songs that soundtracked the AIDS crisis: Tiffany “Here In My Heart”

The impact of HIV/AIDS in the collective consciousness in pop music was undeniable. This period saw a move toward more introspective and somber tones lyrically and sonically. “Being Boring” by Pet Shop Boys, and Gwen Guthrie’s “Can’t Love You Tonight” are notable songs of this time. And yes, even teen pop queen Tiffany contributed to the songs that soundtracked the AIDS crisis. 

Born Tiffany Renee Darwish in 1971, Tiffany became synonymous with the teen pop music boom of the late 80s. Her rise to stardom resulted from her musical talent and an innovative marketing strategy. Soon after the release of her debut album, Tiffany launched “The Beautiful You: Celebrating the Good Life Shopping Mall Tour ’87.” Performing live at shopping malls nationwide catapulted the then-16-year-old singer to superstardom.

At her peak in 1988, Tiffany sold seven million albums worldwide and scored two #1 singles on Billboard’s Hot 100, including the high-NRG(ish) cover of Tommy James & the Shondells 1967 hit “I Think We’re Alone Now” and the poignant ballad “Could’ve Been.” Tiffany’s vibrant rise, just as awareness of AIDS increased, was emblematic of the cultural complexities at the time.

By the release of Tiffany’s sophomore “New Inside” in September 1990, the AIDS activism sparked by ACT-UP and, along with the loss of artists, performers, and activists, including Ryan White, forced a cultural confrontation that reshaped the relationship between music and the politics of sex, health, and activism.

In 1984, when Ryan White was 13 years old, he was diagnosed with AIDS during a time when it was shrouded in fear and stigma. Ryan was banned from attending school, and his fight to access in-person education highlighted the fierce stigma and hate surrounding AIDS. Ryan became an advocate who used his own story to raise awareness. His advocacy continued until his death at 18 years old on April 8, 1990.

After Ryan’s death, people worldwide expressed sadness and paid tribute to him. Elton John sang at his funeral, and Michael Jackson dedicated the song “Gone Too Soon” to Ryan’s memory. Tiffany also honored Ryan’s legacy by dedicating the powerful ballad, “Here In My Heart” to him.

Written by legendary songwriter Diane Warren, “Here In My Heart” was released as the second single from Tiffany’s New Jack Swing forward “New Inside” album in October 1990. While the song was met with raving reviews from critics and an accompanying music video, it was released just as the teen pop music boom of the late 1980s had fallen out of favor with MTV and radio.

Although Tiffany’s reign as as a pop star was a glimmering moment of the late 80s musical landscape, her single “Here Is My Heart,” commemorating Ryan White, made her one of the few teen pop stars to connect their music to AIDS. While the song was not a significant hit, Tiffany continues to speak Ryan White’s name and performs “Here In My Heart” as part of her live setlist.


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