Monday, March 5, 2012

The Deification of Whitney Houston

The beautiful and talented Whitney Houston, looking the picture of health

Saturday, February 11, the night before the Grammy Awards, the news broke that Whitney Houston had died that afternoon. Apparently, she was found dead in her bathtub at the Beverly Hilton Hotel, hours before she was due to attend a pre-Grammy party hosted by music mogul and long-time Houston mentor, Clive Davis.

Houston with long-time mentor, music mogul Clive Davis

Clive Davis opened the event, saying, 
By now you have all learned of the unspeakably tragic news of our beloved Whitney’s passing. I don’t have to mask my emotion in front of a room full of so many dear friends. I am personally devastated by the loss of someone who has meant so much to me for so many years. Whitney was so full of life. She was so looking forward to tonight even though she wasn’t scheduled to perform. She loved music and she loved this night that celebrates music. My heart goes out to her daughter Bobbi Christina [sic], to her mother Cissy, to all of her relatives and to so many of you here tonight, her extended family who loved and cherished her and her spirit. Whitney was a beautiful person and a talent beyond compare. She graced this stage with her regal presence and gave so many memorable performances here over the years. Simply put, Whitney would have wanted the music to go on and her family asked that we carry on. I ask that you join me in a moment of silence as we dedicate this evening to Whitney.
Houston, whose music career spanned nearly 30 years, sold more than 55 million records in the U.S. alone. Although her career peaked in the mid-1990s, Houston’s legacy as one of the great female vocalists of all time was never in question.

Break-out star Whitney Houston

Access Hollywood Live devoted almost an entire week of programming to Whitney Houston — her rise to super-stardom, her well-documented battles with addiction, her anticipated comeback, her death and her funeral. 

Access Hollywood’s Shaun Robinson conducted the last live interview with Houston in November on the set of her upcoming movie, Sparkle.  Listening to the interview, it is apparent that Houston’s voice is shot — from years of abuse — even during normal conversation.  A sad commentary on a woman who could have, and some argue, did, change music history.

Houston with Access Hollywood's Shaun Robinson, 13 weeks before her death

Here is the video of that interview:

Houston’s ex-husband, Bobby Brown, classy as always, stayed in Memphis for his performance with the reunited New Edition, even as the couple’s 18-year-old daughter, Bobbi Kristina, was rushed to the hospital with grief-related anxiety and stress. I guess it was his prerogative.

L: Houston's ex, Bobby Brown. R: The couple's daughter, Bobbi Kristina.

A week later, Houston’s 4-hour-plus funeral was broadcast live on TV and featured celebrities and music luminaries from Dionne Warwick (Houston’s cousin) and Clive Davis to Alicia Keys and Stevie Wonder.  It was OVER-THE-TOP.

Houston's funeral, broadcast live on TV

Don’t get me wrong.  As a vocalist myself, 12-years-old and in the 6th grade when Houston broke out, I bought the cassette tape; I sang the songs; I loved the songs. 

 I probably still have the cassette tape.

Houston’s talent was/is undeniable.

I didn’t see The Bodyguard though, and I never heard anyone say ANYTHING positive about Houston after her critically-acclaimed 1992 rendition of Dolly Parton’s “I Will Always Love You” in connection with the film.

When the press talked about Houston, it was about her turbulent (sometimes violent) relationship with Bobby Brown, her often erratic behavior, struggles with substance abuse and the toll it had taken on her career, her emaciated appearance, and the general fear/belief that she was a shell of the woman she once was and had been caught in a downward spiral for many years.  She became the butt of jokes, or, at the very least, a cautionary tale.

Houston with ex-husband, Bobby Brown, looking disheveled

Now, 20 years later, the Prodigal Daughter had reappeared in death which seemed disingenuous, at best, at least to this pop culture junkie.

Tributes to Whitney Houston during the Grammy Awards ranged from the evening’s host, LL Cool J, offering a prayer at the start of the show for the “member of the family” the music world had lost, to mentions from Bruno Mars and Stevie Wonder, to a heartachingly beautiful rendition of “I Will Always Love You” by Jennifer Hudson in memory of her mentor and the artist who presented her with her first Grammy.

 Jennifer Hudson's Grammy night rendition of "I Will Always Love You"

This pop culture junkie was left to wonder — Where was all this love, adulation and critical acclaim when Houston was destroying herself with drugs?  Where was her mentor Clive Davis when this was happening?  All the accolades just seemed a little too much, too little, too late.

In what was, perhaps, the most moving and genuine moment of Houston’s memorial, Kevin Costner, Houston’s Bodyguard co-star remarked that Alicia Keys’s musical homage, “Send Me An Angel,” was a “beautiful tribute, but the problem is, Whitney Houston wasn’t an angel, just a flawed human being.”

Kevin Costner speaking at Houston's funeral

A "fIawed human being," I might add, like other entertainers before her -- just this generation: Chris Farley, Kurt Kobain, Heath Ledger, Amy Winehouse, Michael Jackson -- whose substance abuse contributed to their downfalls and/or cause their deaths. Note: The LA County Coroner's Office has admitted that prescription drugs were found at the scene of Houston's death and has denied any signs of trauma to the body. They have not commented on the exact cause of death, pending toxicology reports.

Shouldn't all these deaths be a wakeup call to the entertainment industry and, indeed, to all of us if the "Greatest Love of All" is life?

RIP, Whitney Houston – hopefully, you’ll have more peace in the hereafter than you enjoyed in life.

Stay tuned for more Observations…next up, Chris Brown and Rhianna and an Oscar wrap-up…


  1. Isn't it always the truth.. People get the accolades AFTER they're dead? MJ was the same way... People forgot all of a sudden about his legal troubles and remembered him as the world's greatest entertainer. And it goes for people who didn't have trouble as well. How many folks told Steve Jobs while he was alive how much his inventions meant to him... Then the day he died, we ALL realized somehow that we had a connection to his inventions.

  2. Thanks for checking out the blog, Dadmissions!