Wednesday, February 15, 2012

The Houston Chronicles

Ours is a culture on life support. If I knew where the plug was, I’d consider pulling it.
Personally, I’ve never been a fan of highly produced pop music but I think Whitney Houston possessed one of the purest vocal instruments I’ve ever heard. Of course, I am not alone in that assessment: a quick perusal of easily accessible RIAA data will confirm that Ms. Houston had millions of record buying fans. Her recordings will sell for decades and beyond. This is as it should be. Her talents moved us.
There is other data relevant to this post that is not so easily accessible. I wish it were. For instance, for the purposes of the point I am hoping to make, it would be good to know how many anonymous individuals met their tragic end this past Saturday. Or, how many children were left motherless. Or, how many in our military were killed in an undeclared and senseless war. Or how many police personnel died in the act of busting a drug ring or responding to a domestic violence call. Or, how many otherwise gifted and capable human beings succumbed to addiction, anxiety and depression. Certainly these numbers would be in the hundreds or thousands. We don’t know these people, we do not honor them, we do not celebrate them and no celebrities tweet endlessly about the tremendous impact they had on their lives. They are the silent ones. Yes, many hearts are aching because of these losses but they are private acts of mourning. Again, this is as it should be.
The deeply gifted, Ms. Houston, was discovered immersed and unconscious in a bathtub at The Beverly Hilton Hotel, just hours before her scheduled appearance at the annual Clive Davis pre-Grammy Awards Dinner. Sadly, in the ensuing hours, she was pronounced dead. For the moment, we are left to speculate about the cause of her demise.
The very tragic, very methodical and very public unraveling of Whitney Houston’s life and career have led many to the conclusion that her demons could not be contained. What and/or who were those demons? I have no idea. Perhaps their name was Legion. But this much is true: talent, fame, prosperity, celebrity, Bobby Brown, Clive Davis and millions of adoring fans could not keep those demons at bay. This is a tale as old as time but a lesson we refuse to learn. In the wake of this great tragedy, we choose not to stare into its reality and call it what it is: madness. No, we choose to marvel at Ms. Houston’s gifts, praise her success, lift her up and celebrate her life. Okay, fair enough. But please, let’s not make her a heroine or an icon. If Whitney Houston is to be an example, she is, at least in part, an example of terrible choices, reckless living, excess and ingratitude. Yes, those are harsh words, but this is a harsh event on display for all eyes to see, young, old and in between.
What is the final message she left behind? Indeed, what is the legacy of Whitney Houston? Well, that is not mine to say. Yes, there was the stunningly beautiful, musically unparalleled, easy-to-adore and articulate superstar. And there was also the emaciated, high-as-a-kite, lip-bloodied, multi-rehabilitated, very human being. It is now being reported that the last song she sang was, “Jesus Loves Me.”
This, I know.


Blogger Ken Van Durand said...


Right you are.

So many others died that day, who were far better role models and remain nameless.

Putting her on a pedestal is beyond the pale.

February 19, 2012 at 9:11 AM  
Blogger Don White said...


March 25, 2012 at 9:25 AM  

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