Whitney Houston 1963-2012 – The Choices We Make

By Mark A. Moore, Senior Executive Smooth Jazz Entertainment LLC.

In the eighties her hits couldn’t end.  Her fame soared to the highest heights.  Her talents were undeniable. Whitney Houston was one of the best singers of her generation.  A force to be reckoned with, her songs topped the charts.  She was pop music’s queen.  Her three octave range coupled with unmatched control was a staple of the industry for the good part of 20 years.  No singer since Ella Fitzgerald demonstrated the incredible combination of power and clarity as she did.  In my opinion, her rendition of Dolly Parton’s “I Will Always Love You” is one of greatest recorded songs ever made.  Her moving rendition of the Star Spangled Banner became the standard by which all others are measured.  Whitney Houston has died, leaving the music world stunned and dumbfounded.  How could this be?  Why did this happen?   Her end was not fitting of someone with such prowess.  Hers was a story of choices and how they can impact the direction of your life.

From her early beginnings in NJ, Whitney Houston seemed destined for greatness. Her mother, Cissy Houston sang back up for Aretha Franklin.  Dionne Warwick, an accomplished singer in her own right, is her cousin.   Aretha Franklin is her Godmother.  With such an impressive pedigree, it was all but certain that Whitney was destined for greatness.  But with fame and fortune, we learned that Whitney became a casualty of excess.   On several occasions, Whitney Houston admitted openly to using cocaine, marijuana, and pills over the course of her career. I guess, when you seemingly have it all, it is difficult for us to understand why someone with so much to offer would make such lousy choices.  When examined carefully, we learn that drugs have way of becoming the magic potion; the secret elixir that makes you what want to be. Often, it is a symbol of defiance.   For many artists, it gives them the courage to be creative, pushing them further and further down the fox hole until they lose control.  At that point, it’s too late.  The damage is irreparable.  They can’t come back.     Sadly, the music industry is littered with careers cut short by drug abuse. Clearly, Whitney Houston was no exception.  But some would argue that her downfall began when she married another tormented soul—Bobby Brown.

Was Bobby Brown to blame?  Did he cause Whitney Houston to do drugs?  I don’t think there’s a definitive answer here.  I think it is fair to say that he was certainly not a positive impact in her life.  Their marriage was tumultuous to say the least and Bobby had his own demons that derailed his career. (He would be arrested several times on a litany of charges to say the least.)  BUT that doesn’t change the fact that Whitney Houston knowingly took drugs and was unable to beat her addiction.  Drug use is a disease.   It destroys lives often stripping victims of everything—even those with the means to get help.  In her now infamous interview with Diane Sawyer, Whitney admitted that “The biggest devil is me.  I’m either my best friend or my worst enemy.”  She ultimately lost her battle.  In the end, the enemy won.

Ironically, Whitney Houston was staying in the Beverly Hilton hotel ready to attend a pre-Grammy party being hosted by none other than her professional mentor Clive Davis.  He is credited with discovering her talents and signing her to Arista Records.  The night was supposed to be a tribute to her illustrious career .  Now we will spend it grieving.   This was a sad end to one of the greatest voices ever to perform.  She will be missed.

Yes indeed, the choices we make.