As I was driving to Topanga State Park this morning and listening to KCRW, I had many thoughts enter my brain. The first was how beautiful this stretch of road is and how I do not take better advantage of it… There is a great little cafe… a seafood restaurant and gorgeous hiking trails. In fact, there are at least four State Parks within twenty minutes from where I live. To not use them on a regular basis is a literal crime against nature! I even donated to the State Parks and have free parking passes… No excuses.
We were going there… well, I was going there as J sprained her foot and had to stay home… to go on a hike with a group from Or Ami to celebrate the Jewish holiday of Tu B’Shevat, the New Year for trees or arbor day. We hiked and learned about our responsibility to both serve and protect the land and ways that we can help protect the environment. It is a great holiday with a great message.
In the car on the way through the canyon, there was a story about Whitney Houston. I was surprised that I did not lose the station… I guess I was meant to hear it. The story was not revelatory or groundbreaking… just a simple retelling of her history and rise to the top and a repeat of her tragic demise. The autopsy on Monday will reveal more details, but at age 48, it is hard not to guess that drugs or some unknown health issue was the cause of death. We do not want to speculate, but we also do not want to ignore what MUST be another lesson for all of us.
With Whitney’s death and all the sadness and train-wreck like news stories that preceded it, we must figure out a way of taking something positive and moving forward. This is a woman who had a gift, and when I say a gift, I mean a voice that literally soared to the heavens, a smile that could captivate and rivet and a personality that seemed bigger than life, yet real and down to earth. We know what happens next, and people will blame fame, Bobby Brown, drugs, an addictive personality and a slew of other issues for her demise. Perhaps combinations of all of those things.
What stands out to me is the inability for people like this to find true friendships and trusting relationships that can actually help rather than hinder healing and recovery. I do not have details and specifics and am thus perhaps speaking out of turn. But there seems to be a pattern… Whitney… Michael… and the still seemingly troubled Lindsay…
The other issue that causes me the most discomfort and pain is the daughter caught in the middle… already with issues of drug abuse and crime… already in trouble. If this is the price of fame, then I want none of it. But again, as an outsider, it seems like such a waste… such a missed opportunity. The God-given and then masterfully trained voice that could move people to tears… and a literal stage on which to reach out and help and lift people out of their seats and into some kind of action.
I do not know if I will ever attain fame on that level. At my age, probably not… That is fine. I would like to think, however, that if I did, I would make sure those around me were always moving me forward and not onto the dark, side roads that fame can create and enable. I would make sure that I honored my gift and respected what was bestowed upon me. I know, easier said than done sometimes… as this machine that is fame and celebrity is a dangerous and slippery slope, cranking out careers and then casually tossing them aside when their time is decided by others to be done.
Like Michael, it seemed that Whitney was on the road to a comeback… a new album out a few years ago, and she was being considered to be a judge on the highly visible TV show X Factor.
Now there is nothing, other than a whole lot of what ifs… and would haves and could haves and should haves… Well, there is something that will now cause both amazement and joy, and then almost instantly and simultaneously, pain and frustration.
Whitney Houston – Whitney Houston
I cannot say that I own a Whitney Houston album… This was not on my regular rotation. But I appreciated her voice… so smooth and stunning… and those notes… Wow!
The year is 1985 and this self-titled album is her debut… Her debut!!! There is no way you did not hear this record. It was everywhere… It went 13x Platinum! Over 25 million records sold. You did not need to own it… It was in the air.
Her voice is both powerful and breathtaking… and at the same time, effortless. There are amazing movements and embellishments, but never the unneccessary acrobatics that so many singers feel compelled to do… to show off. Each note means something… each note is hot so perfectly.
Obviously she will always be known for her rendition of Dolly Parton’s amazing “I Will Always Love You”… My Lord, that one note alone brought her fame… It literally gave me the chills this morning and again, now… but this album, too is astounding for how fully formed an artist she is… Yes, when Clive Davis is mentoring you and you have the pedigree she had, sure… but still…
This is 10 tracks of R&B perfection… a stunner of a record.
It is hard to reconcile this beauty with the debauchery we saw on her reality show and in the tabloids, but reconcile we must… for once there was a soaring voice and a flashing, brilliant star and figuring out how it fell to earth so fast is essential…
I look forward to the Grammy’s tonight… Sad, but hopeful.