Monday, February 13, 2012
Scandalous Women Celebrates Whitney Houston (1963-2012)
This weekend the world mourned the loss of singer Whitney Houston. I still have a hard time believing that she is gone, that her voice has been silenced. Just like I'll always remember where I was when I heard that John Lennon had been killed, I'll always remember where I was when I heard Whitney died. I was sitting at a bar hanging out with a friend, on Saturday night, when the bartender announced that Whitney Houston had died.
How could that have happened? It didn't seem possible, I had just seen a clip on one of the infotainment shows that she had filmed a role in a remake of the 1970's classic SPARKLE, which she was also involved in producing. Although she'd been absent from the music business since her 2009 album wasn't as successful as her previous efforts, it seemed only a matter of time that she would be back in the studio again. After all, her ex Bobby Brown, had made a comeback of sorts on CMT of all places, and was now back touring with New Edition again. It seemed as if they had both put their tumultuous marriage and their problems with drugs in the past.
I came of age at the same time as Whitney Houston. She was born in 1963, a year before I was. We even shared a name, Elizabeth (her middle name, my first). I can remember so clearly when her first album came out. Her music was so infectious and her voice was so glorious, it didn't seem possible that such a powerful voice could come out of one person. How many of us tried though to sing like her, standing in front of the mirror with a hairbrush, or singing along in the shower? But there was only one Whitney Houston. She was also drop dead gorgeous which didn't hurt. It seemed as if she was the complete package. And then THE BODYGUARD came out, and she added acting to a long list of accomplishments including 6 Grammy Awards, 22 American Music Awards, and 30 Billboard Awards. There would be no Mariah Carey, no Celine Dion, or Christina Aguilera if Whitney hadn't paved the way for the powerhouse vocalist that dominated the airwaves in the late 80's and early 90's. But she towered over them all. Who else but Whitney could take a Dolly Parton song and turn it into a powerhouse anthem? Dolly's own rendition sounded downright anemic compared to Whitney's version. Not to mention what she did with the Star Spangled Banner, turning our national anthem into a hit pop record! I still have the cassette tape that I bought of her first album, and I've worn out the CD's of THE BODYGUARD, and her 1998 CD MY LOVE IS YOUR LOVE.
It seemed like Whitney was born to sing, her mother was gospel singer Cissy Houston, her cousin Dionne Warwick and her god-mother Aretha Franklin. It was like the story of Sleeping Beauty, where the various fairies came and blessed her with many gifts, beauty, talent, poise. Unfortunately the evil fairy also showed up, blessing Whitney with the curse of so many performers, an addiction to alcohol and cocaine. I remember the early years of Whitney's career, when she appeared to be the quintessential "good girl" of R&B. We all knew that she had grown up singing in the church in New Jersey, she dressed modestly for a pop-star, no plunging necklaces for Whitney! But there were rumors from the beginning that she was not the image that she was made out to be.
The tabloids constantly ran stories that Whitney and her best friend Robin were more than just friends. Tere were stories that she was a diva, with a trashy mouth (anyone who watched BEING BOBBY BROWN knows that part is true). And then in 1992, she married the bad boy of R&B Bobby Brown. Brown grew up in a rough neighborhood outside of Boston, had already fathered a string of kids, not to mention arrests for indecency. The tabloid press fell all over themselves chronically their life together, which seemed to consist of Bobby getting arrested and Whitney showing up loyally at his side in courtrooms. Along the way, she managed to continue acting and singing, recording 2 more hit albums. But it soon became clear that the couple had spiraled into drug addiction. Later on, Whitney blamed Bobby partly for her drug use. The marriage continued to spiral out of control, culminating in a reality TV BEING BOBBY BROWN which chronicled a superstar that was struggling. Since their divorce in 2007, Houston went to rehab, and seemed to have gotten her act back together.
At times like this, one can't help but wonder "what if?" What if she had gotten help sooner? Those questions will always go unanswered.
Whitney's voice was the one that we listened to when we were sad, when we wanted to dance, when we got married.