I would just like to take a moment to honor and remember one of my favorite singers of all-time, Whitney Houston, who mysteriously passed away on February 11th. I was at home, typing an email to a friend, and suddenly felt hungry. On my iTunes, “The Greatest Love of All” had just concluded. I stood up, proceeded to the kitchen, and saw that I had received a text message from my dear friend Kirk, who lives in Toronto. All the message said was, “My friend, did you hear about Whitney Houston?” All of a sudden, I was no longer hungry, and was very, very worried. I rushed back to my computer, logged onto CNN, and my worst fear of the last minute had been confirmed. Whitney had died at the age of 48.
I find all the stigmas surrounding age and growing older in western cultures very nonsensical and wasteful in time and intelligence, but 48, in my mind, is still quite young. As the news kept focusing on the bewildering event throughout the night, it occurred to me that one of the voices I had heard consistently since I was a child, a teenager, and well into adulthood would no longer be heard except on previous recordings. Since I moved to Seattle in 2007, I can honestly say that it is rare that a day has passed that I have not heard Whitney’s voice in song or in video. It was daunting that I had been listening to one of her own songs literally three minutes before I had learned of her death.
As I’ve told close friends, as children, we can be very naive — naturally. I always had the naive notion that some of our greatest singers and entertainers such as Michael, Janet, Whitney, Tina, Annie, Aretha, Donna, Diana, Gloria, Mariah, Celine, and Madonna would be around forever, and performing even after they each reached 100 years of age. Of course, this is what I thought as a child, hearing their voices on the radio or performing on MTV or at an awards ceremony. I have grown up, like many of you, I imagine, listening to these same voices on the radio, on vinyl, cassette, cd, mp3, etc. Whether we realize it or not, our favorite singers and performing artists — and even those whose music we may not like as much — are part of the soundtrack of our lives. Losing Whitney is like losing a member of my family, if that can be understood. When you hear someone’s voice for so many years, like your mother’s voice, or your father’s, or sister’s, brother’s, or best friend’s, that voice never leaves you. You can recognize that voice within milliseconds of its utterance. When you read their letters or notes, you often read them with your recollection of their distinctive and familiar voice reciting the words in your mind.
Needless to say, this past weekend has been a difficult one as the news of her death came out of nowhere, and literally shocked the planet, similar to Michael back in June 2009. I won’t belabor this tribute any longer, but I will say again:
May God forever bless your soul, Whitney. Your voice was a gift I will cherish forever.