Pop stars of the 1980s came to musical life during one of the most interesting and, for some, exciting times in American and world music history. The 1980s were the disco years, pop rock and the height and waning of the punk rock years. Many of the pop rock stars who went on to become music icons, like Boy George (Alan O’Dowd) and the , Whitney Houston. Both George and Houston were high on the 80s pop music charts with songs like Houston’s Greatest Love of All, and Karma Chameleon by the group in which Boy George was the lead singer, Culture Club. Houston and George went on to achieve fame, and although their careers went in very different directions, there were life events that mirrored one another for both stars.
Boy George gained the spotlight not just for his pop hits, but also because of his unusual appearance and sexual orientation as admittedly gay when gay people were just beginning to make progress in achieving gay rights (Gage, Richards, Wilmont, and Boy George, 2002, pp. 6-7). His hit, perhaps his biggest hit, Karma Chameleon, brought the pretty young man from England great fame, his rise to fame was amongst the 80’s punk groups, rockers, disco, and, of course, pop. He had a great voice, but it was not the limit of his talents, as he gone on to collaborate on books like Queer (2002), is very involved with charity work, especially for AIDS (acquired immune deficiency syndrome), and has even acted in television’s the ATeam, a popular 80s show; and films, like The Wolves of Kromer (1998) (allaboutboygeorge.com, 2009, found online).
Like many pop icons and entertainers, Boy George has had his problems with drugs and alcohol, and, in England, in 2007, he was found guilty of imprisoning a male escort for which he served 15 months in jail (BBC News, 2009, found online). Although he has demonstrated a pattern of what the BCC News described as “self-destructive behavior (online, 2009),” he will always be remembered for his great artistic skills and talents, and especially for the film The Crying Game (1992) theme song of the same title, which is a beautiful song about the pain and secrecy of being gay.
Houston, young and beautiful, and the daughter of gospel singer Cissy Houston, niece of the famous singer Dione Warwick, and God Daughter of soul queen Aretha Franklin; emerged to fame at age 15 with Life’s a Party single in 1979 (Bronson, Fred, 2002, p. 52). But her real fame came in 1983, after she signed with a manager, Clive Davis. She went on to release many major hits; in fact, nearly every song she ever sang became a hit; songs like Saving All My Love for You, Where do Broken Hearts Go, and Greatest Love of All; all hitting the top of pop music radio and sales charts (p. 52).
After having gained such fame and recognition during the 1980s, Houston even made The Star Spangled Banner a hit when she sang it at the opening of the 1991 Superbowl. However, like Boy George, during the 1990s Houston began a spiral downward descent into drugs and alcohol, the details about which have become famous. After years without a hit and no albums, Houston has recently come back into the spotlight under the direction of her old manager and friend, Clive Davis, with a new 2009 release CD titled I Look to You (WhitneyHouston.com, 2009, found online). However, perhaps her most popular hit to date is the 1973 Dolly Parton hit, I Will Always Love You, from the movie in which she stared, The Body Guard (1991).
Boy George and Houston topped the billboard’s hottest hits on numerous occasions, but maintaining the life of a pop icon is no easy thing, and it takes its toll on the artists personally, and musically. While critics gave Houston’s latest release a nostalgic, if not warm welcome; the hope is that Houston can continue to enjoy good health, sobriety, and perhaps bring us many more great songs.
Allaboutboygeorge.com, online, found at http://www.allaboutboygeorge.com/actor.html, retrieved 20 November 2009.
BBC News, online, found at http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/england/london/7832565.stm, retrieved 20 November 2009.
Bronson, F. (2002). Billboard’s Hottest Hot 100 Hits, Watson Guptill, New York, New
Gage, S., Richards, L., and Wilmont, H. (2002). Queer, Thunder’s Mouth Press, New
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WhitneyHouston.com, found online at http://www.whitneyhouston.com/us/music/i-look-you, retrieved 20 November 2009.