Like most of the world, I was shocked by the passing of Whitney Houston, and now that reports and speculation of how she may have died are pouring in, my heart goes out even more to her family and close friends.
A week doesn’t go by, it seems, without us having to pay tribute to a celebrity. Just this month, it was Etta James, David Peaston and Don Cornelius. And don’t get me started on how many we’ve lost over the past five years.
In most cases, we don’t see it coming, which should remind us not to wait to show those we love how we feel about them. Valentine’s Day is a good time to do it, but it can’t stop there. Candy and flowers are cool, but we need to play a role in the lives of people who are important to us. We know the people who are hurting and who need are help, and if we’re able, we should take the first step. So many people have said that they wished they could have done more for Whitney. If there’s someone like her in your life, this is the perfect day to make an effort.
Along with tributes from those who loved Whitney’s music, there are lots of personal stories about the kind of mother, friend and mentor she was. When people leave this earth, it leaves lots of room for people to insert themselves into their lives. For some reason, it seems to make us feel better to be able to talk about the last moment we spent with them, the last laugh we shared or the last bit of advice imparted.
Sometimes we – either intentionally or by accident – embellish our last encounters,…usually just to make ourselves feel that we played a big role in their lives. In the past couple of days, I’ve heard story after story about Whitney’s connection to people, the role they played in her life and career and the role she played in theirs.
I wish I had a Whitney story like some of those that I heard, but mine is completely different.
Years ago, back in the ’80s, a record company rep brought a young woman to my radio station and asked if I could spend a few moments talking to her. Because I had some other things scheduled, I didn’t feel like I could squeeze the newcomer in. The rep assured me that this woman was going to be the hottest thing out there, and I would regret not interviewing her.
Of course, that woman was Whitney, and yes, I did regret that mistake for a long time. We all know what she went on to become, and years later, in 2009, when I did finally have the chance to talk to her on the phone, it wasn’t the Whitney that most of us remembered. After a few bad years, hard times and a stay in rehab, she came on the “TJMS” to talk about her latest CD.
It was clear that she was struggling, but she couldn’t have been nicer or more enthusiastic about the hope that being a come back.
There’s so much sadness for us to dwell on. If you listen to the lyrics of her last single, “I Look to You,” it’s very prophetic. Add to that all the people she touched the days before her passing, as well as it all happening the day the man who commandeered her remarkable career threw his famous pre-Grammy party.
Every day, we learn something more troubling about her last moments, her daughter, her ex, Bobby – and it’s not going to stop.
That’s why I love music. No matter what has transpired in Whitney’s personal life, her music speaks for itself. Those of us who know and love her music, some who had forgotten it and are revisiting it and kids learning about it for the first time recognize her greatness. From “I Wanna Dance with Somebody,” to her stunning version of “The Star-Spangled Banner,” her music will live with us for ever.
The “TJMS” will continue to cover the story because that’s what we do. Our audience looks to us to provide the news, musical tributes, tributes, and we won’t stop. But personally, I wish that the stories, the gossip, the speculation would also be laid to rest. I can’t make that happen. What I can do is simply play her music. I can’t think of a better way to honor her memory.