I have to admit, I was shocked near immobility for about a half an hour–and I work at a news station.
Our 9 PM broadcast on Saturday led with a red carpet shot of Whitney Houston and Clive Davis…so naturally, I though either something significant happened at his Grammy party or they were about to announce that he has died. Considering his age I wouldn’t have been overly surprised…but then the anchor said “Whitney Houston.” Um, say what? True, given her struggles with addiction and the toll that substance abuse can take on a body over time (even if the recovering addict is clean), it wasn’t unexpected. But it was definitely a shock–though I try very hard to avoid all tabloid journalism, the little I’d heard was that she was fighting really hard to come back, both personally and professionally. I thought immediately of her family–her mother, brother, daughter and ex-husband, and how they are dealing with this very personal tragedy in this age of wildfire-like spread of breaking news. And then the speculation and half-done reporting began, not even a full day after Whitney’s death. One CNN reporter couldn’t seem to remember simple biographical and career fact (she COULD have been a model? Really?!?); many other immediately speculated that a drug overdose was the cause of death. Facebook posts ranged from heartsick to heartless. Virtual arguments broke out because Houston’s death–in comparison with someone like Michael Jackson or a world leader–was “no big deal.”
This news did not shatter me, I will admit. But even beside the fact that she was a human being who died tragically, I was truly angered by this statement. Because she did not have a multi-billion dollar empire like Michael Jackson that makes her career accomplishments less notable and her passing less newsworthy?
We all want to make a place in this world
We all want our voices to be heard
Everyone wants a chance to be someone
We all have dreams we need to dream
Whitney had her own career success–several #1 and best-selling albums, not to mention modest movie success (The Bodyguard, Waiting To Exhale and a groundbreaking African-American production of Cinderella, among others); her career have served as the model and forerunner for many current female R&B singers. She eventually would struggle with addiction and substance abuse that would take a toll on her body, particularly her voice. But she never stopped fighting to come back from her trials and return to at least a portion of her former glory.
Sweeter than any star you can reach
Is when you reach and find you found someone
You’ll hold this world’s most priceless thing
The greatest gift this life can bring
Is when you look back and know
You were loved
Whitney wanted the love and respect of her fans, certainly. But more important to her was the love of her family–her mother, brother, daughter…and yes, even her ex-husband. Whatever struggles we were privy to through the media and reality TV, there was a genuine love between Whitney and Bobby Brown. There had to be–they shared a beautiful little girl and a warm relationship in spite of the difficulties. There are friends who she held close as well, many of whom have spoken out in recent days about her heart and her talent. Even some who may have criticized her have been deeply affected.
You were loved by someone
Touched by someone
Held by someone
Meant something to someone
Touched somebody’s heart along the way
You can look back and say
You were loved
The last bit of news about Whitney before this tragedy focused on her financial struggles–stories of bankruptcy and foreclosure and other dire financial straits. This, sadly, seems to be the current trend regarding celebrity news–spotlighting the personal downfalls that can happen to ANYONE regardless of their station. Who isn’t in this situation in this economy? It seems that because of their fame (or infamy), celebrities and public figures are held to an astronomically high standard of perfection–and any “human” slip is perceived as a failing and reported ad naseum….as if their circumstance is a fatal character flaw that has earned leper-caliber shunning.
You can have diamonds in the hands
Have all the riches in the land
But without love you don’t really have a thing
When somebody cares that you’re alive
When somebody trusts you with their life
That’s when you know
That you have all you need
You hold this world’s most priceless gift
The finest treasure that there is
You can look back and know
You were loved
In the end, Whitney was unable to outrun her struggles. We will not know for certain what caused her death for weeks to come (and I refuse to speculate anyway), but that doesn’t matter. A talented woman has left this earthly plane. There is a mother who has to bury her own child. There is a young girl on the brink of adulthood who has to face life and its milestones without the mother she adored and admired. There are numerous family and friends who will miss their confidante. And yes, there will be thousands of fans who will miss her beautiful, stirring voice. It seems to me that this is what is important–not the speculations and accusations, not the previous stumbles. As I listened to this song I wondered if it was just as much an important part of Whitney’s heart as it was her musical catalog.
So many roads that you can take
Whatever way you go
Don’t take that road alone
It’s better you should know…
So remember to tell that special one
You are loved…are loved…you are loved
I truly hope she knew.
quotes taken from You Are Loved, from the movie soundtrack The Preacher’s Wife