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.

38 thoughts on “Whitney

  1. How many more times does this have to happen? Making music is one of the most powerful, wonderful things a person can do, but it DOES NOT make them more important than a teacher, a cook, or plumber, or garbage man. Just because you sing back up vocals, or play the famous sax solo on a song, or mixed and produced a comeback album for a washed up star, or win an award on a tv show for singing (where the 2 out of 3 of the a judges are autotuned OR don’t sing) or sell 170 million records does not make you an idol or god or goddess. Your hard work and dedication mean you earn the reward for just that, your hard work and dedication to your art. Not the perception of your celebrity. The culture is backwards. NBC-BRAVO aired a tv show on the cracked up Whitney, and now they are covering the HORROR of her death. That poor woman was built up and taken down and her body was not prepared for it. No one is. Michael Jackson, Elvis, Luther Vandross, etc. Whether it’s drugs or alcohol or food, the indulgence comes from masking the pain and fear. Whitney appeared on Oprah due to Clive Davis’ string pulling comeback, and SHE WAS NOT READY. We all saw it. No one said anything. Including Oprah. God forbid we rock the boat, and get the person the help they need.
    Last night I watched McCartney get feted for his songs, the thing that all of us are trying to be a part of, the songs, the content. Not the celebrity. He and the Beatles invented this music business and he seems pretty healthy. Why? Cause he doesn’t believe the bullshit. He just wants to make music. Stevie Wonder sang a 3 hour concert, in amazing voice. No one can touch his artistry, and he is humbled by the attention. Yet he is becoming the rare exception instead of the main influence.
    It’s a false culture, and the TMZ/Kardashian/Lohan/media whore inmates are taking over the zoo. Does anyone’s life change by knowing who Demi Moore is coupled with?
    Producers are making inferior music with protools and auto tune because the hottie who’s 16 is less of a risk, even though there’s not a NOTE of originality.
    Watch how many Adele imitators come out this year.
    Music is created to express and receive connection, not exchange for a mansion. Whatever $ people THINK the Beatles earned is a pittance compared to what their songs made people feel. For someone to say “I’m living large like an idol or a rockstar,” is a false goal. To have an equal experience as say, John Lennon, one would really have to give half their money away to charity or doctors without borders, or something! And that would be only the start, since the creator of Imagine had us actually imagining, and he lost his life for it.
    Now, it seems we’re cracked and bloody like his Gandhi glasses, (another who btw who told us to be the change.)
    I wish someone could have reached her. She deserved happiness more than adoration from strangers.
    We have to change our thinking. What else is there for us if we don’t? We can only keep making music and let the sounds fall on the ears of those who can hear. Live our own beautiful lives, and give our adoration to those who deserve (our friends, our families, our children) instead of the culture/media.

  2. Easily the most moving piece I’ve read yet regarding Whitney Houston’s untimely passing. There is definitely something jarring about death in any form, and it is always unexpected. Whitney had a beautiful voice, and she touched hundreds of millions. Thank you, Margaret.

  3. “Let it be quiet and let it be bleak. Let what has been lost be mourned in earnest.” Yes. From start to finish, a beautiful piece of writing Margaret.

  4. Thank you for these thoughts and words. This is painful to many. Whitney didn”t have to prove that much, she a beautiful woman, inside and outside.

    Your words has helped me process my feelings. Thank you.


  5. when I was young, I used to sing “Run to You” with desperation. obviously not having the voice for it, but feeling so enamored by the feeling of the song, and wondering why I could relate it to it when I had no reason to. this gay is in mourning, just as I mourn all my divas, and it’s not fair to see insults thrown at Whitney, or people calling her irrelevant because she hadn’t a hit in a decade. she needed not relevancy — she possessed THEE voice, at one point (obviously it had been lost at some point). and with just a sigh of her tone a shiver was sent through anyone who heard her. I am blessed that I am in a generation that knows, cherishes, and now mourns in solemnity the Voice. Enjoy the Kingdom, Whitney.

  6. When I first heard the news I didn’t believe it. I didn’t want to believe it. I was with a group of people and everyone had their own opinions on her, some good, some bad. Many were poking fun of her disease of addiction, others mourning. I was trying to wrap my mind around it, thinking how young she still was and how she just worked on a movie with lil kim. The message her death carries is undeniable, how life is such an amazing gift, and to cherish all the passing moments cause we don’t know when our time is up.


  7. Whitney Houston was an icon, but more importantly a human being. The first thing I thought of when I heard this dreadful news was, “Oh no Bobbi Kristina!” Even though I am a huge Whitney fan, I know she was human and a mother first. My heart goes out to her daughter and all her family, I cannot imagine what they’re going through right now. R.I.P Whitney, I know you will watch over your daughter!

  8. For many years Whitney was the joke de jour for anyone standing in front of a mic. Time for them to find another tortured soul to ridicule.
    Just read this comment, “For addicts, using has long, long since ceased being any form of pleasure. It’s a sentence. My heart goes out to its captives.”
    I’m not saying her tragic passing was drug related as many are speculating; I don’t know. You would have to think that the damage they did plays a part in this tragic story.
    Many are saying they’re not surprised; I am surprised because I was pulling for her and held out hope she would be returned to her former glory.
    What an incredible beauty. What an incredible talent. What an incredible shame. I’m heart broken and I hate the person who introduced her to her first high.

