I am broken up by Whitney Houston’s death. I just watched her sing the star spangled banner, the video passed around in the last few weeks, mostly as a reaction to Steven Tyler’s recent rendition, which I didn’t think was so bad. It’s a hard song to sing. Why don’t you try it? I can’t even get to any of the high parts, no matter what key it’s in, no matter how much I warm up beforehand, and I am a better singer than most.
I am glad that lots of people watched that video, as YouTube and links and the idea of viral wasn’t around in 1991. Either you saw it on TV or you didn’t. You should watch it now. It’s easily the very best time anyone’s sung the national anthem, it being one of the most arduous songs ever written, an egregiously undemocratic collection of notes, available only to the exceptional. Whitney Houston was exceptional.
She emerged, fresh faced and innocent, her chaste being one of her leading virtues. There was a purity to Whitney Houston, proper and forthright, talented and honest. Her sensibility was sensibility. There was an earthly majesty every time she opened her mouth to sing. The simplicity of her was the magic of her. She didn’t show off so much, there were none of the vocal gymnastics that are popular nowadays to advertise the worth and measure of a singer. We didn’t need that from her. She was undisputedly the queen, and yet also, every woman.
“anything, you want done baby, I’ll do it naturally……..”
I don’t want to hear that no one is surprised that she is dead. I, for one, am actually surprised. She seemed as if she could have come back. She seemed already on her way back. It was like she had called and said she was on her way and we were just waiting for her to pull up. I felt like she was close, and I don’t want to let go of that feeling.
I am sick of the superiority people have about drug addiction and problems and how it’s funny and like a ‘trainwreck’ when someone is caught on camera stumbling and mumbling outside of a club and then they die and no one is surprised. I want to be shocked by death when it arrives to collect us. I want it to come out of the blue always. I never want to expect it for someone. We should never expect it, or we should always expect it, because in truth, it will come for all of us in time. It’s just a matter of time.
Drugs take a toll too great to calculate. We have no way of knowing what the cost is. Today, I don’t want to think about lessons I need to learn or cautionary tales or fame as it comes and goes. No rants for now. Let it be quiet and let it be bleak. Let what has been lost be mourned in earnest.
I want to think about the gentle genius of Whitney Houston’s voice.
I remember a cute guy we all knew named Tops – who we all agreed was too adorable to be one – who would introduce himself like “Hi. I’m Tops…..don’t let the name fool you!” Tops would stand in the kitchen, his head visible above the swinging doors, and sing at the tops of his lungs “I wanna dance with somebody! I wanna feel the heat – with somebody!”
The affinity and reach of Whitney Houston was felt most intimately within the gay community. Many men I am close with won’t even answer my texts or calls today. Her death is hurting them more than they imagined, the silencing of her a terrifying reminder of mortality itself and rendering them silent. Iphones are off to cry and watch youtube videos in peace.
I don’t know what else to do but this. I feel like I can’t say anything to make it better. I am going to shut everything off and cry for a time.