REPOST “Tribute to Whitney Houston”

This was originally posted on February 14th 2012, a few days after Whitney’s sudden and tragic passing. In light of Philip Seymour Hoffman’s recent untimely passing and in honor of the anniversary of Whitney’s homeward journey I am reposting the piece again with a preface.

Confession: when Philip Seymour Hoffman passed away far too soon I was of two minds; on the one hand I was truly saddened by his death – such a brilliant artist with so much more life ahead of him to spend with a loving and supportive family. On the other hand, I was judgmental, he had resources, a network, every opportunity available to him to get help and still he let this happen? In short I was a bit of a high minded ass about it. Then I was reminded about how a good number of people reacted to Whitney’s death, it was not without a great deal of judgmental mud-slinging as well so I adjusted my thinking. I didn’t appreciate the negative commentary when Whitney passed so who was I to turn around and treat Hoffman the same way? I’ve never experienced exactly what they went through and can only imagine the dark places they fought to navigate for years. All I can say now is I hope they have both found peace. I am thankful they were here long enough to share their gifts and leave lasting memories of their brilliance.

Original Post:

“I don’t care how she died, I’m just sad Whitney Houston is gone”

Thus I am giving only cursory attention to “official” reports. I don’t care. And I’ve noticed that even when a respected journalist type – let’s say Matt Lauer – starts talking about her drug use, it sounds gossipy and sordid and I just don’t want to hear it.

She was the voice of a generation. She was the voice of MY generation. Her singing ability was legendary and awe-inspiring. A voice that made you hold your breath in amazement.

When I was little you could not attend a local talent show without at least one Whitney song in the rotation and the ONLY reason there would only be ONE song is because the organizers of these shows quickly discovered if they didn’t set some boundaries EVERY single song would have been one of Whitney’s.

I remember when my God sister sang Greatest Love Of All at a pageant and brought the house down.

I remember when my best friend growing up sang Saving All My Love For You at an awards show and she rocked her mom’s white fur because if you were gonna do Whitney the voice was only one aspect of the performance, albeit the main one, but you also had to bring the glamour as well.

I remember learning a dance routine to How Will I Know” (Lord I hope that footage doesn’t exist anywhere) and despite tripping over my feet more than a few times I was just excited to be dancing in front of an audience to a Whitney song. By the way, if you haven’t heard it already do yourself a favor and listen to the a cappella version. Perfection.

I remember grabbing the hair brush and giving a full performance of All At Once to an audience of teddy bears and dolls. Believe me, they loved it. Standing ovation.

I remember taking a road trip with another best friend, rotating cds, listening to various female vocalists and then we put in Whitney’s first album and we could only marvel at how – at that point 15 years later – on that album her talent still rose higher than everyone else.

I remember being in graduate school dealing with a devastating break up and singing at the top of my lungs “It’s not right but it’s okay, I’m gonna make it anyway!” Bastard!

Whitney’s music was what you could listen to in the car with your parents. You could even turn the volume all the way up, sing waaaaay off key and not get yelled at for it. Thanks Mom!

Whitney’s music was what was on when you got to your mother’s friend’s house and thought to yourself “one day when I have my own place I’m going to have Whitney casually playing in the background when people come over” because it just felt right. That was my impression of how grown women lived – *clean house, nice candles, a bottle of wine and Whitney playing in the background. They would send me into another room and then they would laugh, drink, talk about men and laugh even harder and occasionally check on me. I couldn’t wait to be grown!

*Disclaimer – this particular friend of my mother had grown kids who lived elsewhere…

I can’t deal with the updates, I don’t want to hear about pills and addiction right now. The stories I prefer to hear are from other artists who talk about how she helped them, how she mentored them, how she praised them and congratulated them and loved their talent as much as she loved her own. Just to name a few:  Jennifer Holiday, Mariah Carey, Kelly Price, Christina Aguilera, Jennifer Hudson and Brandy.

And I wasn’t glued to the tv during her interviews with Barbara Walters, Diane Sawyer and Oprah Winfrey. I caught snatches of them here and there. Same with “Being Bobby Brown” – although the few times I did watch it, I remember laughing at the down home diva that she was, the “hell to the no” Grammy award winning, platinum album selling superstar who was at a campsite with her man and ‘em. I just had to smile at the idea of it.

Because that wasn’t the Whitney I knew. Remember, it was Clive who took control of her “packaging” and gave us this sophisticated stunning lady whom we all promptly fell in love with but deep down Whitney was Jersey, Whitney was “Church” – she loved to laugh and party, kick off her shoes and hang and then sing you from the pew to the top of the stained glass windows with passion and love.

Now don’t get it twisted, she could step back into glamour girl faster than you could blink and she played that part well but that wasn’t her first skin, her natural way. And if you understand that then her marriage to Bobby Brown makes a little more sense. I know it caught all of us outside the loop a little off guard but he fit with that other side of her, the side we didn’t know very much about in the beginning. Regardless, it was after all her life to live as SHE saw fit. Now if her Momma had something to say about it that’s one thing but the rest of y’all…

Yeah she had her demons, who among us does not? I’m just happy she shared with us what she did when she could. Life is imperfect, sometimes it’s messy, scary and it hurts. But other times – woooo-hoooo – other times it is grand and beautiful, it smells good and the sun shines at night and it is miraculous. And that was Whitney, sometimes perfect, sometimes not, but always a star.

We love you and will miss you dearly.

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