In the world of blogs, timeliness is crucial. I had another topic chosen for today, but when I checked the Internet last night and read that Whitney Houston was dead, I changed my mind. I could not let her death pass without comment.
In recent years, Whitney had become something of a joke, the focus of snide remarks about her odd behaviour, her sliding career, her drug addiction. In 2009, she made her “re-debut” with a new album that received a less than enthusiastic response from audiences. After a performance on Good Morning America, when her voice cracked and she couldn’t hit high notes as she once could, Houston blamed Oprah for an overly long interview the day before that supposedly strained her vocal chords. Many mocked her for that comment, including me. We thought she was lame to make excuses and to blame the queen of daytime for her problems. I wonder what impact that scorn had on her when she was trying to make her way back to stardom from the deep, dark dungeon of drug abuse and domestic violence, when she was trying to make her way back to celebrity and singing. The audience response to her hoarse voice and her blame game was swift and harsh. “She’s lost it for good,” we seemed to say.
After the “Oprah incident”—and perhaps in small part because of it— and a world tour that went badly, Houston reportedly went to rehab again in May 2011. Maybe she still hoped to get clean and re-establish herself as the diva she’d been in the 90s. Sadly, she never made it.
At the time of her death, Houston appeared to be working once more towards a return to the world of celebrity. She was scheduled to perform at a pre-Grammy gala the day she died, and she was in a new movie, Sparkle, due out in August this year. On Saturday, before her death, I’d even read speculation that she was being considered as a new X Factor judge. On the surface, it seemed that perhaps this time was the right time, that Houston would finally escape the dungeon. By the end of yesterday, it was clear that she would not. How swiftly—and sadly—everything can change.
I have read that Houston’s ex-husband Bobby Brown was overcome with grief upon hearing of Whitney’s sudden demise. I hope that he is also overcome with guilt. It is widely believed that Brown introduced Whitney to drugs, and she widely admitted they did the drugs together. I hope he is troubled every day for the rest of his life for his role in everything she lost.
Reports mention that for several nights before her death Whitney indulged in some hard partying and had several scuffles on the town in Beverley Hills. It is easy to assume that drugs and/or alcohol finally caught up with her. For the moment, we don’t know for sure, but it seems likely. Whether that is the case or not, it is an unfathomable shame that Whitney Houston died alone in a hotel room at the age of only 48. It is an unbelievable shame that she died just as it seemed her life might finally change course for the better. When tragic deaths strike people who seem on the verge of turning things around, I am always struck by the senselessness of it, by the poor timing. I always wonder what would have happened if they had made one decision differently. Would everything have turned out OK if only?
I may be showing my age somewhat when I say that Whitney Houston played on the soundtrack to my adolescence and early adulthood. I remember dancing and singing along over the years to many of her hits. I recall dancing to “I Wanna’ Dance with Somebody” and belting out “How Will I Know” in the car as it played on the radio. I envied Whitney Houston for her talent and her lifestyle. I had no idea then that drugs would take it all away from her and that she would become just another celebrity who died too soon.
As I write this, I wonder whether the drugs she couldn’t shake were, sadly, her greatest love of all. As I write this, I hear echoes of the refrain from one of her songs, one that sums up the yesterday’s tragedy… “Didn’t she almost have it all?”