(Welcome to the latest installment in an intermittent series of blog posts about important, interesting, amusing, or outright random events that happened on… [drum roll]… this day in music history!)
Today is International Women’s Day, so it seems only appropriate to look at an important milestone for women in music: the commercial breakthrough of one of the most popular and successful female artists of all time.
On March 8, 1986, Whitney Houston’s self-titled debut album hit number one on the Billboard 200. The album was recorded over two years (1983-84) and released on February 14, 1985. Sales were initially slow, but it rose steadily, hitting the top of the Billboard R&B and Hip-Hop Albums chart in June and the top ten on the main chart in August before ascending to the heady heights of number one.
This was the slowest climb to that pinnacle since 1976, but the album proved to have staying power. It spent 14 weeks up top, a record 46 weeks in the top ten, and a total of 162 weeks on the chart. It also hit number one in Canada and Australia, and number two in the UK. It was certified 13x platinum in 1999, and has sold over 22 million copies worldwide. Its second single, “Saving All My Love For You”, was Houston’s first number one hit and won the Grammy Award for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance. The album as a whole has worn well, ranking 254 in the Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Albums of All Time.
Indeed, I quite like the album myself, even though it’s very far indeed outside my usual musical wheelhouse… Whitney’s voice was a force of nature, and the album was a great mix of different styles and tones. “Saving All My Love For You” fully deserves its success, as does the powerful “Greatest Love of All” and the pop-tinged MTV breakthrough “How Will I Know”. Her biggest success and best-known song is undoubtedly “I Will Always Love You” from the 1992 potboiler The Bodyguard, but her debut is more varied and more nuanced and–to this humble author—more fun.
Whitney Houston (the person) went on to become of the most successful artists of all time, of course, with 200 million records sold worldwide, nine albums (seven studio, two soundtrack, all at least gold certified), seven consecutive no. 1 Billboard hits.
Whitney Houston (the album) remains the best-selling debut album in history for a woman. And it came out on International Women’s Day, 1986. Seems right, that.
Also on March 8th:
1714: Born today, classical German composer Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach
1869: Death of the influential French Romantic composer Hector Berlioz
1945: Born today, Micky Dolenz, vocalist and drummer of the Monkees
1958: Born today, synth pop legend Gary Numan
1962: Radio debut of the Beatles on BBC’s “Teenagers Turn – Here We Go”
1965: Release of Bob Dylan’s single “Subterranean Homesick Blues,” one of his first electric recordings
2016: Death of Beatles producer George Martin
Blazej Szpakowicz likes music and enjoys writing about it. He can sometimes be found in the basement of CFBX building.