I cried inside when I heard the news about Whitney Houston. I was unbelievably shocked and in denial… and puzzled. I did not know I’d be this sad over Whitney’s passing. Her death was so sudden and untimely that my emotions were stunned. But once that hazy cloud of disbelief faded, I felt immediately and deeply saddened. Our national treasure, the Voice, had been riddled by a cataclysm of hard times, ravaged by drug addiction and railroaded by fame. Not only did we lose yet another icon (I liken this whole experience to losing MJ), but many of us, myself included, forgot to cherish her while we had the chance. Of course, most of us would stumble upon a classic every no and then, recall a Houston-laced memory, but ultimately, a lot of us (admit it or not) had forgotten to wish her well during her battle.
In 1985, the former model debuted her self-titled album under the watchful care of Clive Davis. Although unable to identify with her at that time (for obvious reasons), my parents didn’t hesitate to wrap me up in Houston’s powerhouse vocals when I was old enough. I remember, at such a young age, reaching for her cassette tapes to dance around the living room with my dad. My favorite? You can probably guess: “I Wanna Dance With Somebody.”
She had a myriad of singles that I didn’t know. When an artist dies, you kind of realize just how many tracks you don’t recall from their catalog. But as the core of why we loved her rotated on music networks, I instantly realized which songs were the soundtracks to my life. “Your Love is My Love,” “It’s Not Right But It’s Okay,” “Heartbreak Hotel,” “Exhale (Shoop Shoop),” “I’m Every Woman,” “I Have Nothing,” and the list goes on. More of the 90s Whitney is what I remember (Cinderella, The Bodyguard, Waiting to Exhale and their soundtracks included), but towards the end of that bright decade came such an ugly descent. After giving us some much musically, her addiction eclipsed her effortless talent. Sadly, many fans ran off and poked fun at the falling star. And like a time capsule, people decided to dig up her greatness only when she was gone.
At the time of her death, I wanted to blame Bobby for sending our princess on a tailspin. But I couldn’t. Hell, I had to blame fame somehow, right? But in all of this, I forgot to blame myself for not treasuring such a legend while she was here. After seeing her fall so far, I gave up. Guilty as charged, I flippantly dismissed Just Whitney and I Look To You.
I respected all of what she gave to us but forgot to continually pay homage or feed her music to today’s generation. Only in these last few days have I been able to verbalize what I forgot she and the songs she sung meant to my life. Music is funny that way; it’s a very “right now” type of thing. She got lost in the current state of iTunes playlist. Still, our lioness Whitney resurfaced and even released critically acclaimed final albums, but few kept in step with her recovery. A lot of us truly forgot to pray for this artist who gave her life to entertaining and inspiring us. She gave little black girls confidence, she made little black singers want chart-topping, worldwide success and she provided a down-to-earth kindness that made any young girl watching believe in miracles, indeed. Shit, Whitney easily schooled us about life and love in a matter of minutes during any ballad or uptempo cut.
Even in her last days, she still administered some of those things to those around her. A few clips from Grammy Weekend show her a bit frazzled, visibly still fighting demons but lovable, kind. However, all is forgiven. Now, we wish to only see the positive light she shined for so many years alongside timeless legends. Today, I pray that Whitney finds paradise away from this place. Unfortunately, my wish for her true wellness comes when I know she’ll indeed find it, but I’m secure in knowing how she enriched my youth and touched so many others. Those memories will forever be etched in my life’s book, and on account of all that, I believe God has finally given her the complete solace she deserves.
Rest in peace, Whitney Houston.