Shock waves ripped through social media platforms last night as news of Whitney Houston’s death spread. The 48-year-old global icon singer, producer and actress died yesterday. The cause of her death is not known.
My reaction to Whitney Houston’s sudden death surprised me as I found myself fighting back tears. It is not as if I knew her personally. But then it dawned on me that in many ways I did know her, well at least I felt I did. I had forged a connection with her through my experience of her music and my observation’s of her publicly chronicled life. Whitney was a thread in the tapestry of my life.
I adore Whitney, but if I am honest it had been many years since I actively listened to Whitney’s music. I made a conscious decision not to watch any of her recent performances, as it was too painful to see the effects of her drug addiction. Instead, I cognitively recalled my early and teen memories of Whitney Houston.
To me like so many black women who grew up or who were born in the 1980s Whitney Houston was a symbol of black beauty, an extraordinary talent and a modern global pop icon. This gave me an immense sense of pride because she was one of us. The first time I saw Whitney Houston’s ‘I Wanna Dance With Somebody’ music video I was mesmerised. I decided at that moment that I wanted to be Whitney Houston. I draw parallels between our skinny bodies; brown skin and I even convinced myself that I could sing like Whitney. Needless to say I was delusional – I can’t sing to save my life. But that didn’t stop me from belting out ‘I will Always Love You’ and dare I say, Ama K. and I making a video recording of our painful rendition of Whitney’s iconic song – a video that will never see the light of day.
Whitney’s astounding voice proved to be a comfort during some of the most difficult times of my life. Its transformative power was at times uplifting and inspirational, and at times it rendered me to uncontrollable tears. And from the tweets I’ve read I know others felt similarly. Such was the power of her voice. Thus it is no surprise that the news of her death has led to an outpouring of grief by her fans across the globe.
We cannot think about Whitney without thinking about the tragedy of her latter years, during which her battle with drugs became very public. I prayed that Whitney would one day over come her addiction and return to the beautiful, talented, powerhouse we all knew and loved. While she was certainly showing signs of recovery, it was sadly not fully realised. But that is not how I want to remember Whitney. To me and to millions of others Whitney Houston will always be remembered as a musical legend with an exceptional voice that made us sing, dance, smile, cry and laugh. How many people can say they touched billions of people? She may be gone but she will never be forgotten. Her music will live on forever.
As a child, this song and video made me feel as if I could face anything. And at 30 it still has that empowering strength.
Thank you Whitney.
Our condolence goes out to her daughter Bobbi Kristina and her entire family.