Monday, February 13, 2012

Didn't She Almost Have It All?

If there was one artist, one icon, who provided the soundtrack to my childhood, it would be Whitney Houston. And now her ethereal voice is gone, dead at 48. Though unconfirmed, it will probably be revealed that Whitney took too much Xanax and drowned alone in her hotel bathtub. Tragedy: What becomes a legend most?

I had this poster in my room as a boy. I grew up admiring Whitney: her beauty, her crystal clear voice, that hair.
My very first concert was her "I'm Your Baby Tonight" tour, in Portland. My high school Spanish teacher, Mrs Nikzi, was sitting two rows behind me - that's how universal Whitney's appeal was. It's almost as if that magical instrument of hers didn't belong just to her, but to all of humanity. So when she began to squander her gift, as that magic began to lose its lustre, the overwhelming feeling was one of profound heartbreak.

I watched her play a free concert in Central Park in 2009. She was beautiful, but breathless; and we all wanted her to win. For that crystalline voice to rise as it always did, forever. Because on some level, when it didn't, Whitney was a startling reminder that all our powers, superlative and small, are destined to abandon us. 

On the playground as a kid, I'd sing along to "The Greatest Love of All" and feel both hopeful and empowered: "I decided long ago, never to walk in anyone's shadows/If I fail, If I succeed/at least I live as I believe".

And though I knew I was only a child, Whitney made me feel I mattered as I sang with her those lyrics (for which I'll always be nostalgically grateful): "I believe the children are the future/treat them well and let them lead the way/show them all the beauty they possess inside..."

Thank you for sharing your talent with the world, Whitney Houston. It was epic. Rest in Peace


Tony said...

Hey Jesse -

Too often we focus on a great artist's decline, rather than that individual's positive impact on others. Thanks for sharing what Whitney Houston meant to you.

Anonymous said...

Hi Jesse,

How sad that she enriched so many of our lives, yet was so unhappy in her personal life. Why are so many celebrities plagued by depression and personal demons?

Your Friend Jimmy