Thursday, February 7, 2019

"Greatest Love of All" by Whitney Houston

#1 Alert!
Gold Record Alert!
Song#:  2672
Date:  03/29/1986
Debut:  54
Peak:  1 (3 weeks)
Weeks:  18
Genre:  Pop, Adult Contemporary

Pop Bits:  Houston's self-titled debut album was showing no signs of slowing down. After spawning three consecutive gold records (two #1's, one #3), the album finally reached the #1 spot the second week of March in '86. It was the perfect time to release a fourth single. Yet there were limited choices left on the album. Three songs had already become hits, another had made the Top 10 at R&B ("Thinking About You"), one was an earlier duet hit with Teddy Pendergrass ("Hold Me"), and one other track had been released in other countries ("All at Once"). That left four tracks to choose from. Two were duets with Jermaine Jackson and one was considered a weaker album cut. That left this ballad that had already been getting a bit of airplay. The song had originally been released as the b-side to "You Give Good Love," yet when radio stations gave the track a spin, response was quite positive. It became the obvious choice for a fourth single and it ended up being the right call. The song became Houston's third consecutive #1 at Pop while also topping the AC chart and hitting #3 at R&B. It would also be her fourth consecutive gold record. It would later be nominated for a Grammy for Record of the Year. It was the perfect song to cap off Houston's star-making debut album, which spent 14 weeks at #1 and would eventually sell over 13 million copies in the US.

ReduxReview:  I do think this is a terrific song performed so well by Houston, but I admit that I grew so very, very tired of this tune back in the day. It was the greatest song fatigue of all. Whenever I'd hear that treacly piano/keyboard opening start, I'd just be "oh god, no...not again..." Even years later I'd still wanna stab whatever speaker was playing it. These days I have softened a bit on the song, but not a lot. Hearing it for this posting was the first time in many years that I actually (and purposely) listened to the full song. I appreciate the tune and it's place in making Houston a star. It's quite a lovely recording, yet that doesn't mean I'll ever be clamoring to hear it again.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  Double Shot:  1) This is a remake of a song written by Michael Masser and Linda Creed and originally recorded by George Benson. Masser and Creed wrote "The Greatest Love of All" specifically for the 1977 Muhammad Ali biopic The Greatest, which featured Ali portraying himself. Benson's recording of the song was issued out as a single and it was a hit at R&B getting to #2. It also got to #24 at Pop and #22 AC. It was a song that Houston had loved and she sang the tune at a club show in NYC that was attended by Clive Davis and Michael Masser. Her version helped to get her signed to Arista Records. When it came time to record her debut LP, Houston wanted to record the song. Davis was against the choice, but was eventually persuaded to let Houston record it. Masser produced the song, which then had an adjusted title of "Greatest Love of All" (minus "The"). It became one of Houston's biggest and most enduring hits.  2) Sometimes hit songs generate controversies and this one nearly ended up in court. After hearing Houston's hit version of the tune, singer/songwriter Gordon Lightfoot filed a plagiarism suit against Masser (Masser wrote the music, Creed penned the lyrics). It seems that Lightfoot was unaware of the song when first recorded by Benson, but Houston's version was practically inescapable and when Lightfoot heard the track (apparently while riding in an elevator), he noticed distinct similarities between the song and his own 1970 hit "If You Could Read My Mind" (#5 Pop/#1 AC). He counted at least 24 bars of music that were similar to ones in his song. He filed suit against Masser, but when publicity of the case started to draw in and affect Houston, Lightfoot withdrew the suit. He didn't want it to involve or have any negative effect on Houston. His beef was solely with Masser. But when it seemed that the issue might tarnish Houston's reputation and career, Lightfood didn't want that and ended up retreating. (In case you were wondering what part of the song resemble's Lightfoot's, it is the section leading up to the chorus that begins with "I decided long ago..." It is very nearly the same as sections that end the verses in "If You Can Read My Mind," especially when they are repeated.)



  1. 7/10 for me as well, I didn't think this song was quite as good as most her earlier or later hits of the 1980's, according to Billboard this song was on the charts for 20 weeks.

    1. Yeah, she would do better songs. The first run of the song (which is what I cover), it was on the chart for 18 weeks. It reappeared on the chart for two weeks after her death in 2012, so combined it makes the full run 20 weeks.