Whitney Houston dead at 48

Whitney Houston, the multimillion-selling and amazingly talented singer who emerged in the 1980s as one of her generation’s greatest R & B voices, only to deteriorate through years of cocaine, marijuana and alcohol use and an abusive marriage, died on Saturday in Beverly Hills, Calif. She was 48. I’m depressed ( obviously) and overwhelmed by anyone who dies at this age. We all have struggles with A, B or C. And (whatever) life seems to be an everyday trial, prosecution and defense of, all at once on you and me and what we do an don’t, on  all the letters in the alphabet plus the sign language and semiotics that we simply don’t understand.

Hers was a voice of triumph and achievement, and it made for any number of stunning, time-stopping vocal performances — her version of Dolly Parton’s “I Will Always Love You,” from the soundtrack to “The Bodyguard,” which topped the Billboard singles chart for 14 weeks; her dazzling “Star-Spangled Banner,” sung before the 1991 Super Bowl; or huge, authoritative songs like “Greatest Love of All” and “One Moment in Time,” which sounded like they could have been national anthems in their own right.

Houston’s signature was to let her Brobdingnagian voice soar unfettered — from a lesser vocalist, that would have been a gimmick, but from her, it was par for the course, just a freakishly gifted athlete leapfrogging everyone around her.

She was, alongside Michael Jackson and Madonna, one of the crucial figures hybridizing pop in the 1980s, though her strategy was unique, and far less radical than those of her peers. They were by turns lascivious and brutish and, crucially, willing to let their production speak more loudly than their voices, an option Ms. Houston did not have.

If she was less influential than they were in the years since, it was only because her gift was so rare, so impossible to mimic. She was someone more to be admired, like a museum piece, than to be emulated. Death is the ultimate insult and it reminds us that this ridiculous contract we have with (dare I say) happiness, is nothing more than a pale lollypop we suck on in the name of hope.

From “Gargolios“: We don’t understand. I don’t understand, Sir. I don’t understand. Because if I did understand, Sir, I’d say: I understand. But I don’t understand. I don’t understand. So, when I wished everyone a wonderful weekend 2 days ago, little did I know that we were entering another (perhaps) the ultimate form of hell on earth. Rest in peace, Ms Houston – in case there is any, ever. I just don’t know what to think any more.

Gerald Thomas

Feb 12, 2012

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