It’s safe to assume there have probably been thousands of articles, tributes, and blog entries written on the death of Whiney Houston. Now it’s time for me to throw my two cents in.
I will admit I was never a huge fan of Houston. I respected her talent for sure and she was unquestionably one of the greatest female vocalists of all time, but I never owned an album of hers and only had one of her songs downloaded onto my iPod (One of Those Days). Therefore, I’m not writing this as a tribute to her outstanding career, but I’m writing this as more of a cautionary tale of what can happen when people of her stature allow the excesses of fame to get the best of them.
By passing away unexpectedly at the of 48, Houston has become the latest in a sad string of recent high-profile deaths of the music industry. She now joins the likes of the late Michael Jackson and Amy Winehouse as a casualty of the business that made her a star. While all three were among the most talented performers of their respective eras, each had a very public period of self destruction from which they weren’t able to recover.
Jackson’s death in 2009 was the result of being administered lethal dosages of drugs he had no business having access to. Of course, his physician played a significant role in his death, but anyone who followed his career could tell that Jackson was in a downward spiral for years largely based on allegations of his inappropriate relationships with children and the constant media bashing that never let up on him (for various eccentricities as well).
Winehouse’s star faded the fastest, but she certainly had the talent to go down as one of the best ever. With her distinctive voice and presence, had she performed for another decade, she would’ve surely been spoken of in the same regard as an Aretha Franklin or Mariah Carey.
Houston had fallen on hard times over the years. In addition to her tumultuous relationship with ex-husband Bobby Brown, she became a notable example of a once powerful celebrity figure who grappled, very publicly, with her inner demons.
To me, her performance years ago at an awards show (forgot which one) was the moment where it became apparent she had serious substance abuse issues. She was on stage to accept an award and gave a rambling speech that made little sense and made me laugh incredibly hard at the time. Her performance was also notable because it featured a visibly shaken up Brandy Norwood, one of the dozens of major music stars she influenced, looking on as if the hero she grew up admiring had literally lost her mind. In hindsight, it was no laughing matter.
If anything should be learned from the news of this weekend, it should be that celebrities are no more immune to the stresses of coping with reality than the rest of society. There was a period of time when Houston was on top of the world, so to speak, and was the picture perfect ideal of what a strong and successful woman should be. She sold millions of albums, won numerous Grammys and even gave one of the most memorable performances of the national anthem in Super Bowl history. Yet, at the end of the day, she died alone in a hotel room. While the exact cause of death hasn’t been determined, it’s highly probable it was drug induced. Her incredible list of accomplishments will forever be tarnished by the fact she was just another star who succumbed to the excesses of the business that made her a star.
We can only hope that future generations will learn from her mistakes.