When Whitney Houston Died
Whitney Houston, a life of extraordinary potential that was unfortunately ravaged by an out of control indulgence in drugs, has died. The Beverly Hills Police Department responded to an emergency at the Beverly Hilton hotel late Saturday when members of the hotel staff and paramedics unsuccessfully tried to revive a guest on the fourth floor. That guest was confirmed to be Ms. Houston. Her death comes on the eve of the Grammy Awards. Grammy executive producer Ken Erhlich says that the program, already on a tightly controlled schedule, is being modified at the last minute by organizers to include a tribute to Ms. Houston with performances by Jennifer Hudson and Chaka Khan and no doubt others who have been influenced and appreciated the life of a woman so talented.
It would be unconscionable to disregard Ms. Houston’s remarkable contribution to music. Her voice was truly gifted. The range was stunning and the power was astounding and the accuracy was astonishing. Once upon a time she was one of the world’s best performing artists. She wowed audiences with that perfect voice combined with the perfect image of excellence. She was a diamond that somehow managed to shine brighter and clearer every time she went on display. And the majority of the world stood in amazement of her. But like all good things it couldn’t last.
As stunning as Ms. Houston’s voice was what was even more spectacular was her fall from grace. Ms. Houston became a study of the extensive toll illegal drug use can have on a person’s life. Her invaluable talent that was routinely compared to a manifestation of heaven became synonymous with the havoc of hell. She was suspected, and later confessed, to abusing cocaine, marijuana, and pills. The gifted, pristine voice of the divine was abandoned and left to wither and all but die. That jewel of a voice became hoarse and gravelly. What once sounded like angels in rare form became the voice of a common crack head ready to checkout of this plane of existence. It was only a matter of time before Ms. Houston’s life followed suit.
Her album sales plummeted. The hits that came like clockwork stopped coming. Her image of dignity and royal celebrity morphed into bizarre public appearances of intoxication and incoherence. It was a tragic fall for a young and incredible superstar.
In an interview with Oprah Winfrey, Ms. Houston said that by the time she starred in the movie The Preacher’s Wife she was doing illegal drugs on a daily basis. She confessed that she wasn’t happy and that she was losing herself. She went to rehab twice before declaring herself drug free just two very short years ago. But her behavior told a different story with missed concert dates, rumors of a stop at an airport due to drugs, and very public, high profile meltdowns. Ms. Houston staged what seemed to be a successful comeback with the release of her album I Look To You. The album debuted on the top of the charts, and would eventually go platinum. But a concert on Good Morning America to promote Ms. Houston went awry as her voice sounded ragged and off-key. The appearance had only confirmed the sad fact that she had truly lost her talent.
With her death, Ms. Houston will be remembered by her fans as the woman who made good songs sound incredible. She will be remembered as the woman with the voice who was an inspiring influence on everybody’s life. But that’s only a part of her story. There is another part that needs examination.
For all practical purposes, Ms. Houston is a prime example of a person who has lost sight of the bigger picture, her place in the entire spectrum of the cosmos, and allowed her life to spiral out of control. Whether triggered by the drug addiction or the drug addiction was only the manifestation, Ms. Houston became the epitome of a life out of balance. The woman, whose early stages of her career started by singing for her church, matured to a point where she existed in a void without any meaningful spiritual connection. Money and fame may be nice to haves, but they are only tools and not the end result of who we are. Talent is a wonderful thing and a wonderful talent is even better. But in Ms. Houston’s own words she suffered from an emptiness that grew to consume her life, both literally and figuratively.
This morning, the majority of people will focus only on Ms. Houston’s achievements and gloss over her failures. None of us who experienced Ms. Houston will ever forget her as the world class entertainer that she became. And to that, we should never forget her as the world class discontent she became. It is not a knock on Ms. Houston. Indeed, it is a tribute to her life that we can use her experience to learn a lesson that could prove more invaluable and more important to our happiness than all of her songs, performances, and movie appearances combined.
I remember Ms. Houston and will always appreciate her work. But more than that, I will appreciate her failure. She serves as yet another example of what it means to be a life out of balance and of the importance of remembering who we are, where we come from and where we going. She serves as a reminder that life isn’t all about our work and what we do that can impress the next guy. All too often we forget that life isn’t just about what we do but who we are as we do it. If we forget that fact, we run the risk that we will go through life terribly lost and never knowing who we are or what we are capable of if we would only continue to live to the most of who we are each and every day.
Ms. Houston had a great start. She had the tools. But the tools were squandered and the life fell far short of its true potential. Instead of continuing to be a part of our social collective, Ms. Houston became the type of person that would rather sit back on her laurels and watch from the sidelines as the rest of us continued to live. Ms. Houston lost her life last night. But the real tragedy is that the woman she could have or should have been was lost a long time ago.