Sunday, February 12, 2012

Reflection Of A Bright Light

I wanted to take a moment to share a few personal reflections on the loss of Ms. Whitney Houston. Usually when I've been inspired to write something following the death of a loved one or a famous icon, it manifests itself in the form of a poem. But, aside from being admittedly reluctant to write yet another death poem, I wanted to, in this particular instance, write something a little more prosaic, a little more deliberate, for lack of a better word.

I consider Ms. Houston to be one of the integral elements of my ever-evolving jukebox, during my transition from boy to man, the period I somewhat fondly refer to, as my 20's. From the midpoint of my college years to and through some key monumental life changes and crises at the end of that personal decade, the persona that was Whitney was fairly and uniquely prevalent. From her music videos to her songs on the radio and through mine and my friends' cassette and, eventually, CD players, to her appearances in films, like "Waiting To Exhale", "The Bodyguard", and "The Preacher's Wife", she presented herself as someone who was beautiful, sassy, sexy, self-confident, and irrevocably talented. Also, I might add, to say that I had a crush on her would be a mild understatement.

'The voice of a generation' is a phrase that often gets bandied about in describing certain singular individuals, and arguably so. I would venture to posit that Whitney Houston was, and is, the voice for a whole generation of young people who were influenced and affected by her music at the height of her heyday. Her songs and her ability to interpret them will, I believe, place her in the pantheon of great vocalists who came before her--like Aretha, Gladys, the late great Minnie and the recently departed Ms. Etta; her aunt, Dionne, and mama, Cissy, just to name a few.

At least two of her songs had a deeply profound impact on me personally, during a rather emotionally tumultuous point in my life--that's when you know that you're in the presence of a great artist, when their art resonates so significantly in one's being that it almost defies explanation.

I realize that all this I have heretofore written is a mere hodgepodge of thoughts, a feeble attempt to make coherent sense of what is essentially a tragic loss, particularly for her family, as well as a world of fans. But as I was deeply touched by her life and her music, I am equally touched and saddened by her passing. And I know, given the cynical and rush-to-judgement world we live in, there will be, and already are, the naysayers who will want to solely focus on the negative aspects of her life, her inability to overcome her weaknesses and conquer her personal "demons". And I am reminded of these words, spoken in regard of another woman, who too was chastised and lambasted for her apparent weakness--"let he who is without sin, cast the first stone".

I will conclude by sharing that one of my chief regrets, as an inordinate music lover, and one that invariably comes up whenever there's a passing of a musical legend, is that I never got to see her perform live. But it is tempered by the satisfying realization that her music and her iconic images, chief of which, is her stirring and memorable rendition of the National Anthem, which alone would almost be enough to cement her legacy, will continue to live on and be enjoyed for future generations to come.

R.I.P., Ms. Houston. Keep singing!

No comments: