Whitney Houston: My Personal Thoughts
Everyone’s perspective is different, and I love and respect that. People who are my parents’ age have their memories of the 1980s and Whitney’s early career. People my age have theirs. We were mostly either entering grade school or moving onto middle school when Whitney burst onto the scene. As kids and adolescents, her music blasted at the skating rinks where we hung out with our family members, friends, and church family at times. Songs like “How Will I Know?” and “I Wanna Dance With Somebody” were instant skating rink classics, and family BBQ jams.
I initially heard Whitney on a track with Teddy Pendergrass at my aunt Mary’s (we called her “Suke”) BBQ at her house back in 1984/1985 or thereabout. No one knew who she was back then, but even as a kid, you can appreciate a woman with a buttery, yet strong voice like that. Teddy P. was an old standby that everyone (especially if you are truly BLACK) knew about, which was Clive Davis’ rationale for pairing him with Whitney to help expose her to the masses on Arista Records. That song used to be playing at the close of those family BBQs and it has always been a favorite song of mine; over 25 years later.
The VERY FIRST album (in this case, a cassette) I’d ever had was Whitney’s first album, titled “Whitney Houston” (naturally). My great aunt purchased my sister and I individual copies, because we both exclaimed repeatedly that we loved Whitney’s music. My parents used to leave us to spend time with our aunt and she spent our childhood spoiling us with gifts and the like. She took us to Roses (a small retail department store in the south) and got us our copies. Had the tapes not eventually popped, I’d still have mine and my sister would have hers.
I never thought back in 1985 that things would end this way for her. Even though I wasn’t privy to how the music industry carefully and cleverly cultivated images for people (Whitney was originally from Newark, New Jersey and an East Orange product — the hood, even in the 70s), I later realized that she wasn’t as angelic as Clive (“Nice flavor, real fruity like Clive Davis” — Cam’ron, “La Bamba”) promoted her to be, or as her voice would suggest to the naive ear/eye. However, looking back, it was her marriage to bad boy Bobby Brown (he didn’t force her to do anything, she willfully went that route) that eventually led to her downfall. Although it took 20 years, we can look back and countless situations where people who rampantly used drugs, and even become “clean” finally succumb to something heart-related, because the body simply cannot withstand the rigors that drug abuse places upon the heart and the body as a whole.
Even when Whitney showed up at an awards show a little over a year ago, clean — yet rather gaunt — I was happy to see it. I was living with my aunt at the time, and we were both emoting how we were just happy that she was alive and apparently on the road to recovery. Little did we know.
Unlike some people who are already taking to blaming Bobby Brown for Whitney’s death, there is a story within a story; something that I have written about many times — which can serve as the tale of all cautionary tales: A GOOD WOMAN CAN’T MAKE A BAD BOY INTO A GOOD MAN; BUT A BAD BOY CAN DEFINITELY RUIN A GOOD WOMAN — UNDER HER OWN RECOGNIZANCE OR NOT.
No one forced Whitney to marry Bobby. People undoubtedly talked her out of it. People obviously supported her. Bobby had demonstrated throughout his solo career (after leaving his group, New Edition in 1987 — because, well, he wanted to exhibit how much of a bad boy he was, and was tired of “bubble gum pop” music, as I recall it CLEARLY back when the furor of “NE” breaking up came about back in 1987/1988) that he was a loose cannon. Whitney’s attraction to him seemed inexplicable. For those who knew her, she was a typical Newark/East Orange chick, not the perfect, dainty chick who sang sappy records.
I did not know her personally, so all I know is what I could discern of her personally, and then the entertainer in music and film. That is what I remember her by, and those memories are everlasting. They are pleasant memories that will not only remind me of Whitney’s heyday, but, more importantly, REMIND ME OF THE FAMILY MEMBERS THAT I ENJOYED THOSE 1980s AND EARLY 1990s WITH WHO ARE NOW GONE.
I feel as though famous people and relatives alike have been dropping like flies over the past decade or so. Further reminder that God is no respecter of persons and that life is fragile; no more or less fragile now than it was 150 years ago. If you still require a reminder to “put things into perspective” with people — young and old, healthy and drug-addled — dropping left and right, out of the blue… then most all hope for you is lost.
So while I usually deride people… people who spent the better part of the past 15+ years using Whitney and Bobby as the butt of their jokes about crack and cocaine… people who weren’t even in the cycle of semen to come out of their father’s pricks… people who didn’t even like Whitney, but now front like they were huge fans in the 1980s and 1990s — I couldn’t care less right now.
All I know is I am still stunned. This, following a stunning Giants’ season — culminating with a win in Super Bowl XLVI — and I’ve been on some serious nadirs and zeniths over the past two months. Emotionally, that nadir has been reached. I am smarting both by the news of Whitney Houston’s passing, AND by the nature in which I found out (in the midst of a jovial celebration of another year of life of a friend).
POIGNANT ISN’T THE WORD.
Share your thoughts, links to your favorite Whitney songs, and whatever memories you have (particularly if you were around in the 80s, when it was truly great).
Thanks for reading.