charisma, she really gave the gays everything they wanted. Though her she had her struggles — and, maybe, because of them — she will always remain a queer icon. In honor of what would have been her 55th birthday, here are her top 10 live performances.
10. A Song For You
In 1991, Whitney Houston performed in a Welcome Home Heroes concert that aired on HBO, honoring 3,500 servicemen and women returning from the Gulf War. They way she covered this Leon Russell song. Full coverage. Insured. GAG.
9. A Quiet Place
Picture it. Public Access Television. 1987. Whitney dons a iconic scarf, simple red lipstick and had an entire choir behind her simply to cheer her on. Mutha Cissy close by just nodding in approval and awe at the fact of this blessing she brought into the world. Riffs inside of riffs! SEETHE.
8. When You Believe
The best moments are so pure. Nothing was as pure as the look Mariah gave Whitney halfway through this performance. While both of these women are icons and immensely talented, it’s almost like Mariah was set up. Honestly, you can tell Whitney went way off book. I’m convinced someone turned Mariah’s mic down. Either way, this performance is so perfect and pure.
In her first live television performance, Whitney Houston stunned. Introduced by her then mentor and head of Arista records Clive Davis, Whitney gave a jaw dropping performance of this classic from The Wiz. If you watch closely, you can see Mutha Cissy come in behind the curtain to direct the band so they can keep up with the force that is her daughter.
6. I Wanna Dance With Somebody
Honestly, the best part about this song is the joy it brings to queer bars and nightclubs anytime it comes on. The happiness is palpable — you can feel it as you belt it at the top of your lungs. This performance reminds us of the power true talent has. She didn’t need not ONE backup dancer, just a mic and a bolero.
5. All The Man That I Need
Woooo chile the vibrato!!!!! This performance makes me sweat more than she does. “All The Man That I Need” might be lyrically, one of the most incredibly raw songs Whitney ever recorded. This performance really sails in the last few minutes after the instrumental break, which our ears need after being delighted for so long.
4. The Greatest Love Of All
More iconic than “Amazing Grace,” “The Greatest Love Of All” is the gold standard in religious songs. Whitney sang this song like she ran an orphanage, she believed in the children and the children began to believe in themselves. And that dress on ol’ girl was snatched like perfume tester on a busy sales floor. GET INTO IT.
3. One Moment In Time
Released in 1988, this song was the true gold medalist of the Olympics. The ways she moved so gracefully through these notes. Imagine being so blessed to as to have been in the room when this happened.
2. I Will Always Love You
This is a matter of personal taste. While undoubtedly her biggest hit, there are so many great performances of this song, it’s almost impossible to choose. I chose this one because, well, that Stepford Wife updo cannot be touched. She looks like she’s about complain about the Riesling being too dry at Le Bernadin. It must’ve been nice for Dolly Parton to have owned this song for the brief time she did. It’s Whitney’s song now. This and “The Star Spangled Banner.”
1. I Loves You, Porgy / And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going / I Have Nothing
The only medley to ever exist. I’m absolutely convinced that the “I Loves You, Porgy” portion of this medley was her warming up live on national television. Your faves can barely make it 4 minutes into a live broadcast lip syncing their own songs. Whitney covered two others and finished with her own just because she CAN. They look. The stage presence. The power. The RANGE. The best of all time.