  9. Well said. That was beautiful and you managed to express exactly how I’ve been feeling. Surprisingly most comments I’ve read has been heart felt & with love however there have been a few saying things like, “I’m not surprised.” Well, so what if you’re not. Does it make it any less tragic?

    I’ve been sad and heartbroken since hearing of Whitney’s passing last night. My heart goes out to her daughter, Mom and family and friends.

    Thank you so much for your beautiful words.

    RIP Whitney

  10. Oh, Margaret, I feel the same way. Remember her first album? I played the shit out of that. I’m stunned by grief. Thanks for your tribute.

  11. Thank you for your words Margaret. I have been crying off and on all day. Trying to process what has happened. Your words have really touched my heart. People can be so vicious. Your words of love are so important. thank you.

  12. Very well written Margaret. I agree with every word and I am much more sad that I ever thought I would be. I’ve seen several people express that Whitney sang “the soundtrack to my childhood” and that’s exactly how I feel. I didn’t realize just how big a part of my childhood her music was until I heard the news of her death. I didn’t realize how sad I would be. It’s sad when any person loses their life before their time, particularly when they lose it in such a tragic way, but there’s just something particularly sad when someone with so much talent, who seemed like they should have had the world by it’s tail falls by the wayside. The world lost a great talent and her friends and family suffered a great personal loss. My heart breaks for them.

  13. Whitney was the first and last female idol I had as a young boy. I would hide away and listen to her music, dancing in the shower, and those lonely nights at home. She empowered me, many of the ways I didn’t realize until yesterday. She will be missed.

    I’m one of those gay men who is mourning heavily today.

  14. Thank you for expressing my heart in a way I simply cannot right now. Your own gifts are a treasure, and you are deeply loved, Margaret. I hope you know that.

  15. I was already depressed when I heard about Whitney. It feels like All Is Death. None of it matters. The talent, the beauty. Death claims us in the end. What’s the point? But I came out of that horrible depression. It’s Sad. That is all there is to say about it.

  16. You know what miguelli – your post is a little edgy and angry feeling but I gotta say I agree with you wholeheartedly.

    Mourning for this girl along with Amy, Michael and Anna Nicole (and others past and many others to come) should have started years ago when it became apparent that the acuity of their talent could not be sustained by the intensity of their life style.

    The sadness of these situations is in the fact that we as fans want to believe there can be a fairy tale ending. Soon after the first crash – all appears good and we are energized by that hope. It’s we as fans, the lazer of the media and desperate quick fixes by the SAG teams that contributes to these human tragedies.

    I don’t have a solution – I’m just really glad to be a nobody.

  17. Well put Margaret. And “miguelli” seriously? A wife, daughter, mother, friend, and HUMAN died. It deserves to be mourned. So I like the rest of us will mourn her, like I would you if I were to hear you passed on. But i must say, this is not a place for yoru bitterness, so to quote the imfamous Margaret Cho “Shut the fuck up!”…thank you.

  18. One of the nicest things I have read since this tragedy Whitney was a champion for women who stumbled a bit but in my mind always stood above the rest.

  19. I just found your blog and I’m so glad! I ride motorcycles, I just bought a belt buckle of an Asian guy doing a kick, we a had a Whitney Song in “86” as our graduation song “Hero”. I have and love tattoos. It feels so great to find a person words ring so true! Keep it up Cho! You have your own I-con on my phone! Big Love!

  20. Hurting more than I imagined. You definitely hit the nail on the head there Margaret. My heart is broken for the loss of her talent and for the pain her daughter is going through 🙁

  21. Thank you for your post of Whitney..
    And showing us your respect for her and her beautiful talent she graciously shared with all of us and touched and etched into our hearts and memories we shared through her performances and her music..
    She will continue to live in our hearts and music and will never be forgotten..
    As much as i am a lesbian she created the ‘label’ gay boi for me as every time her music was on and it didn’t matter where i was i would dance in performance of a gay boi strudding his stuff and i felt absolutely free and alive!! lol..
    She made me realise how alive i can be..
    God bless you Whitney..x

  22. George, I think you misread me. I am totally mourning her. My point is that her amazing talent was not as important as her being a person who deserved to be loved in her life MORE than adored by strangers. My bitterness is with the media. They set her up, and knocked her down, then run her passing 24/7.
    Peace & Love.

  23. Thanks for your post Margaret.
    I was a dj in the 80’s and then it was all about Whitney, MJ Madonna and Prince. I too am devastated over the passing of Whitney Houston, one of the best vocalists of all time. No one else will compare. The media are disgusting vultures that love to build you up and tear you down, but mostly they love tearing you down. Whitney Houston and an extraordinary gift and like Michael, they both were human and had there demons. Spike Lee said it best, “You don’t get to have this creative genius without having issues.” It’s so true. People who are so incredibly blessed with this kind of talent will have issues, guaranteed. The pressure alone will make people go insane. I’ve drowned myself in Whitney videos for 3 days and I still find no comfort. We are all blessed to have been witness to her and incredible talent. I feel incredible personal loss for my own selfish reasons, but I do find comfort her finally being at peace and gone from the ugly part of the world that demonized her. Rest in Peace, Whitney. We will never forget you or your amazing voice.

  24. I was shocked. I was surprised. I was deeply saddened. I believed that she could rise above whatever crap was bogging her down because I like to think that we all have a shred of that ability in us…the ability to hope and succeed.

    I am a big fan of yours, Margaret. You are so honest, so clear…that is awesome. Thanks for always writing the truth…even if it can be as uncomfortable as sandpaper panties…

    I will miss Whitney…

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