The Greatest Love of All

Music by Michael Masser, lyrics by Linda Creed, 1976

According to this song, what is "the greatest love of all"?

Compare and contrast the recordings by George Benson and Whitney Houston. Benson's recording was criticized as preachy, while Houston's was almost universally praised. Do you think the different receptions had anything to do with listeners' different expectations of men and women?

Whitney Houston grew up and started her career in gospel music, and her version of the song is especially rooted in gospel singing styles. What elements of gospel singing can you hear in her vocals?

How does Houston's gospel-style singing affect the meaning of the song? Do the religious connotations of the style lend it moral depth that it might not otherwise have?

The lyrics are not explicitly about race. Do you think the gospel style might cause some listeners to connect the song to any particular group?

"The Greatest Love of All" performed by Whitney Houston on Whitney Houston, © 1985. Available on iTunes, Spotify, and YouTube.

 

For more information on Whitney Houston, visit her official website. The official video may be viewed via YouTube.

Rights have not been secured to reprint the words for this song. Please consult this online source

https://www.azlyrics.com/lyrics/whitneyhouston/
greatestloveofall.html

Michael Masser (1941–2015) was born in Chicago and attended the University of Illinois. After working as a stockbroker, he turned to composing to fulfill a lifelong dream. Although he never learned to read music, Masser taught himself to play the piano and studied with Johnny Mercer in Hollywood. In 1976 he wrote "The Greatest Love of All" with lyricist Linda Creed (1948–86) for the movie The Greatest, a biographical portrayal of boxer Muhammad Ali. The song, an inspirational ballad about instilling a sense of pride—the greatest love of all—in children, was recorded for the soundtrack by George Benson (b. 1943) and reached number two on the R&B charts.

Whitney Houston Greatest Love of all
Whitney Houston album cover.

In the 1980s, Masser began writing songs for Whitney Houston (1963–2012), who included "The Greatest Love of All" on her debut album, Whitney Houston, in 1985. Houston was raised in a musical family. Her mother, Cissy Houston, was in the influential gospel group the Sweet Inspirations, which included Cissy's niece and Whitney's cousin Dionne Warwick. Whitney grew up singing gospel music and performing with her mother in nightclubs. She began her career as a backup singer for Chaka Khan and Jermaine Jackson but quickly emerged as a solo artist in her own right. At the height of her fame she also starred in movies, including The Bodyguard (1992), Waiting to Exhale (1995), and The Preacher's Wife (1996).

Houston's recording of "The Greatest Love of All" became a much bigger hit than Benson's, climbing to number one on the charts and receiving a nomination for a Grammy Award.