On the day I was attempting to recover from my flatmate’s rather eventful birthday do, I found out another music legend had passed over; Whitney Houston. I was never a fan as her music seemed too tame and too polished for my liking. Yet, being an 80s kid her rise was a big part of my childhood in which music played a large part and her death seems to be the wrong ending to her fabulous talent and career. Her music might lack that raw edge and her sound was criticised by some from the Soul and R&B scene for being too bland, it was Houston’s broad appeal that made her a global superstar. As a young black woman in the music industry of the 20th century when music in the States seldom crossed race barriers and MTV, with a few exceptions, only played white artists, her rise and record sales were a tremendous achievement. After releasing three albums in the 1980 resulting in seemingly unlimited chart success and winning sacks full of awards, the pop princess with the squeaky clean image surprised friend and foe by marrying bad boy Bobbi Brown in the early 1990s. She started to appear in films like the Bodyguard in 1992, Waiting to exhale in 1995 and the Preacher’s Wife in 1996 and didn’t make a record for eight years. By the late 90s and early noughties her troubled marriage to Brown started to take its toll on her. The pop diva with the American-Sweetheart image seemed to have issues with drugs and she started to display some flaky behaviour by turning up late for rehearsals, interviews and performances and the like or cancelling them all together. After having released only one album in the 1990s she released another three in the decade that followed, yet the antics of her private life overshadowed her artistic performance. In 2007 Houston divorced Brown, who is widely held responsible for Houston’s drug abuse. Two years later Houston released an album which was to be followed by a world tour in 2010. As it was her first world tour in ten years and since she had recently left a troubled marriage that had affected her career, it was regarded as her great come back tour. However, her performance received negative reviews and fans and critics alike were disappointed as her voice and showwomanship seemed to have lost its magic from the heydays.
And then she died in a bathtub of a Beverly Hills’ hotel. She was born in musical royalty with her mum being a singer, Dionne Warwick being her aunt and Aretha Franklin her godmother. She sang backing vocals for the likes of Chaka Khan at the age of 15. She released a critically acclaimed and best-selling debut album at the age of 21. After that the hits, the record sales and the money kept on coming.
Even the rich, famous, beautiful and übertalented are just human. They make mistakes and might squander the talents that have been bestowed upon them. Falling down in life is not really the issue. It’s how you get up again. The tragedy is not that one of the best-selling and most-awarded artists on the planet was a prisoner to her own (former?) drug abuse. The tragedy is that she- or life or who ever- didn’t give her(self) time to recover and reclaim full ownership of her star status. Whitney Houston, you dazzled people and you gave them joy. You lead the way and influenced many female artists like Toni Braxton, Mary J. Blige, Celine Dion and Mariah Carey. As Mitch Winehouse, Amy’s father was saying when accepting a Grammy on his late-daughter’s behalf at last night’s Grammy Awards: Long live Whitney Houston, Long live Etta James, Long live Amy Winehouse. There is quite some girl band jamming in the Summer Land. Ms Houston, may you rest and jam in peace.
top image: mirror.co.uk